IndividualAssignment Course: Leadership and High-performance TeamsMovie: Coach Carter (2005)Author: Ritesh Mudhalwadkar Abstract:Purpose: Thepurpose of this essay is to relate the concepts learned in the course with themovie and provide a clear view on the leadership and high-performance team.
Ithighlights on topics like team importance and dynamics, leadership style andaction logic, mindset of leader and followers.Approach: The essay tries to explain the concepts byselecting key scenes from the movie in sequential manner, summarizing thescenes and then reflecting on it with the help of course literature andexternal references. Summary of themovie:Coach Carter is an American drama film released in2005.
It is based on a true story of Ken Carter, who takes the job ofbasketball coach of Richmond High School and becomes famous in 1999 forbenching his undefeated team due to poor academic performance. He realizes thatthe team members had poor attitude, disrespect for teammates and poorbasketball technique and endurance. Therefore, he decides to impose anobligatory contract on players which demanded good academic performance, adress code, respectful behavior and strict commitment towards play. After someinitial resistance from players, the team starts to build up and becomesundefeated in the new season. However, due to ignorance by players towardsacademic grades, the coach decides to lock the gym. He also cancels matchesuntil the team shows considerable improvement in the academic performancefurther outraging the players, school management and the community. Coach Cartertakes a stand for his decisions and convinces the players to endure a visionfor future and have a balance in life.
He also engages with the schoolmanagement and the community to inspire a change in the education system. Theteam becomes a high-performing team by showing equal commitment towardsacademics and basketball. Coach at the end finds that he has completelytransformed the mindset of the team and congratulates everyone for the teameffort. The movie begins with a basketball game betweenRichmond High School and St. Francis High School. Richmond Oilers performconsiderably poor and portray a poor sportsmanship.
Ken Carter is offered a job as Head Coach ofthe Richmond High School basketball team, the school he himself played for andachieved great success. Even though the job provided him with low stipend, hedecides to accept it. Before officially accepting the offer, he watches theteam play against St. Francis High School. Soon he recognizes that the teamlacks discipline and respect for fellow teammates. One effective quality of a leader is that heunderstands the strengths and the weaknesses of his team. He gauges the teambased on its composition and dynamics. Such analysis is critical while buildinga team because team members often fail to realize their role within the team.
This restrict teams, even with good performers and a good leader, from becominga high-performance team. Scene 1: Coach Carter meets the players (9 m)The new coach Ken Carter arrives in the gym along withthe former coach and immediately faces ignorance and lack of respect from theteam. The former coach had failed in managing the team due lack of authorityand discipline in the players. Coach Carter asks the players to respect thefellow teammates by referring them ‘sir’ and do the same with him.
He thenestablishes ground rules in the team and players are asked to sign a mandatorycontract agreeing to terms like maintaining a 2.3 grade point average, wearingtie on game days, attending all lectures, etc. Autocratic leadership was adopted by the coach. Therewas no involvement of players while devising rules or the contract which theyhad to follow. Such leadership style was necessary as players were not welleducated, not disciplined and were not responding to former coach’s orders. TheCoach’s power was challenged by players like Timo Cruz, which is often observedin such team environment. These are the silent leaders who often resist thechange, rejects authority by others and try to take control of the team.Two best scorers from the last season left the teamand the coach makes it clear that he cares about the team performance and notindividuals.
The fundamental principal he teaches to players is that team isalways superior to an individual. Basketball legend Michael Jordon quoted, “Talentwins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships”. Reid Hoffman,Cofounder of LinkedIn states, “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy,if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team”. 5This way Coach Carter started the task of turning agroup of individuals into high performing teams. The first stage of the teamdevelopment was forming, in which after the initial resistance players weretrying to figure out coach’s way of working. This stage also saw somecharacteristic of storming phase, where players challenged Coach’s authorityover the group.
Silent leaders like Jaron Wills (Worms) and Jason Lyle wereimpatient and skeptical about new rules and were struggling along with othersto understand its relevance to them. Scene 2: Resistance from parents (20 m)The coach decides to involve parents in his decisionsfor the students. He asks them to sign the contract agreeing to the terms andhis way of operation. Most of the parents challenge his methods as they disagreedimportance of maintaining a 2.
3 grade point average in player’s academic life.Parents argued that ‘basket is life for their kids’. Coach wants to target thismindset of parents and asks them to have a vision of college education fortheir children. Mindset is the way you are programmed to think, togive meaning, and therefore also to act. It relates to structure and culture.In general terms, it is the characteristic of mental attitude that determineshow you will interpret or respond to situations.
1 As the Africancommunity in Richmond was reluctant towards education, they had a mindset thateducation is secondary. The Coach therefore adopts an action mindset here, byengaging the parents to nurture a change within the community. He tries to convincethem to maintain a direction, a vision for their children.
