Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk
You can thank her for less sodium in Campbell’s Soups. For the big push by one of the nation’s largest food manufacturers to earn the right to be called “healthy.”
But in a business world rocked by negative headlines and scandal, you may want to thank Denise Sullivan Morrison for believing that integrity is the keystone of successful leadership. And for walking the talk.
“I have a firm set of values and I will not compromise them,” says Morrison, who is president of Campbell’s top profit center, Campbell USA. “If you have a reputation for high integrity, people trust you and I fundamentally believe that you can’t lead unless you have people’s trust.”
Her drive to the top (and yes, her mission is to someday become CEO of a major company) was fueled by her father, Dennis Sullivan, an AT&T executive, who took his four daughters to work long before there was a “Take Your Daughter To Work” day. “He saw the world opening for women long before it happened and spent a lot of time challenging us on things to get us ready,” she says.
The other Sullivan sisters have also made their mark: Maggie is chairman and CEO of a communications firm; Colleen is regional vice president of sales at Expedia, and Andrea is a champion show jumper who was senior VP of sales at AT&T Wireless.
For Morrison, who rose through the ranks of Proctor & Gamble, PepsiCo, Nestle, Nabisco, and Kraft Foods where she was often the only woman in sales meetings (“Sometimes it’s still that way,” she says), success isn’t entirely measured by profits and titles.
For example, Campbell’s is going healthy not just because it’s a good marketing strategy, but because Morrison thinks it’s the right thing to do. She’s a founding member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, an initiative composed of manufacturers and retailers designed to combat obesity in the marketplace, workplace and in schools through communication and education.
The mentoring she’s received—from her father, from her current boss, Douglas Conant—she’s giving back through her work with Students in Free Enterprise, an organization of college students, academic professionals and industry leaders whose slogan is “a head for business, a heart for the world.”
“They take on projects that teach the principles of free enterprise and good business ethics and that do something for the community, a powerful message that I totally believe in,” she says. “One of my favorites was a group of students in Ghana who taught a village to make soap which they sell and it sustains the village.”
Underpinning Morrison’s achievements, as she’s quick to point out, is her family—her husband, Tom, an entrepreneur, and their two daughters. “I’m blessed with a wonderful home life,” she says. “I have a good balance which is important to me because if I were successful in business and had an unhappy home life, I would not consider myself successful.”