Insights from Linda Rendle at Duke Fuqua’s Distinguished Speaker Series 

By Paula Alexander, Director of Sustainability – Burt’s Bees, and Duke Fuqua ‘98 

As I sat in the audience listening to our CEO, Linda Rendle, deliver remarks at my alma mater, Duke Fuqua School of Business, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the value of having voices like hers that may have been absent when I was a student 25 years ago.  

In a fireside chat with Dean Bill Boulding, Linda shared the values that guide our work, insights about her career path, the value of courage, and the importance of being direct and curious.  

Here are my key takeaways from the conversation: 

  1. Do the Right Thing: This core value that’s been embedded in our culture for more than 20 years continues to guide our decisions. While not every project yields immediate returns, we focus on the long-term impact. This commitment underpins our ongoing dedication to our environmental, social, and governance goals. Every project won’t pay out, but looking in aggregate at decisions for the long term is how we keep making progress and continue to rank in the top of “most sustainable company” lists.
  2. Listen to your own voice: Being a CEO demands sacrifice, and it’s impossible to have it all. Linda emphasized focusing on what truly matters, especially for each individual. Authenticity and self-awareness are critical. 
  3. Show courage: Most decisions are not irreversible. Linda encouraged students to ask: What’s the worst that could happen if we say ‘yes’? What’s the worst if we say ‘no’? Often, it’s the untaken opportunities that yield the worst outcome and regret. Courage also requires believing in yourself. A former CEO’s encouragement changed Linda’s perspective on becoming a CEO. She realized that most people possess more courage than they imagine. Taking that first step is crucial, especially when considering leadership roles. 
  4. Be direct and curious: Some of the best work comes from disagreements, fast failure and asking “why?” Linda spoke about transitioning from being a “nice” company to a “kind” company — one that fosters open dialogue, collaboration and winning together. 


Linda’s remarks about Clorox values “Do the Right Thing” and “Put People at the Center” dovetail with Duke-Fuqua’s concepts of “Leaders of Consequence” and “Decency Quotient.” 

It goes beyond traditional leadership by emphasizing the impact we create — both positive and lasting. As leaders, we strive to make decisions that benefit not only our bottom line but also our stakeholders, including consumers, customers, communities, employees and the environment. 

Dean Boulding’s Decency Quotient implies doing right by our colleagues, employees and other stakeholders — or achieving greatness through decency. Linda described it as the disposition to make ethical and tough decisions, coupled with a genuine desire to care for others. 

As a business school feeding the ranks of our brand management organization and those of other leading companies, Duke-Fuqua students embrace these principles and strive to become Leaders of Consequence with a high Decency Quotient. Now, with Linda’s perspective, they’re even better equipped to do so. 


Special thanks to Linda for stopping by Fuqua during her recent trip to Durham, North Carolina, and to Stephen Windham, director of student and corporate relations, for the invitation. We also extend our gratitude to the Clorox leaders and Fuqua alumni who attended.