"If you work just for money, you'll never make it, but if you love what you're doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours."
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· October 5, 1902: Kroc was born in Chicago, Illinois.
1906: A phrenologist, a “doctor” who divined insights into a person’s character and capabilities from the skull’s shape and size, predicted that Kroc would work in the food-service industry.
1917: Kroc lied about his age to join the Red Cross as an ambulance driver during WWI.
1922-27: Kroc broke into sales by selling paper cups for Lily Tulip Paper Cup Co. while also playing the piano on a local radio station at night.
1927-54: Became a salesman for Prince Multimixers and traveled around the country gaining experience and insight into the growing restaurant industry.


- 1954: Kroc made his first visit to the original McDonald’s in San Bernardino, California, which was owned and operated by the McDonald brothers, Dick and Mac. The very next day, he offered them a proposition to sell franchises.
April 15, 1955: Kroc opened his first store in Des Plaines, Illinois.
1957: Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value became the company motto.
1961: Kroc bought all rights to the McDonald’s concept from the McDonald’s brothers for $2.7 million.
1963: One billion hamburgers sold and Ronald McDonald makes his debut.
- 1965: McDonald’s Corporation went public.
- 1967: First international stores were opened in Canada and Puerto Rico.
1968: The Big Mac premiered.
1974: The first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia.
1984: Ray Kroc passes away at the age of 81, just 10 months before McDonalds would sell its 50-billionth hamburger.
- 1985: McDonalds' stock is added to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, replacing Sears.

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Ray Kroc walked a fine line between both democratic and autocratic styles of leadership. A democratic style of leadership is one in which the “leader takes collaborative, responsive, interactive actions with followers concerning the work environment” (Nelson/Quick). Kroc clearly valued the opinions of employees and encouraged them to voice those opinions. He took things one step further by actually implementing some of their ideas, showing that his employees were on a level playing field with him. For example, any new employee that was brought onto the team, even the smallest of positions, was awarded the title of “Management Trainee.” However, this title was not just on the resumes of employees, but on the badge they wore each and every day. By doing this, Kroc ensured that each employee felt like a valued member of the management team. Kroc also began a suggestion box for employees. He was constantly challenging his employees to think of a better way to do something and drop it into the suggestion box. In fact, this proved to be successful for both the employees and for McDonald's as a company. On the one hand, the employees felt valued and as though their opinions were being heard. This, in turn, motivated them to improve and gave them a sense of investment in the organization. The payoff for Kroc came from food items such as the Happy Meal and the Big Mac, which were both developed following the initial ideas generated from people working inside of his restaurants.
The key to his suggestion box being such an effective motivation tool, is that the box was not just there to portray a false image of Kroc appreciating employee ideas. He truly did appreciate these ideas and showed this by putting the best ideas into action. This undoubtedly gave his employees a strong sense of task significance, or “the degree to which the job has a substantial impact on the lives or work of others, whether in the immediate organization or in the external environment” (Nelson/Quick). By feeling such an investment in their jobs and in the company, employees were motivated to help McDonald’s grow into the fast food giant that it is today.

An autocratic style of leadership is one in “which the leader uses strong, directive, controlling actions to enforce the rules, regulations, activities, and relationships within the work environment” (Nelson/Quick). Max Cooper, a former press agent for McDonald’s and later franchisee perhaps illustrated the contradiction between Kroc’s leadership styles best when he said, “He was one of the best listeners I’ve ever know, and if someone, no matter who it was, had what he considered a good idea, he’d allow them to go with it. But he was strictly one-dimensional when it came to the restaurants. They had to be run right—no argument” (Carlino). Here we see that, while Kroc was willing to consider new ideas from employees, they still had to be run by him first. And while some ideas were implemented, Kroc was certain on how he wanted his restaurants run. This meant following procedures in whichever way he might specify at any given time. In this sense, employees had little influence over Kroc as an autocratic leader.

