Kraft Heinz SVP Rashida La Lande: “As a woman leader, I focus on my strengths, as opposed to worrying about my flaws”

An interview with Chaya Weiner

Chaya Weiner
Sep 13 · 6 min read

As a woman leader, I focus on my strengths, as opposed to worrying about my flaws. If you spend too much time focusing on your flaws, you get bogged down and don’t show initiative. I strongly believe in collaborative teams, because you combine strengths to be successful. Teams also provide opportunities for everyone to show leadership. They give people a voice. This is particularly important for women. We can be trained to not speak up, to not sit in the front of the room. Teams help everyone shine.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rashida La Lande, Global General Counsel and Head of CSR and Government Affairs at Kraft Heinz. Rashida La Lande is the Senior Vice President, Global General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. Prior to joining Kraft Heinz in January 2018, Ms. La Lande was a partner at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where she advised corporations and their boards, primarily in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, private equity deals, and joint ventures. During her nearly 20 year career at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, she represented companies and private equity sponsors in the consumer products, retail, financial services, and technology industries.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Well, I was shy and nerdy and read a lot — I was a total only child! Growing up in a working class neighborhood in Queens, the main options I saw around me for a successful life were basketball players, entertainers, lawyers and doctors. Meanwhile, I remember talking a lot with adults and often they said I was articulate and argumentative. Being a lawyer turned out to be a natural fit.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When I worked in a law firm, I had a fairly sizable office, with lots of bookshelves and pictures. My schedule was a mix of conference calls and quiet time in my office. Fast forward to my current position, and things have completely changed. I work in an open office environment with the Kraft Heinz leadership team. I’m in the middle of lots of conversations all the time and I have meetings back to back all day. It took some adjustment, but I have found that this environment is really conducive to working. Anytime you have a specific issue that you don’t know that much about, you just turn to the person who handles it. It makes communication and problem-solving really efficient.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story? I like to think of Kraft Heinz as a company with a long and fascinating history, but with the heart of a start-up. We have iconic products known around the world, long-standing relationships with customers and consumers, and a vibrant, informal culture. It’s a great combination, and it’s a big reason why I decided to take on my current role.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

As a global food company, Kraft Heinz is very focused on working to end hunger. On World Food Day — October 16 — our offices around the globe are reaching for an ambitious goal: to pack one million meals. We’re going to do it in 24 hours, passing the baton from one office to the other. It’s an incredibly exciting initiative we’re doing with our partner, Rise Against Hunger. I’m super proud of our employees that were chosen last year to be Food Ambassadors. They have led this project. It’s proof of our commitment to end hunger.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

As a woman leader, I focus on my strengths, as opposed to worrying about my flaws. If you spend too much time focusing on your flaws, you get bogged down and don’t show initiative. I strongly believe in collaborative teams, because you combine strengths to be successful. Teams also provide opportunities for everyone to show leadership. They give people a voice. This is particularly important for women. We can be trained to not speak up, to not sit in the front of the room. Teams help everyone shine.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

I’d say it’s very important to surround yourself with people who are different from you. This support team is crucial — you should be seeing their blind spots and they should be seeing yours. Overall, managing large teams is about setting direction, being clear how we’re moving in that direction, providing guardrails but also giving flexibility to maneuver within them.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Honestly, there are so many people who have helped me get where I am today. Literally hundreds of people: my parents, teachers who helped me think critically; my husband; but also so many others. There are many times in my career when the person in the mail room or the IT support center were critical to my success. It’s important to value everyone with whom you interact. I’ve had mentors for all parts of my life — as a mother with children, in my career, in married life. You need a village to help you live your life!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

At every stage in my career, there’s been so much that I didn’t know. I think it’s really important to be open to this reality. It keeps you humble and curious. Also, realize you’re going to make mistakes. It’s normal. What’s critically important is learning from your mistakes, and having your eyes and ears open to learning from other’s mistakes as well. It’s something you have to do throughout your career.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I want to eradicate world hunger. When I was a kid, it blew my mind that there were 4 billion people on the planet. Today, we’re close to double that number. Despite all the advances in our world, so many people go hungry. As a food company, Kraft Heinz has a critical role to play. Personally and professionally, it’s my passion.

Thank you for these great insights!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Chaya Weiner

Written by

Director of branding & photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator, helping leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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