Effectiveness Of Leadership At Mcdonalds Management Essay

I had the opportunity of working at a McDonald’s chain of restaurants after completion of my undergraduate studies. I was able to observe the role played by members of a team, their team work and leadership of the Manager of the restaurant. I would like to analyse the leadership styles practiced, evaluate the effectiveness of leadership at McDonald’s restaurant and make recommendations indicating how leadership and team work can go hand in hand to improve the performance of the organisation.

The first McDonald’s opened its doors to customers in the UK in 1974. Currently, over 2.5 million people in the UK place their trust in McDonald, expecting that the multinational would provide them with food of a high standard, quick service and value for money.

Models and theories that will be discussed in the later portions of this essay are Adair’s Leadership Model and Maslow’s theory of hierarchy which will be applied to McDonald’s. Leadership styles such as autocratic, democratic and persuasive are also discussed to find out which of the three is the ideal model for McDonald’s.

A team is a collection of individuals who are interdependent in their tasks, who share responsibility for outcomes, who see themselves and who are seen by others as an intact social entity embedded in one or more larger social systems (for example, business unit or the corporation), and who manage their relationships across organisational boundaries (Susan Cohen and Diane Bailey, 1997). A team is defined as a small number of people, with a set of performance goals, who have a commitment to a common purpose and an approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable (Katzenbach & Smith 1993).

There are several factors that influence the success of a team. Team members must have the required skills and attitudes and must create an ambience in which everyone can work with devotion. There should be transparency within the team which is possible if there is effective system of communication between all members. All members of the team must have set responsibilities and must be aware of what is expected from them. In this way all members of the team will be accountable. All members must have harmonising skills and must coordinate among themselves to eliminate any uncertainties or reservations. Members of a team must genuinely appreciate the efforts of fellow members.

An effective leader is one who does the right things. Leaders can effectively develop and lead teams if they have the ability to create and communicate a vision what the organization should be. They should have the ability to communicate with and gain the support of all team members. They should have the perseverance to head in the desired direction under bad conditions and create the suitable culture to obtain the needed results.

Levine, R. (2000) is of the opinion that leaders need to focus on moving people and organisations forward by increasing the competency of staff and the co-operation of teams in order to improve the organisation. Leadership is related to motivation, interpersonal behaviour and the process of communication. Leadership is important in attempting to reduce employee dissatisfaction (Crow M. 1995).

The responsibilities of the Restaurant Manager or the team leader at McDonald’s are to set targets, plan budgets, maintain and control stock, recruit, train and motivate a team, create and drive marketing campaigns and build and foster customer relations. Leaders ate McDonald’s restaurants do not lay down any fixed rules on how quickly individuals of a team can progress. Opportunities are given to team members to become managers if they perform well. For this to happen, the crew member must contribute to the success of the team.

The management style adopted by team leaders at McDonald’s is to create outlets which are fun places to work. This is called “team-building”. Leaders at McDonald’s foster accountability and understand the social responsibility culture and incorporate these activities into their businesses. In fact the team leaders have all the characteristics that were used by Stogdill (1950) to define leadership. The characteristic include: traits, behaviour, influence, interaction patterns, role relationships and occupation of an administrative position; articulating visions (e.g. Bill Gates), embodying values and creating environment for the things that can be accomplished; entities that perform one or more acts of leading; the ability to affect human behaviour so as to accomplish a mission and Influencing a group of people to move towards its goal setting or goal achievement. (Stogdill, 1950)

The McDonalds Model is that of Adair’s Model which is called action-centred leadership. This is a constructive model according to which the leader inspires others by their own enthusiasm, commitment and the ability to communicate enthusiasm to people (Adair, 1993). Teams were developed by team leaders so that a common task could be accomplished.

Adair (1993) identifies three different approaches to leadership which can be called leadership functions (1) accomplishing the task, (2) maintaining the team and (3) meeting the individual needs of the team members.

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Adair believes that leaders are not born but emerge from situations. The leader who emerges can adopt any ‘style of leadership’ that warrants the situation. According to Adair a leader is one who has certain innate characteristics which are required to perform his/her role. A leader according to him must have personality and character. Adair quotes Harold Macmillian, “that a man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man that nobody trusts”. His leader must have integrity, a wholeness and a moral sense.

According to Adair, the three functions of meeting the demands of the task, maintaining the team and meeting the needs of individual team members must be kept in balance and none of them should be neglected.

The team leader areas of responsibility must include qualities and competencies such as (a) to behave with the highest level of authenticity and integrity by building a trusting relationship with all team members; (b) to be committed fully to the development of the team; (c) to be open and communicate, but must practice good listening skills; (d) be willing to share perceptions, assumptions and views openly with team members; and (e) to allow team members to work independently but in a self-organised manner. Team leaders must take time required to do the work and support team’s efforts and also reflect on its actions. They must maintain and practice accountability and at the same time have a good working relationship with the team members. They should always be ready to monitor and evaluate how the team functions. They should clearly state the purpose of work without being ambiguous or complex. They must try to experiment and share experiences without blame. They should also provide coaching and mentoring support to the team (Barry Stevenson, 2004).

