Following the successes of a high school football team, Remember the Titans was a blockbuster movie that told the story of how one good leader can overcome everything from racial tension to long term adversity. Coach Boone, who is played by Denzel Washington in the movie, is charged with changing the culture of a football team. In working to do so, Coach Boone ends up being able to change the culture of the community as well.
There’s a leadership lesson to be learned in this movie: it is important to have a community evolve its culture, but it is also important to recognize that sometimes a revolution of culture must also be done.
Evolution vs. Revolution Is a Fine Line To Walk
Why focus on evolution before revolution? Because when a leader can inspire change in others so that a company’s culture improves, that team will buy-in more with the changes that need to be made so that the team can be more successful. This is seen in the movie when racial integration is forced upon the boys of the football team. By needing to room together, different people who would normally not even speak together are now sleeping together as roommates!
Though forced, this action encourages an evolution of thought because it is encouraging the members of a team to look at their own preconceived notions. Could they be wrong? Is there a better way? The more these questions are encouraged, the more likely an evolutionary change will occur.
Sometimes Revolution Is the Only Way
Leaders can sometimes get so caught up in trying to elicit an evolutionary change that they miss the fact that sometimes a revolutionary change is needed. People can be stubborn creatures and they will not yield or bend in their established beliefs, even when there is clear evidence that those beliefs may not be the most effective way to get a job done. When change cannot be evolved and it must take place, then it is up to the leader to make sure that the environment for change is made available through revolution.
This doesn’t mean that people can’t still be on the team! It simply means that they are forced into making changes that they may not want to make. In Remember the Titans, this was demonstrated with white parents and black parents being forced to come together to support the football team. In real life, this might mean elderly workers might have to do all of their paperwork on a computer for the first time in their lives.
How Can Revolution Be a Positive Thing?
The ultimate goal of being a team member is that you can provide your very best for your team at any given moment. It’s not that you give 150% or whatever inflated number you can think of as an expression, but that you’re willing to commit 100% of your resources available on that day to the task at hand. Encouraging that environment is why revolution is a positive thing, and though those who don’t change and leave won’t see it that way, a team isn’t about one person.
The needs of one person are not greater than the needs of a team and that’s ultimately what Remember the Titans taught from a leadership perspective.