Charlie Feld, author and former PepsiCo CIO shares leadership lessons learned from Wayne Calloway (’59)
The way Charlie Feld tells it, Google led him to write a book about Wayne Calloway. Feld, the former PepsiCo Chief Information Officer, had long admired and respected Calloway’s leadership style as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. But recently, when he went online to check a point, he found very few online resources dedicated to his mentor.
“Nothing. There were one or two articles, but that was it. So I looked up Jack Welch, retired Chairman and CEO of General Electric and it was never-ending,” Feld said. “Wayne Calloway ran [a business] as good or better, but he was humble and not a self-promoter.” Feld said that realization and some conversations with Jan Calloway, his widow, sparked his desire to write a book. He originally intended it just for PepsiCo employees, but then realized how important and durable these leadership lessons were for current organizations, from startups to government to higher education.
Feld came to Wake Forest on March 30, 2015 to deliver the Broyhill “Leading Out Loud” Executive Lecture Series to students, faculty, staff and special guests like Jan Calloway, President Nathan Hatch, Provost Rogan Kersh, Broyhill family members and a group from PepsiCo. His talk in the Bern Beatty Colloquium at the School of Business was standing room only. It focused on his new book “The Calloway Way: Results & Integrity” — about Wayne Calloway, who graduated with an accounting degree in 1959, and went on to not only become Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, but also a long-time member of the Wake Forest University Board of Trustees. He even served as Chairman of that board.
Ranging from behind-the-scenes recollections of Calloway’s leadership style to pointed advice for students, Feld’s talk explored many facets of getting results with integrity and also included memories and stories from the School’s Executive-in-Residence, Steve Reinemund, who followed Calloway as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.
Set the agenda
Feld says Calloway hired employees who were really smart, very ambitious and had an incredible work ethic as the foundation. But he considered it the leader’s job to set the agenda. To accomplish this, Feld explained how Calloway created a system at PepsiCo that moved employees to different divisions, departments and areas. “This gave people a good perspective of how the company works, and context for how decisions were made.” Feld said Calloway’s vision as the leader worked because his staff had the context for how the company worked.
Build a great team
According to Reinemund, one of the biggest leadership lessons he learned was how to create a culture that respected ideas. “The culture is critical. One thing that was so unique about Wayne, was how while some companies say you can take chances and make mistakes, then they fire you for doing it. Wayne didn’t do that. There were times when Wayne should have fired me, because I had a great idea and a lousy implementation, but he didn’t.”
Reinemund told the audience, and especially the students embarking on their careers to use Calloway’s culture as a model: look for a company that has values, wins with integrity and strives for innovation. Feld added that they should keep their alma mater in mind.
“Look for the companies that are a little more like Wake Forest,” Feld said. He suggested that the school’s intimate size allows for deeper relationships between faculty and students and between students. “Many of the colleges I speak to are 15,000 students. How do you get to know that many people? You can’t.”
Deliver with consistency
Calloway doubled the business every four years for 25 years. Feld told the audience that while Calloway created a culture of competitiveness, it was a controlled and friendly competition. Both men talked about Calloway’s intuition and interest in innovation, along with his desire to empower leaders at all levels of the business. Because Calloway had set the standard and the vision, the different parts of the business focused on working together to achieve strategic goals.
“He set the goal,” Feld said. “It was up to us to figure it out.” Feld added that there was never a problem at the company that employees felt they couldn’t overcome, because they all felt ownership in good and bad times.
Jan Calloway also addressed the crowd, and shared advice her husband Wayne lived by: “It doesn’t matter what you do in life. Always hire the smartest people around you. They will lift you and everybody’s going to give you credit for it.”
You may also watch the video of Feld’s talk, along with questions from the audience: