A Closer Look at the Co-Dependence of Leadership Styles and Group Development in

“Remember The Titans”

Seed paper provided by Dorian Storbeck


Leadership is a term used to define an individual’s ability to lead, guide, direct, or influence people toward a set objective or goal. The three main approaches to leadership include the trait approach, in which leaders exhibit certain natural behaviors, the situational approach, in which distinct situations necessitate different styles of leadership, and the interactional approach that describes leadership behavior as a product of an individual’s personality and the situation they are in (Weinberg & Gould, 2003). Psychologists have adopted the situational leadership model (SLM) to determine the amount and direction of support and direction a leader should offer in order to facilitate a group’s successful movement towards and achievement of shared goals (Blanchard, 1985). The situational leadership model, which relies on the two fundamental concepts of leadership style and development level, is an effective model to evaluate the varying styles of leadership exposed in the film Remember the Titans.

In sports, a directing style of leadership is the most effective during the forming stage of a team. At this level of group formation, the team members often exhibit low competence but high commitment to the sport (Blanchard, 1985). In this case, it is important for a leader, usually the coach, to provide structure, control, and supervision to guide the team. Directive leadership of this sort helps motivate and focus the individuals. In Remember the Titans, the forming stage begins when the team assembles in the auditorium. Players are clearly eager to start practicing football, but the team and coaching staff are both divided along racial lines, so overall competence is low. In response Coach Boone explicitly states that the team is a dictatorship. Here he is establishing that he is in control: he will guide the team by telling them what to do and what is expected of them. Later when some players get into a fight at camp, perhaps signifying the storming stage of group development, Coach Boone also uses a directive style of leadership. At this point, he structures and supervises practices and drills that will make the team stronger as individuals and bring them together as a team. This leadership behavior sets the norms for productivity and establishes the attitude and commitment Coach Boone expects of the players.

When a group or team is relatively competent at their sport but lacks the devotion and commitment required to achieve peak performance, a coaching style of leadership can be most effective (Blanchard, 1985). This type of guidance might be most helpful to team of individuals at end of forming and into storming phase of group development (Weinberg & Gould, 2003). At these stages in development athletes still need specific objectives and supervision, but also require support and praise to heighten their confidence. This approach also encourages involvement in group decisions, which will result in increased commitment to the team and the sport. At camp, Coach Boone drills his players over and over, but he gives them pep-talks both as a team and as individuals. These talks provide structure and direction for improvement, as well as confidence and support, and are a clear illustration of Coach Boone’s highly directive and helpful behavior. This occured when Boone lead his entire team and staff on a run to the fields of Gettysburg. An additional example of a coaching approach to leadership occurs when Coach Boone recognizes that the racial differences between players on the team have created tension. In order to boost cooperation and personal investment in teammates, Boone uses his position of leadership to promote interracial interaction in hopes of improving the teams’ level of commitment to each other. A strong sense of skill proficiency, responsibility to the team, and dedication between players will help the team more forward to achieve their objectives.

Alternatively, supporting leadership is designed for a group who has developed a high level of competence but experiences variable commitment from individuals involved in the group (Blanchard, 1985). At this point, the team requires less direct instruction from a leader because many of the necessary skills and knowledge have already been imparted and developed. However, teammates do need encouragement and backing from a coach or a leader to enhance and reinforce confidence and motivation, with anticipation of raising commitment levels (Blanchard, 1985). In Remember the Titans, Coach Boone and assistant coach, Yoast, exhibits two different styles of coaching. Coach Yoast’s inherent style of leadership is coaching, or S2. He states in the beginning of the movie that he feels paternalistic towards his players. He tends to be concerned about his players’ feelings, and though he listens to their opinions and feelings, he is the one who makes the final decisions. One example is when Coach Yoast suggests trick plays to Coach Boone, it is because he thinks the players enjoy them more.Though leadership styles change in response to situations, every person has an inherent style of leadership. On the other hand, Coach Boone’s natural style is dictative, or S1; it seems to come naturally to him to be a “mean cuss,” as he puts it. He likes to make decisions absolutely on his own, and it is his change of attitude and working with Coach Yoast, rather than independently and stubbornly as we often see him do, which wins the victory in the finals. At one point early on in the film, Coach Boone is more concerned with task orientation, making sure his team knows necessary drills and important plays. Whereas Coach Boone exhibits a more directing style of coaching during the early stages of group development, Yoast, who seems more concerned with the players and how they feel, seeks to strengthen the confidence, enthusiasm, and unity of the players. Yoast demonstrates a supporting leadership approach. Another example of coaching style in the film occurs during a game when Ronnie is substituted for a player with a broken wrist. In this instance, Coach Boone tells Ronnie that he is a good player and his team needs him to play. This short pep talk, in which Coach Boone tells Ronnie “you’re the colonel, go command your troops,” reveals Boone’s movement into a supportive and encouraging leadership role, which is based on the maturity and development level of his team.

In contrast, when a team has mastered many or most of the required skills and shown consistent commitment to the shared goals and the individuals in a group, there is less of a need for a person in an active leadership role (Weinberg & Gould, 2003). The type of guidance necessary for a team in this situation is known as delegating, and it occurs most often when a team has entered the performing stage of group development. The delegating style of leadership mainly consists of allowing the group to work on attaining the shared objectives without much direction, supervision, or support; they are generally capable of taking responsibility for what the group needs to accomplish on a day-to-day basis (Blanchard, 1985). In Remember the Titans, Coach Boone displays a delegating method of leadership during the short talk he gives at half-time in the last game. Boone’s speech is supportive; however, besides revealing that he believes in the team because of their high levels of competence, commitment, and confidence, he does not have much to say to them. One player stands up and delivers his own small pep talk to the team, demanding and expecting even more from them than Coach Boone. This scene in the film is indicative of the fact that the team no longer needs an extremely supportive or directive leader. Coach Boone recognizes this and passes responsibility to the players, therefore adopting a delegating role. Another example of delegating leadership is when assistant coach Yoast wants to put Ronnie in the game for a specific play but Ronnie declines, instead suggesting that Petey be substituted in. Ronnie believes that Petey is better suited to make the play and Yoast, recognizing that the players are highly capable and dedicated, allows Ronnie to make that choice. This demonstrates Yoast’s delegating method of leadership because he allows the members of this developed and mature team to make the final call.

Leadership is an important aspect in sport: it influences and guides teams and individuals toward desired levels of competence, commitment, and ultimately achievement of goals. Leaders are important for presenting and implementing different methods of direction, structure, support, inspiration to a group. Situational leadership model, an effective method for distinguishing appropriate roles of guidance, relies on the correlation between two fundamental ideas: leadership style and the developmental or maturity level of a group. As suggested by the association of these two concepts, leadership roles are modified as a group evolves a phenomenon that is depicted in the film Remember the Titans.