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How to be a whole person leader with Ann Mukherjee, CEO of Pernod Ricard North America

August 30, 2021 - 7 min read

Ann Mukherjee

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Take time to discover your purpose

Prioritize mental health and well-being

Embrace imperfection

Bring your whole self to work. Encourage your people to bring their whole selves to work. We have all heard it said. But what does that really mean, and as a leader, how can you be an example and create space for your team members to do so? We set out to answer this question with Deepak Chopra MD, NYT Bestselling Author and Founder, The Chopra Foundation, and Ann Mukherjee, CEO of Pernod Ricard North America. 

Ann Mukherjee is keenly aware that many others in her position don’t look like her, especially in the alcohol industry. “I play to win because I have nothing to lose,” she says. This is part of what gives her the confidence to leave it all on the court, and bring her whole self to her role as CEO.  

What does that mean to her?

“My whole self: that's my Indian self and my American self. That's my crazy wacky self. I love to cook. I love exploring the world. And I'm not scared to bring that with me because when I do it helps people see things. It helps me see things. It helps me appreciate others and what they bring. When I see someone with incredible potential and I can see their chi is being blocked, it just helps me reach out to them because I know they’ll be better, and we're going to be better.”

 Ann Mukherjee, CEO Pernod Ricard North America 

Whole-person leadership may sound simple, but many of us were taught to mask our true selves at work. Leaders especially feel pressured to be superhuman and not show weakness. But when we try to have all of the answers and never make mistakes, it hurts our credibility. We come across as disingenuous and our people might not trust our judgment for that reason. It doesn't model an honest, curious engagement with the world. It also doesn't leave space for others to question, doubt, or show strain, and that works against the psychological safety of our teams. Unlearning these beliefs takes time and deep inner work. But research shows that bringing the fullness of who we are to work will lead to increased productivity and creativity for both leaders and their teams.


Mukherjee and Chopra offered a few practical tips, based on their own experiences, for how all of us can start to show up more authentically and bring our whole selves to work.

Take time to discover your purpose. 

Creating internal alignment between your home and work personas is crucial to becoming a whole person. That alignment comes through discovering your purpose. Chopra explains purpose as the power to manifest meaning in your life with intention. 

Mukherjee discovered her purpose by reflecting on a life lesson learned from her late mother that each person she interacts with has a gift inside of them. Her mother had always encouraged her to realize the gifts that she had been given. Her purpose, she came to understand, is to help others realize the gifts they have been given as well. 

Discovering purpose has tangible value: Research from BetterUp labs showed that employees who find meaning and purpose in their work contribute more, on average an additional $9,078 per year, for their employer. 

Prioritize mental health and well-being. 

Until we normalize caring for our mental health as we do our physical health, it is going to be difficult for people to show up as their whole selves. 

Like our muscles, our brain and the mental and neurological systems around it like our muscles, need rest. Mukherjee believes that as leaders we have to model creating balance in our lives and seeking out support when we need it so that employees feel comfortable doing the same.

That also means providing support for employees to create that balance and develop the resources for their own mental fitness. While many companies provide coaching as a tool for high performers or executives to achieve their goals, Mukherjee thinks of coaching as a foundational benefit that should be for all employees.  She loves being able to offer  BetterUp to democratize well-being for people at all levels of her organization.

“Many businesses and workplaces will go and invest in different people. Oh, you're high potential, we're going to get you a coach. Or we've got a performance issue, so we're going to try to make you better. I've always believed that we should democratize this and allow well-being to be as equal to giving somebody a salary because they do go hand in hand. You're giving people benefits that reward and incentivize them to be their best. And that's why BetterUp for me was so groundbreaking —   it democratized in a technology-forward way, but still keeping to the individual customization, people's ability to dig deep on what well-being means for them because it is different for everybody.”

Ann Mukherjee, CEO Pernod Ricard North America 


Embrace imperfection. 

Perfection is a sickness. Whole person leadership requires that we embrace authenticity and vulnerability. As leaders, this is fundamental to creating psychological safety for our teams. When leaders share their mistakes, team members feel comfortable doing so as well. This creates greater transparency and accountability. It also creates a culture of inclusion that leads to 54% lower turnover intention, 90% increase in team innovation, and 140% increase in team engagement. 


Embracing imperfection is a wonderful way to bring your whole self, every bit of you. When you do, you're playing on your toes, not on your heels. When we embrace the fact that we are not perfect we have the ability to be unbelievable. It's in our imperfection that we bring such beauty to the world.

Ann Mukherjee, CEO Pernod Ricard North America 

To be a whole person leader you don’t have to be a superhero, you just have to be yourself. At the end of the day, no matter our titles, we are all human beings who want to make a difference in the world. Being a whole person leader is about embracing this truth — finding your purpose, honoring your humanity, and owning your flaws. It is time to take off the mask and the cape – besides who was it really serving anyway?

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Published August 30, 2021

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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