Bold thinking is a tell-tale sign of an authentic leader. So when I interviewed General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra and Pepsico (PEP) CEO Indra Nooyi at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis Friday, it quickly became obvious that they deserved their spots as No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on our newly-released 2016 Most Powerful Women list.
Asked about leadership lessons learned from her crisis-ridden first year as CEO, Barra talked transparency and teamwork, but quickly took her insights to the next level. “I’m much more impatient” since surviving rounds of recalls, she said. In an era of change and disruption, “time is not our friend. A late idea is not a good idea.”
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Likewise, Nooyi offered big, bold ideas for keeping women on the leadership track—like vocational schools for childcare and offices designed to be mom-friendly (don’t forget those nursing stations!). “Women are human beings, not super-human beings,” Nooyi reminded us.
Meanwhile, Barra said that as CEO she is looking to address the problem of women who start viewing their positions as “jobs” rather than “careers” once they have children.
The two other high-achievers on this panel, addressing an auditorium full of Navy midshipmen as well as retired Navy officers, were Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the longest serving woman in Congress, and Ellen Lord, CEO of Textron Systems (TXT). Lord encouraged professional women to always speak up about what they want, and to build networks of support within companies.
A wry and savvy Mikulski had especially inspiring words for millennials, complimenting the generation for cultivating so many aspiring women leaders. “Once a leader, always a leader,” she said. And, she reminded us, it’s never too late to start. The full panel can be found here:
For more about GM CEO Mary Barra, check out this Q+A from Fortune’s Most Powerful Women issue.