“Attitude Reflects Leadership” And Other Life Lessons

Some of the most important life lessons can be learned from Remember The Titans. For those of you who don’t know the story, it’s based on a true story about one of the first integrated football teams in the south. This entry onto the football field, to this day, is one of my favorites of all time. It shows the beginnings of acceptance and teamwork that were beginning to take root during a very tough time in our history. As I thought about the this movie, I saw a lot of pertinent things to today in both acceptance and leadership. Today I’m going to try to share with you some of the lessons I picked up along the way…see if you don’t agree.

To understand a bit of what the tensions were like during that time, a black child had just been killed by a white shop owner. The local high school was being integrated and they’d hired their first black coach. This particular school’s pride and joy was their high school football team and their All American defensive player, Gary Burtier. Here is what the intro to the new coach looked like.

And even in leadership, sometimes there’s division. When faced with antagonism and disdain, you have a choice in how you proceed. Handling things with class and grace is vital for success.

Sometimes bringing someone to the scene of past battles over similar causes can create understanding…and a little respect. Some people are starting to understand the bigger picture. If we don’t look back on past mistakes, we could be doomed to repeat them.

Sometimes a bit of cold, hard honesty can wake you up and change you for the better. Although this scene seems negative…it’s actually a healing moment. It’s the first time the two biggest leaders from both sides of this team have talked…and truly communicated with each other. They both had great points. To this day I remind myself of that quote. “Attitude Reflects Leadership.” Although I don’t lead a team anymore, I try to remember it every day.

As you can tell, acceptance was far away. The coach recognized that the first step was going to require him to be tough…and to gain the compliance of the leader of the white side of the football team in order to get the rest of the team to follow. Unfortunately, sometimes this requires making an example of someone. If you’ve ever been around teenagers, you know how that can work. If you can get the “king or queen bee” in line, the rest will follow. Sometimes that lesson can be painful for the teenager.

The most rewarding thing is seeing when someone listens to you, acknowledges their need to change…and then acts. Especially as a leader. Because if leaders can find a way to come together, everyone else will follow.

And now they’re starting to understand each other… it helps when there are a couple people on the team don’t know how to hate. Love the big guy, Lastik. Sunshine, too. Both kids were military brats, so had been forced to learn to get along. Of course, sometimes whole other issues come up…LOL! (BTW, the kiss was revenge for Burtier’s comment when he first got to camp, assuming he must be gay to wear his hair long…Sunshine had been in California…lots of hippies there.)

I love this part. Coach Boone setting expectations. Does he believe these kids are going to be perfect? No. But he realizes that striving for it every time is the best way to get them there. Excuses will not be tolerated. Repitition is key to making things happen. It’s like a quote from a commercial I heard a long time ago. “Amateurs practice till they get it right. Professionals practice till they can’t get it wrong.” Set your expectations, then practice, practice, practice. (I remind myself of this daily with my writing)

Look at what can happen with a little honesty and support. This is when you know it’s real. It’s what you do when no one is watching….and there’s nothing in it for you. That’s when you define yourself as a person and as someone worth following.

There will always be people who will not change. Who don’t care who they hurt. And there are those who will step up and define themselves. This is one of those moments for two different people. Rev is the quarterback, in the beginning scene, one of the kids holding on to hate chooses to ignore an audible causing Rev to get hurt. Sunshine steps in and shows his greatness.

Integrity defines you as a person. I think Gary Burtier learned that. Growing up requires you to make the hard decisions. He stood up for his values, even though it was probably one of the hardest things he’s done. Sometimes the lesson is…there are hopeless causes in the world. And hard as it may be, you have to let them go or they will continue to be the toxic poison in your life.

Coach Yoast stepped up for a cause he believed in at great personal cost. By speaking up he lost his opportunity to be nominated into the Hall Of Fame and to take the team back. He chose to do what was right…and be the example he expected his team to live up to.

Remember The Titans taught me that there are no odds that can’t be overcome…you’ve just got to be willing to fight for it. This movie isn’t about football. It’s about life and friendships and overcoming adversity.  What do you guys think? What movies have inspired you? What quotes have changed your life…or maybe your outlook? What did you take away from these clips… If you didn’t get through them all, that’s okay. If you did…it was worth it, wasn’t it? I loved that this was based on a true story. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, I strongly recommend you do. If you already have, what did you learn? What did you like best?

Do Unusual Foods Tie In To Diversity?

My sister is continuing her education.  Her classes have been online courses, so she hasn’t had to miss a single day of schoolwork while she’s here.  She’s taking two courses. One is in her chosen career of nursing. The second, and most interesting, is a diversity course.

In a prior life I took a class in leading diverse teams and found it quite interesting and educational. She shared some of her scenarios that they were required to discuss, and I found them to be quite thought provoking. Of course, there’s still the random person that reacts rashly, strictly going by gut instead of considering from all angles, but there were also a number of people who gave well thought out responses.  I thought it might be interesting to get a feel for everyone’s point of view here as there are many people from different cultures.

The thing about the first couple of questions were that it forced you to consider ethnocentrism versus racism as well as cultural diversity. Ethnocentrism is the belief that your your culture or social group is inherently superior to others. Racism is a hatred or intolerance of other races. On the surface they look to be very similar. What do you see as the differences?

As for the questions…I’ve created my own samples as hers came from a class. Here’s the first one:

A large department store company has invited a very successful Italian designer from Italy to come to New York City to meet with one of their executives and to work out a potential deal to carry the clothing line in his stores. He decides to take the designer to a fine American restaurant.

They were seated and placing their orders with the waiter. The Italian gentleman ordered “filetto di cavallo”, only to be told that it wasn’t on the menu. The designer expressed his disappointment with such “limited” options, and throughout the meal became more and more disinterested. At the end of dinner they shook hands and the Italian gentleman went back to his room.

The following morning, when the young exec called the hotel to make arrangements for the tour of the offices and some of their top stores he was informed that the gentleman had checked out and gone home.

When the owner called him for an update, he told him that the gentleman had gone back to Italy. The owner asked what happened, and all the exec could say was that he’d ordered something called “filetto di cavallo”, but it wasn’t on the menu.

The owner replied, agast, “He ordered horse?”

What do you think of the situation? Was there anything the young executive could have done differently that may have changed the outcome of this meeting? What do you think this has to do with diversity, tolerance and ethnocentrism? Is it wrong to eat something just because it’s not common in the US?

I found this thought provoking… What WOULD I have done differently? I figured out a couple of things I might have done differently. What about you? I’d be curious about the cross cultural implications…