McDonald’s Canada’s President and CEO inspires students with leadership journey

When Michèle Boudria started her first job at a McDonald’s restaurant at 16 years old, she never imagined that the first company she worked for would also be the last.

“Never in a million years did I think I would become President and CEO. I’m honoured and proud, and I always remember where I came from,” Boudria said.

She recounted how she fell in love with the McDonald’s brand and running a business when she visited Brock on Wednesday, Oct. 18 to share insights on leaderships with more than 140 students and members of the Brock community while receiving the Goodman School of Business 2023 Distinguished Leader Award.

The honour is given annually to a prominent Canadian business leader who shares their leadership journey and connects with students about their professional experiences.

Boudria started the day meeting with a group of Goodman student leaders at the recently renovated Pendale McDonald’s location, where students got to see the latest technological innovations and engage with the McDonald’s Canada team, including owner/operator Edwin Infante. Following that, she joined Goodman Dean Barry Wright for a fireside chat to discuss her leadership journey.

During their conversation, Boudria shared her personal guideposts for leadership values based around the acronym HELP: honesty, empathy, lifting while I climb and partnering with others.

“These are four values that I like to live by,” she said. “Honesty — if you invest in time to deeply connect with people and create relationships, they are open to candid and honest feedback. They genuinely know that you’re looking to help them improve. Having truth tellers around you is incredibly important.”

She shared how significant empathy is, and how important it is for leaders to put themselves in the shoes of others, including their customers, and to ask for different perspectives to strengthen decision-making.

“Lifting while I climb is about me giving back,” she said. “People have given me wings over the years, and I feel like it’s my responsibility to pay it forward. It’s the part of my job that I love the most and it really fulfils me.”

She also introduced the concept of partnering with others to create a personal board of directors to provide career guidance and support, which can include people with similar roles, mentors, coaches and advocates.

“The advocate is the person who speaks for you when you’re not in the room,” she said. “They are at the table, helping guide important career decisions for you. Figure out who that person is and be consistently clear on your ambitions. As I’ve taken on more senior roles, I’ve also made sure that I’m on other people’s board of directors.”

Goodman student leader Naomie Jeynathakumar was part of the group that participated in the session at the Pendale location.

“It was an experience I was so glad that I got to take part in,” she said. “We had valuable one-on-one conversations with all the McDonald’s team members, and it was really great having that discussion and for them to share with us how they are innovating and learning.”

That learning and personal development carried over to the fireside chat for her, listening to Boudria’s insights on leadership.

“I learned about the qualities that it takes to be a business leader,” Jeyanthakumar said. “Michèle demonstrated today that it’s about understanding humility, being your own person and knowing how you add value to an organization.”

Boudria is the 15th recipient of the Distinguished Leader award. A full list of past recipients can be found on Goodman’s website. The event is part of the D.G. Willmot Leaders Series hosted at Brock each year.

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