Change Leadership in Remember the Titans


The Leadership Style

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Leadership Qualities

The Change Process

Change Leadership in Remember the Titans

The film is set in the 1970s in April of 1971, during a period in which the United States Supreme Court passed a historic judgment about the issue of state imposed segregation in public schools. Following the judgment in the same year T.C. Williams High School located in Alexander Virginia were racially integrated which serves as the setting on which the film is portrayed. The context of the film is critical to understanding the plot because during these events there was social discord between blacks and whites in America (Titans et al., 2015).

The story begins with the integration of the schools. As a result of the integration, the football teams of the two schools were merged and a new team was formed. Herman Boone was appointed head coach who was chosen by a wining white coach and brought in as an assistant coach to join the all-white coaching staff. After initial reluctance due to personal experience of a similar kind when a white man was appointed as head coach removing him, he accepted the position. He did so as he realized that the black residents see him as a symbol of pride and respect that is lacking in their community.

The plot begins when a black teenager is killed by a storeowner which sparks racial tensions in the area. This tension is also evident into the school and the team. As a coach, Boone was not welcomed by the white payers or the assistant coaches of the team. There was also a level of mistrust among the black and white players in the team. Tension was high in the team when black and white players began playing on a single team. These issues were hampering the preparation of the team to be competitive in the sport. The coach had to build a level of trust between him and the players as well as among the players themselves so that the players performed as a team and helped out each other (Titans et al., 2015).

The Leadership Style

This was a classic case of implementing a change in a system or an organization. Here Boon is the leader of the team as well as the change agent that he wants and needs to change the culture of the team. The change would be overcome the racial differences in the team and create a common understanding among the players and then win the championship. Leadership is defined as a relationship that is mixed between persons and situations that tends to inspire, creates a relations of trust and works to achieve a common goal.

Leaders are generally people who know exactly what they want to achieve and sets a vision that can influence others. People’s actions, beliefs and feelings are mobilized and a leader achieves his goal through motivation. There are various theories, behavioral theories, contingency and transformational theories for leadership that are all use dot influence followers and people to effect a change (Rus, van Knippenberg & Wisse, 2010). In the film Boone is seen striving to get the team together, to build relationships of trust and bonding and trying to change the mindset of the players and the support staff of the team. This was a hard task for the coach as there was a lot of societal influence in the internal conflicts of the team. Therefore the coach has to effect a change in the behavior of the team and hence he has to act as a change leader.

Leadership Qualities

To be effective in implementing a change, it is necessary for the leader to possess certain characteristics. The change leaders need to have a vision and a direction to achieve the vision (Hu & Liden, 2011). In the film as a coach Boone had a very clear and identified vision. Boone became a symbol of the vision of the school where he was appointed as coach. His vision was the winning of the football championship. This vision is a necessary prerequisite in a leader who wants to effect a change. A change leader also imparts this vision among the team members so that each individual can get motivated. As is shown in the film there can be varying and trying situations when the vision becomes important and this can be achieved by staying persistent on the path of the vision and the goal-winning the championships.

It can also be important that change leaders exhibit a low level of anxiety and a dedication to a purpose. Leaders believe that attributes like anxieties are negative emotions can affect the ability to cope with a situation. People’s behavior can be influenced by perceived anxiety which can make people overtly defensive or unnecessarily aggressive. Creating an atmosphere where the anxiety factor is reduced is important of effect change. In the film, though Boone acts like an authoritative leader and takes control of things right from the start, he also tries to manage the level of anxiety among the team members. This has been shown to reduce both aggressive and defensive behavior in a team (Rus, van Knippenberg & Wisse, 2010).

Reducing and controlling perceived anxiety can help to reduce the negative emotions in a team. Leaders argue that positive emotions are necessary to be present in a team as that helps bind the team together but negative emotions pulls a team back. Change requires actions and merely being receptive to the situation is not enough. High levels of energy are required by the leader and he has to installs the same into the team. Leaders who want to effect change also generally proactive in the change process and foster positive emotions and energy.

Obtaining a perspective of the team and the team members is also essential for a leader implementing a change. In the film there are several perspectives that come to light through the perspective of the head coach. The film portrays that the coach’s understanding of the problems in the team as well as the personal perspectives which he analyses are targeted in the effort to reduce conflict from racism between the team members (Hu & Liden, 2011).

