How Nooyi gave up cricket for baseball

New Delhi: PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi was raised on cricket and played the game during her college days in India and after moving to the US threw herself into a somewhat similar bat-and-ball sport baseball to keep alive her interest.

This is among several interesting facts mentioned in "Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen", the latest book of David Novak, chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, a Fortune 500 company that runs a few of the world`s most popular fast food brands KFC and Pizza Hut.

Delving on how necessary it is to create company cultures that drive success, he says many a times, one has to figure out "how to be you in a way that broadens your appeal and impact versus training people off or unnecessarily clashing with company culture".

He says Nooyi "really struggled" with this when she first came to the US early in her career. "There were many times that I felt like a fish out of water, times that I really said to myself, `do I even fit in`," Novak quotes Nooyi as telling him. But rather than completely changing herself, Indra found ways to adapt that felt comfortable to her.

"One such way was to do with her lifelong love of cricket. No one in this country (the US) followed the game, but they did follow baseball, another bat-and-ball sport. So she threw herself into baseball and into the local team, the New York Yankees, reading everything she could on the subject until she could comfortably talk about it," Novak writes in his book, published by Penguin.

"Once I did that I could then say, `I really like this game and I like the Yankees as opposed to pretending`," Novak quotes her as saying.

According to Novak, Nooyi could have leaned about football or taken up golf in order to better fit in with her American colleagues, but that wouldn`t have suited her personality or her interests.

In his book, the author also talks about how to lead an organisation of any size, from a tiny start-up to a global giant. He shares the secrets of the unique "Taking People With You" leadership program he has developed and taught during his 15 years at Yum! to thousands of managers and franchisees around the world.

The book offers a step-by-step guide to setting big goals, getting others on board, achieving break-through results and celebrating after people "shock the sceptics". Specific tools are included at the end of each chapter that challenge readers to reflect on how they are doing on key aspects of leadership.

Prior to leading Yum! Novak was president of both KFC and Pizza Hut and held senior management positions at PepsiCo.

He says that people know and follow the real deal when they see it, those who walk through life on their own terms, who stay true to their beliefs, and who don`t back down. "We can name people like this, and there`s often a pretty broad consensus that such diverse figures as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Muhammad Ali and Winston Churchill are (or were) all real deals, which goes on to show that authenticity can be demonstrated in many different styles," he writes.