The organizational structure of McDonald’s Corporation is centralised but that of its retail outlets is different. In McDonald’s outlets the employees work as a team to ensure that customers’ requirements are taken care of in a short period of time. Besides the manager the rest are all attendants who take orders and deliver as fast as they can. There is division of labour among members of the organisation, and the co-ordination of their activities are directed towards the goals and objectives of the organisation.

Structure is the pattern of relationships among positions in the organisation and among members of the organisation. Structure makes possible the application of the process of management and creates a framework of order and command through which the activities of the organisation can be planned, organised, directed and controlled. Structure defines tasks and responsibilities, work roles and relationships, and channels of communication (Mullins and Laurie. J, 2008).

At McDonald’s the span of control of the manager is narrow. The span of control refers to the number of subordinates working under the supervisor. So if there are five subordinates working under the supervisor or manager, the span of control is five. If the span of control is narrow there are certain advantages (Jenkins and Tessa, 2000). One of the merits is that there is tight control over subordinates and the manager is able to closely supervise the daily operations resulting in better co-ordination. Managers have time to think and plan and they are not burdened with too many problems. A narrow span of control reduces delegation and managers are able to do more work.

On the contrary, a flat organisation implies a wide span of control. Theorists are of the opinion that tall organisation structures are inefficient, despite the advantage of a narrow span of control (Robbins, Stephen P, 2007). One can learn to use leadership approaches to develop high-performing teams and individuals at McDonalds. Team leaders were aware of the importance of team building and used suitable tools and techniques to help teams reach their full potential.

McDonalds Crew Members are responsible for customer service, food preparation and cleanliness and hygiene. Crew members will be asked to work in any of these areas depending on the individual’s preferences. I worked as a Customer Service Crew member and my job entailed taking orders and delivering meals to customers at the counter. I learnt to be courteous and polite as I was responsible for maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.

The responsibility of the Food Preparation Crew Members was to prepare and cook McDonald’s menu. The teams are self managed and all team or crew member works with team spirit. There is a sense of respect for each other. However it can be said that most crew members do not understand the organisation strategy as they do not have access to this information. The communication between crew members is informal which enables every individual to maintain good harmony within retail outlets.

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The crew members at McDonald’s are committed because their needs are met by the team leadership. The leadership has developed an ideal and committed team which can be easily motivated. A committed and motivated team is always successful. Larson and LaFasto (1989) studied to understand the characteristics of successful teams and found that all the highly effective teams always had the characteristics such as a clear, elevating goal, a result-driven structure, competent team members, unified commitment, a collaborative climate, standards of excellence external support and recognition as well as principled leadership (Larson and LaFasto, 1989).

From this finding it is evident that effective teamwork has a strong relationship with motivation. According to Maslow’s theory the hierarchy of human needs are classified into five levels. This theory advocates that the higher level needs of an individual will become motivating factors only when the lower level ones are satisfied. The five levels starting from the lowest hierarchy to the highest level, are: Physiological – At McDonald’s the motivating factors of the crew members are salary, over time, daily lunch/meal and transportation facilities.

Safety – The next important factor is safety which includes elements such as job security, medical insurance and sick leave.

Social – There is very good interaction among crew members and customers. This has resulted in excellent teamwork.

Self-esteem – Crew members are motivated as the team leader/manager has full confidence in their abilities. They have reputation because of the McDonald’s brand equity. They are recognised and appreciated by fellow colleagues, subordinates, and supervisors.

Self-actualization – The crew member reach their full potential when all his needs are taken care off (Maslow, 1987).

The disadvantage that I observed was that subordinates are unable to make any decision. They have to always obey and listen to the orders of the manager. However the crew members (team members) had flexible schedules. There were team members from various parts of the world working together. They had different backgrounds and different interests and all worked together to make an ideal work force. In fact there was diversity.

I would like to now give a detailed account of my observations on leadership styles and its impact on teamwork in McDonald’s restaurants. The leadership style practised in McDonald’s restaurants is autocratic and therefore crew members are not involved in any decision making. It is also a fact that suggestions from crew members are not welcomed as most of them are new. Crew members are young and work in these restaurants during summer vacations and therefore cannot offer ideas to the leader. Crew members are young and therefore motivated if they are paid wages on time and given extra benefits such as lunch and transportation. This motivates the crew to work in spite of the autocratic leadership. Autocratic style of leadership doesn’t fulfil the self esteem requirements reflected in Maslow’s hierarchy. However at McDonald’s crew members get self respect and also respect each other. McDonald’s will not adopt another style of leadership as the management fears that a persuasive or democratic style will not deliver the goods, viz., delivering quality food on time to its customers.

