Attitude reflect leadership… So very true in sports as well as in business, family circles, and pretty much life in general. The first time I saw this movie I was a second-year player at the University of Findlay, and frankly the thought of never playing football again mixed with an emotion-enhancinig potion left me wiping tears from my face as I sat on my beer-stained college couch. If you haven’t seen this movie yet I find it incredibly unbelievable that you are finding the time to read this blog, but just in case my mother hasn’t seen the movie, I won’t ruin it for her and give away the entire scene and ending. Ultimately though, one of the main characters, Bertier, doesn’t play in the most important game of his career. It’s heart-wrenching to follow the character through the entire movie and watch him as well as all the characters grow and become leaders in their community and school and then not to have the chance to paly the final game.
Bertier in many ways is the protagonist in this movie however he probably wouldn’t want to be considered above anyone or more important than any of his teammates. As one watches “Remember the Titans”, Gerry Bertier stands out as a true leader and captain and embraces it throughout this movie. He gives us multiple examples of his emotional intelligence as well as his passion: Two qualities I believe every leader must possess. Bertier’s passion is reflective in nearly every scene he is present, most noticeably when he is on the football field. He loves playing the game, and he loves his teammates, and he loves his coaches. He respects them and he leads them with a passion that only a captain can lead with.
In my opinion the greatest word in any language in any dictionary is passion. Every great leader has it and no person has ever been their best version of themself without having a passion for something that drives them. A person who is a leader demonstrates their leadership by showing others that passion through acting selfless for the betterment of a particular cause. When a leader begins caring more about being recognized and getting credit for contributing to a cause, the pureness of leading is lost and while their still may be passion, leadership is deduced and the organic reward and fulfillment of leading a cause fizzles. People see through self-righteousness and that passion is weakened.
The scene above where Julius and Bertier are having a conversation and Julius challenges Bertier is an epic moment in the movement that changed not only their friendship, but the team and the school and the entire community. It was in this moment that Bertier showed his true self. His true emotional intelligence was apparent as he handled the situation as a true captain should. When Julius challenged him, he collected himself and he thought about what his teammate was really saying before disagreeing with him. He considered his options and became open to making a difficult decision, and he made his decision because it needed to be made for the greater good. The look on Bertier’s face right at the end of the above scene is memorable because the look on his face as he hears Julius, is a look of surprise, but also a look of reality. In that particular moment I believe Bertier realized that he wasn’t doing everything he could for the football team and that he needed to do more. He needed to find a way to make them better because inside Bertier’s man-sized heart was a kid playing a game that he passionately wanted to win.
Bertier was a utilitarian throughout the movie and although the best interest of both the white and the black communities’ greater good was a risky and difficult leap to make, he took that leap by putting himself out on a limb. He took the chance and made himself vulnerable for the greater good of the team… And it gave me goose bumps after he called out the white full-back for not blocking for the black tailback. Bertier went back to his defense and turned to the other great leader on that defense Julius, and engaged him to lead with him. Bertier didn’t try to do it on his own. He knew, like all great leaders know, that it takes a team to accomplish great things. Bertier obviously knew that Julius was talented and knew that together they had endless potential as a defensive unit, but it was going to take everyone to accomplish what he truely was aiming for. Hence, he took a leap of faith and put himself out for the team. He showed a quality of many other great leaders; he demonstrated courage.
This scene is portrayed as a turning point in the film when the team finally came together and united as one team, instead of white and black. But it accomplished so much more from the aspect of understanding personalities and understanding leadership. Bertier taught the team to follow him. He lead by example and broke down the color barrier by doing what was right. As aspiring leaders in schools, businesses, families, and even politics… We can take a lesson from Gerry Bertier and earn the respect and trust of others by doing what is right. – I think they call it integrity.
Bertier’s integrity is apparent throughout the entire film but one scene that stands out in particular that really emphasizes his true self is the scene where he ended his relationship with his girlfriend. He obviously loved her because we heard him say so in the film, but he loved his team and he loved the game more. He was willing to let go of something that was comfortable for something that was compelling and that is an action of a leader with integrity. When his girlfriend wouldn’t shake Julius’s hand, Bertier had a decision to make and because he was a man with integrity; when given the ultimatum of Julius or her, he chose his team.
Attitude does in fact reflect leadership beyond sports. Poor and positive leadership alike, this movie is a great example of leadership carrying and burying a team. Similar to the leadership of a football team, the same goes in the C-Suite of a firm. If our bosses are complaining and disengagued about a program or event, it shouldn’t be a wonder why the program or event is only sub-par. However when an event is led with passion, it is followed with passion and greatness is accomplished.
As I reflect upon the movie yet another time and try to put myself in Bertier’s shoes as he’s watching his friends play in the state-championship game from a hospital bed, I can’t help but recall a cliche that every football player has heard; “Play every play as if it were your last.” When the weather is extreme hot or cold or the coach is yelling at you or you are having a crappy practice or you got a bad grade on a test or you got traded to a team in last place… no matter what the excuse might be… it is just that. It’s an excuse. The opportunity to play the game of football comes and goes and after it is gone, every football player can probably think back and remember a play here or a play there that they would like to have back… All of us besides Gerry Bertier.
I think the attitude he maintained through the finale of the the video was believable because he did in fact play every play as though it was his last. So when the time came that Gerry did in fact play his last play, he was able to accept it. He accepted that it was his time to move on and he celebrated the team’s victory with them from the hospital and wasn’t bitter or depressed about it because he knew that he had given his heart to them and to the game. Gerry Bertier knew in his heart that he played the game of football the way it was meant to be played. He played the game of football similarly to how he lived his life; with passion, with courage and with integrity.