It’s a uniquely American success story. A Louisiana guy who liked to hunt and work with his hands set up a shop in his shed, then discovered he could make a good living selling his handmade duck calls. One of his children had a talent for business, got a degree and took over as CEO, and working together the family grew their homespun industry into a major enterprise.
In a way, what came next is also uniquely American—a reality TV series, launched by a cable network with low expectations and ratings to match, that gradually found its niche and shattered cable ratings records by drawing nearly 12 million viewers for its fourth season premiere of Duck Dynasty.
Now the Robertson family of self-professed “redneck millionaires” is grappling with a media empire on top of their even more wildly successful business. They’re dealing with issues most family businesses never face, like having so many people throng to visit their warehouse that they’ve added a gift shop.
The Robertsons’ outsized personalities, wit, and day-to-day life make for entertaining television. But underlying their story—and their success—are some fundamental leadership values.
Determination. As fans of the show already know, dad and company founder Phil had been a star quarterback at Louisiana Tech University. By all accounts he had a great shot at an NFL career. But football interfered with duck hunting, so he walked away from his final year of eligibility and handed over the reins to his second-string quarterback—who happened to be Terry Bradshaw. At the time, it must have seemed like a crazy move to a lot of people. But he had the focus and determination to know what was important to him, and that’s what he stuck with.
Dependability. In one episode, Phil and Willie accept a huge rush order and are pressed for the staffing to meet the deadline. Miss Kay, the matriarch of the family, helps save the day by persuading dozens of people to come help out with the reward of a home-cooked meal. In Willie’s words, “When in doubt, figure it out. That’s the redneck way.”
Discussion. The Robertsons are a family of talkers, and open, unreserved communication is a constant. We don’t see a number of formal meetings or carefully crafted e-mails sent back and forth, but we do see honest discussion and debate in an environment that’s secure enough to withstand disagreements, teasing, and everything in between.
Dedication. Nobody can drive you crazy like a family member, and the parents, siblings, kids, and uncles that make up the Robertson clan experience their share of friction. One frequent point of conflict is between Willie and his laid-back brother Jace, who sums up his philosophy by saying “If you’re too busy to hunt, you’re too busy.” But there’s no doubt of the loyalty and affection they share. Every episode in the series ends with a big family dinner, a prayer, and a principle to apply to life/work.
Distinction. With their long hair, long beards, and love of bandanas and camo, these guys could not look less like “successful” businesspeople. On a visit to New York City, Jace was escorted out of his hotel by a doorman who thought he was a vagrant—a victim of “facial profiling,” as he called it. But never was anyone more comfortable in their own skin. The Robertsons defy all expectations but their own of what it means to be successful, what it means to be rural southerners—and, ultimately, what it means to be who they are.
That’s a call that all leaders should respond to Jack!
About the Author
Jeremy Kingsley is a professional speaker, best-selling author, and President of OneLife Leadership. He has spoken to over 500,000 people at live events and given over 2000 keynote speeches. He has been featured at CBS, FOX, CNBC, FOX BUSINESS, and many more. To book Jeremy to speak, purchase books, and learn more visit www.JeremyKingsley.com