JWMI Connect Series: Leadership Lessons from “Remember the Titans”

JWMI Connect Series: Leadership Lessons from “Remember the Titans”

Jack Welch famously said:  “The team with the best players wins.”

View any sports-themed movie, whether the focus is baseball, tennis, soccer, or football, and you will find underlying leadership lessons. At the Jack Welch Management Institute, we teach students how to build teams and become better leaders. Outside of the online classroom, we offer thought leadership webinars through our student and alumni portal, JWMI Connect, that complement the lessons from the classroom.

Lou Melocchi, Financial Management II Professor and Senior Vice President of Corporate Finance at F.N.B. Corporation, recently presented leadership lessons from the movie “Remember the Titans.” If you haven’t seen the movie or if it’s been a while, “Remember the Titans” is based on the true story of African-American coach Herman Boone, portrayed by Denzel Washington, and his attempt to integrate the T. C. Williams High School football team in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1971. The school had to come together as a football team while overcoming racial tensions.

Professor Melocchi used this iconic movie to not only inspire students and alumni but to spark a conversation around respecting differences and re-framing issues so that they turn into strengths and form a better team.

4 Leadership Lessons Illustrated from “Remember the Titans”

Recognize Leadership Styles

Varying leadership styles exist both in business and on the field. Throughout the movie, one consistent theme, from coaches to players, was the effectiveness of a tough-autocratic leadership style versus a nurturing leadership style. As Lou explains, both styles are appropriate at different times and under different circumstances as long as you lead with respect. No two people are alike; as a leader, you need to recognize different styles of leadership to provide the tools that allow those individuals to succeed.

Denzel Washington motivates football players in a scene from the film ‘Remember The Titans,’ 2000. (Photo by Buena Vista/Getty Images)

How to Develop a Team, Manage Conflict, and Build Relationships

Leadership is all about earning trust and getting trust. And that’s true between a boss and a direct report, and between individual team members. In the movie, Coach Boone intentionally pairs up players from different races to change the team culture—this allows the players to get to know each other without judgment, and aligning them to a common goal-winning. Getting everyone on board with your goals helps them navigate conflict.

Professor Melocchi shared a personal example of how he used this technique in the corporate world where animosity existed between teams. He paired up team members from different geographic locations, functions, and experience levels. The result was similar. By forcing people to respect each other as individuals with common goals, he was able to break down the animosity, which allowed the team to succeed.

Manage Change

Jack Welch said, “Change before you have to. Every time you talk about changing, you have to put together the rationale for the change; you have to answer the question of what’s in it for the people who are forced to do something different than they are used to doing.”

Today, more than ever, most organizations are in a constant state of change. To stay in the game, or better yet, win the game, an organization must have a process to effectively manage change, and more importantly, get everyone invested and even excited Early in the movie, Coach Boone lays out a clear vision and values for the players. He’s seeking their buy-in as he emphasizes the importance of changing what they have done in the past so that they can find a new result in the present.


Would you rather be with the winning Super Bowl team or the loser’s locker room? Of course, everyone wants to be part of a winning team. Why? Because it’s fun! Winners celebrate. We see this in the movie, as the team gels, the players and coaches start to have more fun and celebrations emerge, such as the iconic “We are the Titans” team dance.

And in business, you have to create the atmosphere of a winning locker room where the champagne is being popped—as often as you can. You have to rally the team to come up with solutions—be they game-changing ideas or small innovations.  Celebrating makes people feel like winners and creates an atmosphere of recognition and positive energy. Find your win, big or small, and celebrate the heck out of it!


About Lou Melocchi:
Lou is a Finance Professor at JWMI as well as a senior financial leader with over 22 years of experience in corporate and divisional finance roles at both Fortune 150 companies and mid-market high growth companies. His functional expertise lies in financial planning and analysis, data analytics, and corporate finance.

Lou spent about half of his career in manufacturing with two large manufacturing conglomerates, Alcoa and Honeywell International, in a variety of information technology and financial/operations analysis roles. The other half of his career has been spent in services industries—largely education, healthcare, and financial services, in a variety of finance roles. He currently serves as Senior Vice President of Corporate Finance for First National Bank Corporation in Pittsburgh, PA, and oversees finance-operations and investor relations.

Lou prides himself on having a polymodal educational background, and believes that “there are no uninteresting topics…only uninterested people.” He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management and Accounting from Saint Vincent College, a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management and Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Doctorate in Marketing from Argosy University.