McDonald’s Jan Fields Proves Leadership is for Everyone

I attended a Women’s Leadership Forum at a large corporation recently featuring Jan Fields, President of McDonald’s USA. She is #88 on Forbes “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women,” sharing the stage with the likes of Hilary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Meg Whitman and Marisa Mayer.

I had just published a “best leadership advice” blog post, so was somewhat skeptical of hearing anything new, but was pleasantly surprised by Jan’s advice. It was incredibly down to earth and pragmatic, and a testament to the fact that basic leadership principles — those that truly stand the test of time — apply to anyone, no matter your level.

Here was another epiphany: Always, always, always try to learn from others. Because you never know when something familiar will hit you in a new way, inspiring you, and taking you to new places.

Before we get to Jan’s tips, a couple of key themes emerged: First, you own much of your experience. In other words, when that voice inside is tempted to say, “I can’t do this because of…,” “This isn’t happening because of…,” and the answer is anything other than “me,” you are quite guaranteed to stay right where you are.

The second is courage. McDonald’s is by no means perfect and has its “social” challenges, which she readily pointed out during the presentation. But, she seems to be taking courageous, proactive steps to make change.

So, with the overall themes of accountability and courage, here are Jan Fields’ leadership and career tips (mostly verbatim):

  • Men are not the enemies. It will likely be a man who helps get you where you want to go.
  • Don’t forget where you came from. You might end up going back, and it’s important for authenticity to remain grounded to your beginnings.
  • Build relationships with a variety of people. The temptation is to focus on higher-ups, but you can learn so much more from a variety of peers and more junior people.
  • Take seriously your peer relationships through respect and trust. They might report to you someday, or the other way around.
  • Lift while you climb. Bring along and develop others as you advance.
  • Take smart risks. Don’t be averse to strategic, lateral moves. They may offer a faster path up or a new, better direction you hadn’t thought of.
  • Make yourself stand out. Be known for something.
  • Do the best in the job you’re in.
  • Resist the temptation to leave a job because you’re dissatisfied. It won’t be better somewhere else.
  • Don’t be in a hurry.
  • Own your development, don’t depend on others to tell you what to learn.
  • Be yourself. Trying to be someone else takes a lot more work.

Is there anything here that struck you? Inspired you to move forward differently? Maybe write it down and keep it with you for a while. If not, talk to others about what has helped them be successful.

Have an inspired week!


  1. I especially like the last two. Too many employees look to their company or boss to provide them development, usually in the form of classes, instead of identifying what they’d like to get out of their current position and partnering with their supervisor to help them get those experiences. The last one reminds me of my favorite quote:
    “Be who you are, because those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”
    –Dr. Seuss


    1. Thanks, Kelly, I love that quote! It’s so true. Indeed, too many people look to their companies for development, who also growingly don’t offer formal training…growth experiences are key!!


  2. Where did you get the statement which jan fields mention??. i am reseaching about her,therefore that is so useful to explain her attitude or personality.


    1. Hi Lee! All this information came directly from her during a presentation she made at my company last November. Hope that helps! Good luck with your research!


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