The Titans and Transformational Leadership

Posted by on Nov 11, 2010 in ComLead, Organizational Leadership

Walt Disney released Remember the Titans in 2000, and it grossed $136,706,683. That success seems small in comparison to the accomplishments of the main character in the story, played by Denzel Washington. Coach Boone spoke at Canisius College about a month ago. As I learn more about the complexity of being a great leader, his accomplishment of the unification of such a culturally divided team, is remarkable.

Coach Herman Boone was chosen as head coach for the newly integrated TC Williams High School in 1971.  The new organization was comprised of players who were formal rivals. From these individuals, in a time of war, desegregation and bussing, Coach Boone had to create a team.

Consider the definition of a team. According to, it is “a number of persons associated in some joint action.” How deceitfully simple.

The tactics that Coach Boone used to foster a team identity include demonstrating caring, remaining true to the vision and being positive while teaching a lesson. The lesson he taught to his team on the battleground of Gettysburg was strong. Thousands of people have fought and died for the same thing: the hate of different. Although Boone did not mandate love, respect for each other was demanded. This respect dissolved the boundaries that skin color had embedded and fostered a team.

Boone’s transformational leadership style resulted in cohesion among the coaching staff, football team, and the town of Alexandria, Virginia. According to Bernard Bass, transformational leadership occurs when:

  • leaders broaden and elevate the interest of their employees
  • when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group
  • when they stir in their employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group.


Transformational leadership sounds almost mythical. How do you motivate employees (or teamates) in a manner that empowers and cultivates change, rather than demands it?  When considering what the results of transformational leadership can be, it seems that the most difficult challenges can yield great results. For the Titans, it could be seen as the 1971 Virginia State Championship. But I don’t think that was why Disney made the movie- and neither does Coach Boone. The story is astounding because although this type of leadership is hard to maintain in adverse circumstances, remaining true to the vision and core values that you stand for, like Coach Boone did, can change the world you live in.