"I used to give my daughter spelling tests on my cellphone, in between meetings, because she wanted me to give the spelling tests, and I would mother from the back of a taxi," Gordon said. "That was important."
Some people would suggest that mothering from a cab isn't the same as, say, mothering at the kitchen table. These are the kinds of comments she ignores.
She said her role as the top executive is finding and keeping the best talent and instilling an entrepreneurial spirit even in a large-and-getting-larger company.
"We're all competing for the best people," she said. "Everybody can buy the right equipment. We have technology, we have patents that we've acquired. But everybody's competing for the best talent."
Key to winning that competition, she said, is knowing that "the best people want to feel like they can have an impact in decision-making."
This sort of trickle-up strategy has very basic connotations in the food industry, since "people in different parts of the world have very different tastes," she said.
"We're a very global company. Seventy percent of our sales are outside the U.S. We have 10,000 people around the world, and, therefore, we have to motivate and excite a global world," she said. "I need my leaders out in the field, in South America and in Thailand and in China and in Canada, to believe in the vision and what we're driving."
There was a time when an executive talking too much about things like buy-in and consensus-building might rub up against an expectation of a CEO being more tough-talking. But Gordon said success now is much more about what leaders get out of people.
"I think our world has changed," she said. "It's true, you need leaders who make tough decisions. But it's really all about motivating people."
Chairman, president and chief executive, Corn Products International.
Family: Married to Bram Bluestein, a management consultant. They have two grown children and live in Chicago.
Education: A native of Newton, Mass., just outside Boston, she graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Majored in math as an undergraduate, then earned a Master of Science in business from MIT's Sloan School of Management.
Career: Former CEO of Alcan Packaging, a global packaging business, which had her commuting from Chicago to Paris for several years; president of Pechiney Plastic Packaging; before that she spent 17 years in executive roles at the Packaging Corporation of America, now known as PCA. Began her career at the Boston Consulting Group.
Other boards: Serves as a director of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., an international insurance brokerage and risk management business; Northwestern Memorial Hospital; The Executives' Club of Chicago; and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Also is a trustee of The Conference Board. Served as a director of United Stationers.
Interests: Enjoys golf, reading and travel, and is a movie buff, especially independent films.
Ilene Gordon, CEO of Corn Products Inc.