Change can also require leaders to be confident in their trade and in what they do. The film did not necessarily concentrate on Boone’s ability as a coach and football player, rather the film did portrayed general traits of his experience and wisdom. In the film, Boon is portrayed as coach who loves the game and was hard working and put in hours as a dedicated labor. Glimpses of his confidence and knowledge of the game are shown in action when he describes his previous winning achievements and experiences as a coach during the introduction session with the team.

It is also essential that there exists openness in the change process and among the team members who effect the change. This reduces chances of mistrust and misconception and can help to resolve conflicts. Any change is also associated with an element of risk and as a leader change leaders need to be able to take calculated risks and manage such risks.

The Change Process

Creation of Vision

In the film the vision and goal of the head coach Boone is to win the football championship. In this pursuit it is necessary to create a strong team. But the team is fragmented primarily on the basis of racism. A lack of trust abounds in the team in general. In this situation, as a leader of change, Boone makes a strategic approach to reduce the mistrust and create bonding and mutual respect to form a cohesive team.

Create Urgency for Change

Boone does this by first creating a sense of urgency among the players and the support staff. This sense of urgency was related to the need for a change in the team (Hu & Liden, 2011). From the film it was obvious that the team members did not realize there was need for any change despite the fact that the football season was due to start very soon. This vision imparting is obvious when Boon, while surveying the graves of 50,000 men killed in the battle for racial equality, he says to his team members to come together on the ground or else everyone would be ‘destroyed’.

Perfect Team Selection

A leader also needs to select team effectively so that he can cooperate with the members. In the film Coach Yoast appears to be snobbish and even uncooperative. Therefore Boone’s team is initially flawed. But during the course of the film, he manages to create a positive support for himself among the support staff and the team members and bring forward Louie Lastik just to exhibit the type of team culture he wants to have. This ultimately transforms Yoast and helps to build a stronger team (Rus, van Knippenberg & Wisse, 2010).

Develop strategy to Achieve Aims

For a change leader it may not be enough to have a vision. The leader needs also to show to the team a way to achieve the vision. In the film coach Boone wants to achieve the vision by developing racially integrated team that would be selected only on merit and would work hard during training.

Communicating for Team Development

Communication is one of the critical success factors in effective teamwork. Effective teamwork can lead the members to create behavioral changes. In the film coach Boone realizes this and tries to effect greater communication between the team members by directing each team member in the bus and in the rooms with a team member of opposite color.

Empowerment of Team Members

Empowering team members to take up responsibility helps create accountability and enhances performance. In the film, coach allows the team members to pick on other team members with respect to performance and responsibilities (Rus, van Knippenberg & Wisse, 2010). After Gray indicts his best friend Ray who was being irresponsible in practice, the coach does not initially say anything. However, this results in Ray improving his game and takes on more responsibilities thus increasing the overall performance of the team. This triggered the support staff to remove the hindrances and resistance to change in the team-reduction of racism and creating mutual trust.

Produce Short-term success

The morale of a team is increased if there are incremental gains and successes (Hu & Liden, 2011). Pushing the team to achieve better results and accepting changes also acts as an interim measure of success of the change. The introduction of an uncertain Ronnie Bass in the middle of a game proves to be successful and justifies the process of change that Boone initiated.

Do not let up

Another important measure for e change leader is to never give up on the vision and the process of change (Rus, van Knippenberg & Wisse, 2010). There was a point in the film when the newly formed bonds reached a near breaking point due to the influence of friends and family. But that did not deter Boone from continuing with his efforts by continuing to try and better his relations with Yoast.

Creation of a New Culture

Finally after days of efforts Boone manages to influence the change he had been working towards-eliminating racism form the team and creating a new bond among the team members. The resistances to the change, especially among the peers and the family members of the team gradually died down and the desired changes eventually occurred.


In the film, Boone essentially played the role of a leader who had the right attitudes and conviction for change. The leadership that he demonstrated was ultimately able to overcome the stigma of racism and he was able to lead the team on the path to greatness.


Hu, J., & Liden, R. (2011). Antecedents of team potency and team effectiveness: An examination of goal and process clarity and servant leadership. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 96(4), 851-862. doi:10.1037/a0022465

Rus, D., van Knippenberg, D., & Wisse, B. (2010). Leader power and leader self-serving behavior: The role of effective leadership beliefs and performance information. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(6), 922-933. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2010.06.007

Titans, R., Yakin, B., Howard, G., Washington, D., Patton, W., & Harris, W. (2015). Remember the Titans (2000). IMDb. Retrieved 19 March 2015, from

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