My Life as The Rock: A Perspective on Leadership
First off, my name isn’t Dwayne Johnson. My arms aren’t quite as big, and I’m not sure my two days in the gym per month will get me there either. I’m talking about my job, and part of my daily job is being the rock.
If you are a leader at any level, part of your job is being a rock: being steady, reliable, and cool under pressure.
The problem with most management structures is that the leader is on top. I grew up doing construction. Every house I helped to build had the big rock at the bottom. As the founder of my small business, I was the first part of the structure. Founder = foundation; that is my job! While I would be absolutely nothing without my fantastic employees, they have built on my own personal hard work in the early days and are able to help me bring my vision to life.
As my company is growing, I am learning more about leadership and what it means to be the rock every day. While I am certainly not a leadership expert, I wanted to share my perspective thus far of what I believe to be the characteristics of being a good rock.
Now any of my employees or anyone who has had a two-minute conversation with me at any point just chuckled. I love the word “simple”—it is one of the core values at my company, Farmore Marketing. Rocks, above all else, are simple.
Simplicity is anything but easy! I have found that the right decisions are typically simple and often difficult. The rock may not be the smartest person in the room, but he or she is the one willing to make the tough choices and take responsibility for the results.
Many people will look at you and believe that they can do your job better than you. They may have a better skillset, be more intelligent, better looking, etc., but most people don’t have the stones (see what I did there) to make the tough choices.
As the rock, you understand that when you work with your employees or clients, there is no time for fluff. You need to communicate clearly and simply to set expectations and execute.
“If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”
- Albert Einstein
By nature, the rock or foundation is supportive. We’re really learning now! There is a reason that while so many facets of construction have changed over thousands of years, foundations have remained relatively the same: they work! The same goes for leadership; the same principles of effectively leading people that worked thousands of years ago work the same today.
In my experience, I have found that leaders have one job: to create an environment for employees to be successful.
For something to be supportive, it has to be consistent. I believe great leaders come in all shapes, sizes, genders, colors, demeanors, styles, and backgrounds, but I will say that I believe every great leader is consistent. Surprises can be fun, but the last thing your employees want is to wonder which version of you is coming in that day. You need to do what you say and when you say it to build trust.
I mentioned earlier that my employees have built on my success. Any good builder knows that you don’t add anything to a structure if you don’t believe the foundation can support it. Your employees need to trust you are willing to support them if they are going to grow.
As the rock, it’s not about you; it’s simply about supporting your staff and helping them to be the best versions of themselves. Their success is your success.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Strength comes in many forms. I already admitted that Mr. Johnson might be able to take me in an arm wrestle, but it takes a lot of mental toughness to be the rock. You have to be disciplined. There are going to be many times when you disagree with your employees or clients, but as the rock you need to be able to shoulder the responsibility and get the job done.
The thing about foundations is that the majority of them, if not all, are buried and paid little attention to. My dad has been self-employed and ran successful businesses for as long as I have been alive. He told me a long time ago, “Success looks easy to those who weren’t there to see it built.” You have to be willing to do the right thing, the hard thing, even if you will never get credit for it. If you want to build something bigger than yourself, you have to be mentally tough.
"A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit."
A lesson I learned very early in leadership is you don’t lead for your benefit, you lead for the benefit of others. As the rock, you need to give, give, and give some more. For me, that means having a balanced life. While work is very important to me, my marriage, family, and friends, will always be priority. It seems to be a badge of honor among business owners to work extra-long hours. I’m proud to say that most weeks I work just about 50 hours.
I don’t need work to give me all my value, and I don’t expect or need validation from my employees. They have a lot of work to do without me adding the burden of improving my self worth. As the rock, you have to have your support system outside of the work environment so that you are stable for those that you support.
I believe this also brings clarity to my relationship with my employees. While I want to make work a positive part of their lives, I understand that they are human beings. They need to have self worth and validation as well, and, just like me, that requires having a balanced life.
This quality really shines when times are rough. You will earn respect when you are able to stay calm and make the right decisions when it matters most. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”
Most traits are both positive and negative. There are many negative connotations of being stubborn, but I believe a good rock needs to be stubborn. This means doing the same things over and over and working toward better results—what some might call crazy.
As the rock, you have to do your job consistently, stubbornly every day, and most days without glory or results. Leader after leader will tell you to keep at it. Already in my career, I have so many stories of how persistence pays. You have to be willing to endure a lot of no’s and closed doors, but I promise you that those doors will open eventually, even if you have to kick some in.
That said, persistence is where stubbornness needs to end. It is an amazing trait that when applied correctly will bring a lot of success, but you have to understand when to be flexible and make changes as well.
“I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”
-John D. Rockefeller
Now I want to be very clear. A successful organization requires a lot more than a solid foundation. (I don’t want to live on a rock. I want to live in a comfortable house with walls, a roof, plumbing, electricity, air conditioning, and a great place to BBQ!)
Our job as leaders is difficult and important, but a foundation by itself is just a rock. It takes people for you to be a leader.
It’s not easy being the rock. Most times it’s a thankless job, but I will speak for myself in saying that it has been such a blessing to see such growth in my business, myself, and most importantly, in my employees. It’s not for everyone, but I wouldn’t trade it for a thing!