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Indra Nooyi

Leader to Leader: The Biggest Sacrifice of The Modern Leader

On a relative basis, yes, I’ve had it all...But to get here and to stay here, lots of tradeoffs, lots of sacrifices under the water, a lot of collateral damage… - Indra Nooyi

We're surveying the collective intelligence of Australia's business leaders, to share insights on the most pressing issues facing them today. This month we reached out to our network of over 15,000 top business leaders and asked:

Can you have it all? What’s the biggest sacrifice you make as a business leader?


The responses from those surveyed varied, which we received via email and across our social media channels.

The Results

  • Over 30% of respondents shared that they sacrifice time with their families, making it the most common response across the board.

  • Time was also a common response from a different perspective. 15% of people said they sacrifice time on developing their own ideas and interests, instead opting to mentor others and build relationships.

  • Patience was another common theme, with more than 10% of those surveyed stating that this characteristic was an essential part of developing a team, requiring them to sacrifice their own comfort and forgo familiar ways of doing things. This in turn enables members of their teams the chance to experiment, take risks and learn valuable lessons.

Time is of the Essence

It’s unsurprising that time was a repeated answer by respondents, long hailed as the only commodity wealth, power and influence cannot buy back. We’re told not to waste the time of others, to value the precious amount we have and to spend our own as efficiently as possible. A member of our community, Fiona MacDonald, stated:

Taking the time to build confidence in your team and them as individuals helps them find their own energy and path, and then rather than dragging people through, they self motivate/perpetuate and the energy is regenerating. Hopefully if you have done this successfully, these people will go on to pay it forward.

In this context, time is seen as a valuable resource that must be carefully expended, with a greater long term pay-off.  

It’s Not Personal

Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, has openly expressed appreciation for her role at the company, but likewise talked about the toll it took on her family.

The person that hurts the most through this whole thing is your spouse….You know, Raj always says, ‘You know what, your list is PepsiCo, PepsiCo, PepsiCo, our two kids, your mom, and then on the bottom of the list is me.’

Like many of those surveyed, Indra Nooyi recognised the ultimate sacrifice of time with her family, and the sacrifice they in turn made for her. Her response to her husband Raj?

You should be happy you're on the list!

This sentiment is also expressed by Nine Lies About Work author Marcus Buckingham, who rejects the myth that people require feedback. For him, taking the time to simply focus on employees is paramount:

People don’t need feedback. They need attention, and moreover, attention to what they do the best.

Investing in Others

An interesting and perhaps unexpected insight was that many leaders believe it’s essential to ensure the spotlight isn’t on them. Michael Harman knows this first hand, who responded by stating:  

...the spotlight, focus and success is that of team - whilst when things do go awry the ‘blame’ lies with me.

Sales expert Jack Daly understands the importance of fostering team relationships and celebrating employee success. He states plainly:

Millennials are a lot like me; we want to be recognised, rewarded.

A Higher Standard

Other survey responses described as a financial, mental and emotional experience. One leader talked about the long shadow of leaders:

Whilst needing to remain authentic and vulnerable, leaders sacrifice the urge to indulge in knee jerk reactions and petty frustrations, and instead show reactions and responses they are always proud to own.   As a leaders [sic], your shadow is long, and everything you do and say is seen and noted.

The Unknown

Simon Sinek’s new book, The Infinite Game, delves into the advantages of the Infinite Mindset, one of which being the ability to thrive in the face of unexpected change and unforeseen challenges. For FlowCoach’s Nikki Burns, uncharted territory is ironically familiar:  

Biggest sacrifice as a leader for me is peace of mind. Leading is often about pioneering new, different, misunderstood or time dependent things that are continually on the increase as part of leading and growing.

As a leader, often the sacrifices made lead to growth and wisdom, and of course, the benefit of hindsight.

Key Learnings

We reached out to our extensive network and asked them to tell us about the biggest sacrifices they make as leaders. Though the most frequent response was time related, the majority of those surveyed seemed clear on one thing: sacrifice is an expected part of leadership. But more than that, what leaders get in return - personal growth, team cohesion, the chance to contribute to something greater than the individual - is a worthy reward.

The final word goes to one of our business leaders Michael Harman:

The reward as a leader really outlays the sacrifices we make along the way.


Thank you to everyone who sent in their responses to the question, Can you have it all? What’s the biggest sacrifice you make as a business leader?

Read our May Leader to Leader article, Most Essential Leadership Qualities here.

Both Indra Nooyi and Jack Daly are hitting our shores this year, and there are limited seats available.

Secure the final tickets to An Evening with Indra Nooyi, an intimate first-class dinner and Q and A experience here.

Book a seat to Jack Daly’s famous sales workshop, Winning Sales Strategies today.