Every time I read an interview with Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, I walk away with a renewed drive to be a better person. His story, his determination, and his overall attitude easily explain why he is the most bankable movie star of our time. Even his philosophy on leadership is inspiring—”I feel, at some point, we just need good-quality human beings. I think when you’re a good-quality human being in your DNA and your constitution, it leads to more effective decision-making.” So simple, and so true.
Last time I wrote about Johnson, I focused on ways to become a better leader. Today, let’s discuss three of his techniques that will make us more effective in being a better leader.
#1 Display a Sincere Interest in Others
Anyone who has spent time with Johnson discusses his contagious positivity. He displays warmth, excitement, and a genuine interest with whomever he is interacting. According to Josh Eells, who interviewed Johnson for Rolling Stone, “He will give you a fist bump that makes your humerus vibrate. He will ask your spouse and/or child’s name and then make a point to repeat it 17 times… and you will leave with newfound inspiration to wake up earlier and exercise more and be kinder to people.”
Imagine if you displayed a tenth of Johnson’s energy. Maybe fist bumps aren’t your thing. Maybe your conversations aren’t long enough to repeat a spouse’s name 17 times. You can still show interest in what others are saying. It doesn’t take any additional time to say, “Good morning” and actually mean it. And it only takes a minimal amount of extra effort to exhibit that you care about your staff as people and not just as resources.
When I first met Dwayne, one of the first things he said to me was ‘Let’s elevate and dominate.’ If most people said that, you’d be like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But when Dwayne says it, I’m like, ‘Yes! Elevate and dominate!’—Brad Peyton, Director of the movie Rampage
#2 Practice Constructive Conflict Resolution
After directing Johnson in two movies, Rawson Marshall Thurber says he’s seen Johnson get truly mad only once, when “there was a miscommunication about when he would be done shooting, and he wasn’t gonna be able to get on his flight to go see his little one. It was the most upset I’ve ever seen him. But the way he handled it was really cool. He brought everybody together in the middle of the set and said, ‘I’m disappointed in all of us that we’re here at this point. How can we solve this and move forward?’… I gained a lot of respect for him in that moment.”
Johnson did not yell, nor did he have a meltdown. There was no passive aggressive barb and he didn’t lock himself in his trailer as a silent protest. Johnson was clear about the problem, transparent about how he felt, non-accusatory, and solution-focused.
He’s a freak of nature. It seems like every month he’s in a movie and making a killing. In the middle of shooting Rampage, he’s off hosting SNL and doing ads for Apple and running for president and whatever else. He works out at 3:30 in the morning so he can get to set on time. I don’t know how he does it. And the other thing is, he’s a family dude, so not only is he juggling the 9 million things he’s got on his plate for work, he’s also raising kids and got a happy marriage. Jesus Christ. I kind of f–king hate him.—Jeffrey Dean Morgan
#3 Push a Broad, Ambitious Vision
Early in Johnson’s movie career, he felt like he was floundering. He’d had a successful debut in The Scorpion King, but the subsequent three movies were sub par. “My career was a little shaky – really shaky,” he says. “Returning to wrestling wasn’t an option, because I didn’t want to go back deemed a failure.”
So Johnson called a meeting with his agents with a big, bold vision—he wanted to be Will Smith, only different and bigger. “I don’t know what that means,” Johnson said. “But I can see it, and I have these [he held up his hands] and I need everybody to see it with me.”
My takeaway from this story is to continue thinking big. Johnson didn’t have a roadmap to achieve his vision, but he knew what it looked like and he had a braintrust to help figure it out. It’s easy to get lost in details—the how’s, what-if’s, and but what about’s. Sometimes we just need to imagine the future without feeling limited by particulars. We can save the logistics for the team.
Dwayne started as an athlete, so he’s used to being coached and pushed. He responds really well to that. He’ll give you a hundred takes if you want.—Rawson Marshall Thurber, Director of the movies Central Intelligence and Skyscraper
Can you smell what the Rock is cook? It’s called success and it does not happen by itself. Want to be more like Johnson? Its not about early morning workouts or blockbuster movies. To emulate his success is to be forward-focused. It is maintaining a positive, can will-do attitude. And it is spreading this attitude to everyone you come into contact with. It will involve more dynamism, but it’ll create even more.