The Calloway Way: New book on PepsiCo leader carries lessons for future CEOs

Author Charlie Feld and venture capitalist Brad Feld, SB ’87, SM ’88, discuss leadership principles

November 5, 2014

The Calloway Way author Charlie Feld (left) with Foundry Group managing director Brad Feld

The Calloway Way author Charlie Feld (left) with Foundry Group managing director Brad Feld

A show of hands revealed that Wayne Calloway hasn’t enjoyed quite the name recognition as, say, Jack Welch or other storied CEOs. But as the chief executive that doubled revenue and profitability every five years at Frito-Lay and PepsiCo Inc., Calloway’s legacy is important to teach, his biographer Charlie Feld argued Oct. 29 in a talk at Wong Auditorium on campus at MIT Sloan.

Currently on a promotional tour with The Calloway Way: Results and Integrity, Feld joined his nephew Brad Feld, SB ’87, SM ’88, managing director of Foundry Group, to discuss Calloway’s leadership. He said Calloway’s management style serves as an important leadership guide in an age where quarterly pressures can crowd out attention to real growth.

“I started thinking about a need for a leadership renaissance,” Charlie Feld said. “Calloway’s whole mantra was growth. Growth is like oxygen. If you grow, you attract the best people. If you attract people, you grow. It’s as simple as that.”

Charlie Feld worked with Calloway at PepsiCo as chief information officer and now heads the Feld Group, a team of IT executives working with Fortune 500 companies. As a colleague of Calloway—who passed away in 1998—he’s not surprised Calloway isn’t a household name, and approached the book in part to ensure he is remembered.

“He had the notion that a good leader has to set the agenda, has to use both ends of the telescope,” he said. “You’ve got to look down the road and see where you’re going, which a lot of people do a pretty good job of ... but then you’ve got to turn that telescope around and look at where you are right now, because you don’t get to step over a quarter or you don’t get the product. It wasn’t ‘either or.’ It was ‘both.’”

“The reason I feel like it’s so critical right now is that at 10 miles an hour in 1950, on a straight road, looking up and looking down, it didn’t matter, not much would change,” Charlie Feld said. “But at 90 miles an hour on a curvy road, you’re going to miss something. What did Blockbuster miss? What did Kodak miss? What are we thinking about in the short term?”

Charlie Feld summarized Calloway’s management philosophy in three simple, but crucial, principles: “First, a leader needs to set the agenda at every level. Second, you’ve got build a great team because people matter, talent matters, culture matters, and leadership matters. And finally, deliver with consistency.”

Brad Feld said he sees those principles in action among the best entrepreneurial CEOs he works with through his venture capital firm, but altered the third principle slightly to “never run out of money.” The best CEOs as exemplified by Calloway, he said, are on a continuous path of self-inquiry, questioning their paths, and rediscovering their missions and operations. That is most important as an organization grows and changes, and the CEO needs to change accordingly, he said.

“Those leaders outperform,” Brad Feld said. “Those that are unwilling tend to be very ineffective. That self-inquiry of a leader is what tends to have a person evolve and inspire. The absence of that tends to be very toxic.”