I would like to compare persuasive and democratic styles of leadership with that of autocratic leadership before arriving at a conclusion: which one of the three styles will ideally suit McDonald’s and at the same time have an impact on team work.

Persuasion is one of the requisites of all leaders by which act they can move people toward a new situation. Persuasion does not include rational arguments. A leader can use persuasion as a tactic to gain the support of diverse groups of people using basic human emotions. It is normal that persuasive strategies may provoke team members and some of them may oppose ideas or suggestions. The democratic leadership style or participative style encourages employees to be a part of the decision making allowing more participation of teams in the decision making process.

Persuasive Leadership

Democratic Leadership


Team members will be able to perform better as they can be easily persuaded to work.

Teams have the independence to work in their own way.

Through persuasion leaders can motivate teams easily.

Crew members are encouraged to express their suggestion and ideas

Team members have the independence to make and participate in decision making.

Team members are more committed and can be easily motivated.

Team members perform better.


Persuasion takes time as tem members may not accept decisions or orders immediately.

New team members will find it difficult to understand and follow the policies of the organisation.

The decision making process if lengthy.

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Since more freedom is given to teams there are bound to be more conflicts if individuals do not agree

Team members have the right to reject decisions if it is not in their favour.

Both the above mentioned styles do not suit the functioning of McDonald’s. Autocratic leadership is the only style that will fit McDonald’s restaurants as team leaders or managers are willing to only make unilateral decisions. This style of leadership exerts a lot of pressure on team members who are often very stressful. Despite this disadvantage, McDonald’s crew members find the work environment a fun place to be. I observed that crew members did not complain when directed or ordered by team leaders. In fact, they seemed to prefer an autocratic style. It can therefore be emphasised that autocratic leadership style is very effective when crew members are stressful. They only have to follow orders and do not have to be creative. The disadvantage is that people may not like to be part of a team that is being dictated by a leader and result in high employee turnover. However, McDonald’s is not affected by employee turnover as it is very easy to find replacements.

At McDonald’s the motivation to perform is not because of leadership, but because of the willingness of team members to perform as individuals. “You don’t motivate individuals. You provide them with an environment to be self motivated. It is a personal decision, but its the management’s job to provide the right environment” (Schofield, K.). Autocratic leadership cannot motivate but can only dictate. McDonalds could adopt another style of leadership but fears that there will be severe backlash from the teams who may seek more independence. McDonald’s cannot afford to give authority to crew members or train them to self starters. McDonald’s epitomises globalisation which in turn supports standardisation. The team leaders of all McDonald’s outlets are trained to voice the opinion of its senior management. So, only autocratic leadership will thrive within this multinational food chain.

I would like to suggest the integrate some of the leadership models to develop a more comprehensible model for the development of crews or teams at Mcdonald’s. The model proposed is that which was developed by Harvey, Millett & Smith (1998) who had integrated some of the literature in order to develop an all-inclusive model for team development. The model proposes eight key points that can facilitate the successful implementation of teams. These points, which embrace both critical elements of teams, as well as enabling factors, are (1) Clear goals, (2) Decision making authority, (3) Accountability and responsibility, (4). Effective leadership, (5) Training and development, (6) Resources, (7) Organisational support, and (8) Rewards for team success (Harvey, Millett & Smith, 1998)

Team leaders at McDonald’s should also identify leadership behaviours that could be used to perform and help the team to lead it. They could draw inspiration from the six behaviours that were identified by Manz and Sims (1986). These behaviours are (a) encouraging self-observation/self-evaluation so that the team can gather the information required to monitor and evaluate its performance; (b) encouraging self-goal setting so that the team sets performance goals; (c) encouraging self-reinforcement so that the team recognises and reinforces good team performance; (d) encouraging self-criticism so that the team is elf-critical and discourages poor team performance, (e) encouraging self-expectation so that the team has high expectations for group performance, and (f) encouraging rehearsal so that the work group thinks through and practices an activity before actually performing the activity ( Manz and Sims (1986) as cited in Susan Cohen, 1993).

It can be concluded that only autocratic style of leadership can be practiced at McDonald’s. It is argued that autocratic style of leadership will not thrive in organisational cultures that foster team work. However, McDonald’s seems to thrive on autocracy and its teams at thousands of outlets all over the world seemed to have accepted being dictated to. The teams have thrived under this leadership style and have been committed. At McDonald’s, autocratic team leadership does not fully utilise the skills and capabilities of available human resources and yet thrives and flourishes, bringing in more profits to the business conglomerate as well as customer satisfaction. The narrow span of control can help team leaders of McDonald’s outlets to have greater control over crew members. Team members are disenchanted because they do not have self-esteem but they are satisfied as they are part of a huge multinational corporation that has a big reputation and enjoys an excellent image and brand equity. The only consolation for team members are the salary and perks and the recognition and appreciation by fellow colleagues, subordinates, supervisors and satisfied customers.

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