Leadership in Action

The day that I had been longing for had finally come; the day that I had spent sleepless nights about; the day that had seemingly sapped all my energy and tested my limits of patience; the day that I was to meet Karen King, Mcdonalds East Division President. I had always been fascinated by her achievements: 30 years at the world’s largest food chain with more than half of the time in various managerial positions. There was something truly unique about Karen King, for the chain to trust her so much. At her current position, she was in charge of more than 5000 restaurants spanning almost ten geographical regions. We’re talking McDonalds here, not just any ordinary food chain.

After so much persistence, from me of course, she had finally agreed to have a word with me. Courtesy, tidiness were my first impression after I enter her expansive offices; from her assistants to the lady herself. From the onset, I knew that she is such a busy person. On a good note, she had prepared for the interview. So what’s the secret behind her success? Thirty years down the line, but still working for the same employer? She is in charge of restaurant operations, finances, promoting owner-operator-supplier-community relationship, developing and markeing the McDonalds brand (McDonalds).

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How does she manage all these demanding tasks?”Passion, commitment and hard work”, she replies, with an infectious smile. “I love what I do, always loved it indeed”. I have spent about half an hour at the office, but I could just see these traits in her. Conversation keeps breaking by phone calls, her assistants, other employees and her management colleagues. Although this was a bother to me, King has taken this in her stride.

She has to make sure that everybody gets attention and becomes satisfied. King is a lively and reliable communicator. Her commitment ensures that she deals with the firm’s issues properly, with the vast experience she has. Her colleagues trusted her with any pertinent issue. I have to be patient as she deals with them satisfactorily.

After she has managed an issue with the latest entrant, the finance officer, we resume the conversation. King emphasizes that most of her work becomes easier due to the mere fact that she is at McDonalds. This brand has emerged over long time and is capable of self marketing. This is true, however, still requires some leadership. What is Karen King as a leader? “I believe in democracy, even in this organizationn”, she promptly replies. In an industry where peoples’ opinions matter a lot and can significantly affect the operations of the company, almost everyone in the management has to be involved in the decision making process.

Employee opinion cannot be ignored; therefore, decisions are taken after lengthy, fruitful and wide based discussions. Everyone feels satisfied since this is the decision of many. I could clearly see this from the many consultations that were taking place. Since the food chain takes consumer opinions extremely seriously, they are always willing to incorporate these in their future decisions. Needless to say, the company applies McDonaldization in all its chains.

She reassures me that they have no plans of changing this (McDonaldization).I had been with Karen King for the whole afternoon; I had loved every bit of it. Although the time that we conversed was not that much, the lessons to be learnt were plentiful. She had demonstrated commitment, passion, and integrity in her work. These attributes have enabled Karen King to work for McDonalds for so many years. By simply talking to the leader, I could not help but realize that she was not only charming but also open in communication.

It had been a marvellous day indeed.