Winning Culture Series: P.J. Fleck & Dwayne Johnson
The best leaders draw inspiration from every walk of life. From Warren Buffett to Bill Belichick, founding principles not only set a foundation for success, they also provide solace during the inevitable rough patches along the road to success.
Our winning culture series is designed to spotlight individuals who have created elite environments through creativity, ingenuity, and sheer will. Each article in the series will be linked to a profile of a youth organization that has succeeded in creating their own dynamic culture.
Before he was a movie-star, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson began a career in the ring as a last resort. Broke, jobless and depressed, he turned to the family business. Johnson was born into a wrestling family, the son and grandson of legendary performers. His father, Rocky Johnson, was a former boxer who later became one of the biggest names in the National Wrestling Alliance and the World Wrestling Entertainment. Most notably, he was the first African American to win a World Tag Team Championship and was later inducted by his son into the WWE Hall of Fame.
The Rock’s grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia, began his wrestling career in New Zealand and the UK. Long before his grandson was commanding national TV audiences, Maivia paved the way for the family in the NWA and WWE. High Chief was also inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his grandson, Dwayne.
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The Rock seemingly came out of nowhere and made his mark on the WWE. A grinder mentality that forced him to criss-cross the nation via car to find opportunities led to an unprecedented run of success. After a championship-filled career, punctuated by countless renditions of “The People’s Elbow,” he set his sights on Hollywood. Numerous wrestlers had attempted to command the silver screen in Tinseltown, but few achieved notoriety at the box office. His workmanlike discipline in the ring translated to his acting career, which quickly blossomed from B-movie popcorn flicks to blockbuster summer thrill rides like The Fast and The Furious, San Andreas, and Jumanji.
Johnson inherited a cultural foundation from his father and grandfather, but he elevated it into a winning formula in every facet of his life. One of his personal mantras is tied to the consistency of effort.
“Success isn’t always about greatness, it’s about consistency. Consistent, hard work gains success.”
Will that work ethic lead him all the way to the White House? It would be a fitting bookend to his decidedly American success story.
From one underdog story to another. P.J. Fleck, a former sixth-grade social studies teacher, is now the head football coach of the University of Minnesota. To understand how he got there is to understand the power of motivation. Motivational speaking has become a cottage industry the world over. And a justified amount of skepticism is heaped upon anyone who garners the title of master motivator. But for Fleck and his coaching career, the proof is in the pudding.
His first head coaching job took him to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Far from a college football hotbed, the Western Michigan Broncos had boasted just a single undefeated season in the program’s 107-year history prior to Fleck’s arrival in 2013. In four years, Fleck orchestrated a remarkable turnaround from a 1-11 record to an immaculate 13-0 campaign, complete with the school’s first ever invitation to a New Year’s Day Bowl game. To understand how he changed the culture, and ultimately the course of his own life, you simply need to listen to his personal mantras, of which there are many. His most famous warcry is undoubtedly, “Row the boat.” It has since been trademarked, and after appearing on Western Michigan’s helmets and uniforms it has made the transition to Minnesota along with the man himself.
“There are three parts to rowing the boat. There is the oar, which is the energy behind rowing the boat. There is the boat, which is the actual sacrifice, either our team or the administration or the boosters or the audience or whoever is willing to sacrifice for this program. There is also the compass. Every single person that comes in contact with our football program, fans or not, they are all going for one common goal and that is success.”
Organizations can benefit tremendously from a unified vision. These mantras can serve as a North Star for every stakeholder, which is invaluable when setting long-term goals that may only see incremental success.
To learn how Shane Gerald built a unique culture within his youth basketball program in Paterson, NJ, click here.