• Team Building in “Remember the Titans” & “Invictus”



    This blog discusses two great movies: Remember the Titans and Invictus. These movies offer us great opportunities to think about leadership, integrity, overcoming adversity, change management, merging cultures, team building, and taking the high road. I am just going to share a few question for you to think about after enjoying the films.

    Culture and Team Building for Performance

    Remember the Titans (2000, starring Denzel Washington): This is the story of a black football coach who is chosen over a white coach to lead a newly-integrated high school football team. The film’s key issues include taking charge, dealing with culture clash, dealing with interpersonal conflict, turning hostiles into a cohesive and winning team, and dealing with the politics that come with high-level/executive positions.

    How does the new coach (played by Washington) bring the team together? How does he treat the coach he displaces? How does he deal with his workplace’s politics – university administrators, the community, his enemies? What do you see that works best and what doesn’t work? How would you do things differently? Are there any leadership techniques from this movie you find interesting, challenging, or inspiring?

    You can also look at the coach who was displaced. What are his strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and as a team player (an assistant coach reporting to the head coach)? What are his shining moments?

    In addition to thinking about how the two coaches handle the politics, you can also think about their coaching and team building skills. How do they improve team performance and help the players perform at their best? Is their coaching style purely technical (skill-based), or do the cultural and teamwork aspects of their coaching have an impact on the team’s performance? Which coaching techniques do you like best, and what would you do differently? Business people cannot be coached the exact same way as high school students (one of the big problems of applying sports analogies to leadership), but there are always things to learn from different playing fields.

    Taking the High Road in Leadership and Community Building

    Invictus (2009, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon): This move is a great compliment to Remember the Titans in terms of leadership lessons, although the topic here is a historical South African political event. This movie introduces important questions about leadership, taking the high road, merging cultures, and building bridges across boundaries (bridging values and interests).

    Pay attention and look for all the places Mandela (played by Freeman) acts with the utmost integrity and takes the high road. What does he get out of that tactic, and what could have happened in each case if he had taken the low road – if he had given in to the very human impulse of revenge? How does this apply to business, office politics, relationship management, teamwork, and collaborative practice?

    What tactics does Mandela use to bring the country together, his security team together, and his office staff together – these are tactics to retain employees from the previous administration.

    Finally, how does Mandela try to motivate the captain of the rugby team (played by Damon) and support the team in general? List all of the direct and indirect methods, and think about how they apply to leading organizations, including motivating and supporting leaders and teams within your sphere of influence.

    Key Takeaways

    There is no question that the future of leadership is not merely about finding talented leaders. It is about building leadership capacity across the organization and building leaders at all levels. It is about team building in two different aspects: building leaders of teams and teams of leaders.

    You are never going to get there through training alone – people learn from doing. Senior leaders have to share leadership. Leaders at all levels have to engage employees in the challenges and opportunities of the business. Make your employees part of the solution. Give them opportunities to learn and grow – and help them do it successfully.

    Copyright © 2016 Joel Shapiro, Ph.D., all rights reserved.

    Joel Shapiro is a leadership educator and culture guru with Incrementa Consulting in Calgary, Canada. Joel is passionate about developing leadership capacity, making employees part of the solution, and finding the perfect blend of humanity and business performance. You can read more of Joel’s thoughts on the Incrementa website and on Twitter.

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