What can educators learn from the Robertson Family on Duck Dynasty?
Phil Robertson started Duck Commander, a business producing duck calls for hunting, out of his home near West Monroe, Louisiana. Now 40 years later (and after a few years in the classroom as a teacher) people around the world marvel at the antics of the founder and his sons who now operate the expanded operations of the company. This family has become a top rated cable TV show with an enthusiastic throng of loyal followers.
As a fan of Duck Dynasty and after watching numerous episodes, I've noticed some Do's and Don'ts that educators can learn from the Robertsons.
Be who you are, Do what you love. Phil Robertson is comfortable with who he is and passionate about what he does. His business was started after he walked away from college football and a potential pro career to do what he loved the most--hunting. Phil figured out his unique genius, became the best in the world at doing what he's natural gifted to do, and found a way to earn a living doing what he loves. He didn't apply for a job--he created a life! He's happy, happy, happy because of his ability to effectively reinvent himself while staying true to who he is.
Keep it simple, Never give up. Willy Robertson is now the CEO of this multi-million dollar company that makes a basic product that appeals to a very specific market. Building the company with his entrepreneurial energy and diligent work ethic, Phil invented a double reed duck call that he marketed, sold, and produced. From his own experience as a duck hunter, he understood what was needed and created a product that worked. Long before becoming a famous TV personality, I guarantee he experimented and adjusted his duck call after selling many of them and learning from his customers. If you are a school leader that wants to grow your program, commit yourself to deeply knowing and listening to your target market, then work your butt off building a high performing team that engages the people you want to serve and give them an educational experience of which they can be proud!
Know what you believe, Stay true to your faith. Phil is not a man with a wavering mind. He decided to leave LA Tech despite many who thought he was crazy to give up football as a star quarterback. As a younger man, he chose to abuse alcohol and his family, but later discovered the joy of being a follower of Jesus Christ and dedicated himself to developing an intelligent faith. Recognizing the damage that money can cause to children and grandchildren, he continues to pass-on his strong worth ethic to both. Every episode of the TV show ends with the family praying over dinner, to emphasize the faith that has made it all possible. Like his style or not, Phil is a man who makes decisions with confidence. Schools need more leaders like that.
Don't be Sarcastic. Sarcastic banter dominates much of the dialog between the various family members and employees on the show. Sometimes I change the channel because the constant stream of cutting remarks gets old. When it comes to administrators and teachers, sarcasm is an undesirable! Long-term damaged can be inflicted on students who don't have the support systems to cope such blows to the self-esteem. Sarcasm is a consequence of underdeveloped emotional intelligence, so seek leaders who have the skill and habit of expecting the best of their students, consistently providing encouragement and safe boundaries.
Don't compromise for money or fame. In one episode Phil and Uncle Si are allowed to serve as last-minute substitute presenters for Career Day at a local school. They shared about what they know: how to clean a duck and gory stories from service in Vietnam. Neither was appropriate for the classes they visited, and should never have been allowed to happen. Whether choosing trustees for the board or speakers for an event, don't allow money and fame to cause you to negliect your responsibility for due diligence. Everyone you consider for the board, for example, should be evaluated based on his/her alignment with the mission, culture, strategies, and trustee expectations--if the person is wealthy, you should double check to make sure that you're not compromising the institution because you see dollar signs.
Don't hire family members. Willy makes great duck calls but he doesn't hire well! I enjoy the unpredictable adventures of the brothers during their work days, but the spontaneous chaos at Duck Commander would be unhealthy for most schools. Nepotism causes unnecessary problems for Willy and for school leaders for several reasons. Relatives can often adversely influence faculty culture because of the perception of favoritism, and when you have problems with one person you usually have problems with the kin as well. Except in rare situations, avoid hiring family members if at all possible.