Translating this combination of leadership styles onto Robert Blake and Jane Mouton’s Leadership Grid, Kroc would most likely score a (9,9), making him a leader focused on team management. In team management, “work accomplishment is from committed people…[and]… interdependence through a ‘common stake’ in organization purpose leads to relationships of trust and respect” (Nelson/Quick). This would imply that Kroc has a high concern for people and a high concern for results. Kroc’s concern for, and success at achieving, results cannot be denied. In only the US, 13% of the entire workforce has been/is employed by McDonald’s. Compare this to Wal-Mart, which is currently ranked by FORTUNE 500 as the world’s largest corporation ("GLOBAL 500"). Employing 1.3 million Americans, Wal-Mart doesn’t even begin to compare to the impact McDonald’s has had on American people and culture. Furthermore, for 1 in 15 Americans, McDonald’s was their first job. Not to mention the fact that Ronald McDonald ranks second to Santa Claus in recognition levels among young children (Carlino). Clearly, the results have been achieved through his leadership style. In addition, Kroc also has an immense concern for the people who work for him. So much so, that Kroc did not personally profit off of McDonald’s until six years after he opened his first restaurant. Instead, the profits went to the original franchise owners. Kroc did this because he knew that his employees would be integral in McDonald’s ability to grow. He knew that “the best ideas were bound to be those that came from the people who were actually in charge of what was going on inside the four walls of his restaurants.” This concern for people, through both his leadership and motivational styles, is a large part of what catapulted McDonald’s to such success.


Forms of Power

Ray Kroc possessed and used all of the 5 forms of power except coercive. Kroc did not need to use coercive power because he was able to use the other forms of power - reward, legitimate, referent and expert - so effectively. Kroc used rewards to motivate his employees and express their own creativity while still following general corporate rules. Kroc also used legitimate power, understanding that he had to provide discipline and precision to the fast food industry in order to rise to the top. Employees needed to follow Kroc's rules, simply because the rules were necessary to improve production processes and because more efficient. Kroc's reverent form of power was shown in his passion for the organization, and his commitment to his customers and employees. Kroc's last form of power, expert power, was represented by his obsession of McDonald's. Kroc considered himself a connoisseur of kitchens, and other people looked to him for direction. The combination and balance of these forms of power made Kroc the effective leader he was.

Sources of Power

Kroc's main source of power stemmed from his control of strategic contingencies. First, he was able to deal with a high level of uncertainty. When making the move to buy McDonald's and form a start up a chain of hamburger restaurants, he made the comment, "If I lost out on McDonald's, I'd have no place to go"(Wiley).
Kroc also had a high degree of centrality to McDonalds. It was his drive, his passion for perfection that drove McDonald's to be the leader of the fast food industry.

Kroc was also non-substitutable. It was his vision and expectations about what McDonald's could and should become that shaped McDonald's and developed the values that it would hold.


As a leader, Kroc discouraged organizational politics. In the organization that he built, he wanted every single employee to feel that he or she was valuable. He also wanted his employees to commit to their job and put forth the extra effort, just as he did. Even though he was the CEO of McDonald's, it didn't stop him from taking time to scrape gum off of the parking lot with a putty knife. To Kroc, every person on the team was important, and every task of the job equally significant.


Kroc acted ethically by committing to long lasting business relationships with franchise owners. Instead of extorting business relationships by milking franchise owners for funds, Kroc committed to making deep relationships with owners and directing and guiding them. He personally oversaw the opening of new McDonald's and did so even after stepping down from his position as CEO.
Kroc also held the view that one must be focused on goals instead of profits. Kroc said, "if you love what you do and put the customer first, success will be yours" (Woopidoo). This value was shown through his behavior of putting the customer's satisfaction first. He also worked to make sure that the employees working at McDonald's felt like they were each part of the team, each a valuable part of the organization. In this way, Kroc exemplified utilitarian and justice ethics, seeking to provide both the highest level o benefit to the greatest amount of people and also avoiding one weakness of utilitarianism by striving to make sure that the lowest ranked members of the business also received a great amount of benefit.


Kroc pursued a call to service. The entire industry he helped create, mold and streamline is just that, a service. Yes, there is a product being sold. But without a high level of service, the product means nothing. Above this literal representation of the word service, Kroc also displayed a call to service in his commitment to improve ever part of the business, and make the job quicker, simpler and more efficient for employees. This increase in employee production leads to better response times to the customer and a higher level of customer satisfaction. Kroc also collected suggestions to accommodate changing customer needs. He used his awareness and understanding of the food service industry to McDonald's advantage, and also committed to the growth of his employees. These factors enabled Kroc to serve his customers and employees and ensure a high level of production and satisfaction at each McDonalds.


For more information about Ray Kroc's life, leadership, and success, visit **** (from Proquest)
For the complete story about Kroc's establishment of McDonald's, visit
For a closer look at the present day McDonald's corporation, visit

Carlino, Bill. "Ray Kroc." National Restaurant News. 8 Feb. 1996

"GLOBAL 500." FORTUNE 500. 2008. CNN. <>.
Nelson, Debra, and James Quick. ORGB. Mason: South-Western, 2009.

"Ray Kroc Biography." Woopidoo. <>.