He reminds everyonethat playing basketball at high school may not guarantee players social successin their life, but along with academic excellence, basketball can help studentsto get into college. And which is why players are called ‘student’ athletes. Action mindset by the coach tries to achieve acombination of both strategy; namely academic excellence and wining basket ballthus maintaining a balance in student’s life. He understands what things shouldbe preserved and what should be changed. Scene 3: Damien Carter enters the gym (25 m)Damien Carter, coach’s son, arrives few minutes latein the gym on his first day. He received the same treatment by the coach as hisfellow teammates would have and is asked to perform pushups and suicides.
Thiswas a right approach by the coach by judging every player on similar grounds withoutany favorable treatment. A leader is respected within the team if he treatseveryone equally and fairly. Treating his son like all other players wasimportant leadership quality.Scene 4: Timo Cruz returns to the gym (33 m)Cruz returns to the gym and expresses a desire to playfor the team again. Keeping his behavior in mind, instead of directly refusinghim, the coach asks him to complete a huge series of pushups and suicides. Healso puts a time constraint on the task, which makes it impossible to complete.This is an important characteristic of anauthoritarian leader, where the coach teaches Cruz and other team members thatevery act has consequences.
The consequence can be a reward or punishment andevery team player must manage the consequences of his actions. Meanwhile, as Cruz finishes his time frame for thetask, the coach congratulates him for the effort. He realizes that Cruz isshort of the objective and therefore refuses him to integrate in the team. Thecoach may have faced a dilemma whether to reward Cruz for his exceptionaleffort or to be fair and stick to the objectives.
Later, the team players express a desire tocomplete the remaining task for Cruz thus fulfilling the objective andaccepting Timo Cruz in the team.Due to this act, the coach had significantachievements as a leader. Firstly, he was successful in establishing disciplineand his authority as a leader.
Secondly, he managed to turn a group ofindividuals into responsible team. Jason Lyle’s dialogue from this scene isevident of the team bonding,”We are a team.One person struggle, we all struggle.
One person triumph, we all triumph”This stage is referred to as norming. In this phaseteams starts to work together and understand the strength and importance of ateam. However, this is an unstable stage as team might go to the storming phaseif any issue crops up. As the team matures they start valuing other’s opinion,manage conflict effectively and give respect to fellow teammates. Also, theteam is now able to express open criticism and thus tries to strive forwardwith a common objective. Scene 5: Junior Battle quits (52 m)Coach Carter realizes that team players are notobeying their contract by attending all lectures. He confronts the team aboutthis issue and once again reminds them to about the vision for the futurecollege education.
Junior battle is asked about his absenteeism in the class towhich he had no concrete excuse. Therefore, coach suspends him from the team.Resisting to coach’s decision he quits and disrespects the team and the coach.An important characteristic of a leader is assessmentof the team’s commitment on regular basis. This way he can exercise situationalleadership more effectively. Such leadership effectively considersthe maturity and competence of the team member which is often overlooked. Everyindividual has different skillset and it is not adequate to perform all taskeven with a good leader.
In this situation, the team was doing good in matchesbut ignoring academics. Therefore, the coach again exercises his authority tomaintain direction and to stick with the objectives.Onthe other hand, Coach is constantly trying to help students to have afuturistic vision towards which players are ignorant.
Good leaders often try tothink what is good for team’s development and success, even if followers findit irrelevant. As Steve Jobs rightly said in an interview to Business Week in1997, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it tothem.” Scene 6: Gym lockout (1h 22 m)After receiving the academic results of all players,coach decides to lock the gym. This comes after the team have successful wonthe Baywatch High School Championship. He summons the players in library andconfronts them with their low academic results. He again offers players a wayout if they prove commitment towards academics.
This kind of leadership is different from autocraticstyle. It is coercive style of leadership. The coach takes most radicaldecisions by locking the gym as he had no option. A good leader uses thecoercive power only as a last resort because it may increase the resistance bypeers and can ultimately undermine the leader.
The leader who can pull coercivestyle of leadership effectively when required has a unique “action logic” – theIndividualist. Action logic it the way leaders interpret the surrounding andreact when their power or safety is challenged. 1 Leaders with theIndividualist action logic are aware of the possible conflicts, however seesthat as an opportunity to change or succeed. This encourages them to use theircoercive power when necessary which sometimes leads to misunderstandings withtop management or even subordinates.This use of coercive power by coach Carter attracted alot of resistance from parents, community and school management. Coach was nowin a middle management role wherein he is answerable to school management (top)and players and parent (bottom). As it important for the middle management tomaintain their independence to avoid tearing situation, the coach initiallyanswered all queries and stayed firm on his stand for lockout. Scene 7: Team meeting in library (1h 27m)As the lockout was becoming more and more serious withmedia attention and involvement of the council, the coach took time out to havean open discussion with the team.
This was done so that players could discusstheir grievances and debate on the necessity of the lockout. The coach honestlyputs his views in front all players and promises them that he will try his bestto get every player into the college if they show commitment. This stage is referred to as storming. During thisphase of team development people disagree and sometimes blame the leader fordevising a false strategy. The leader’s wisdom is questioned, and team maybecome defensive and hesitant to take the next step. Silent leaders clash withthe team and the leader creating instability and chaos. At this stage leadermust practice active listening, inquire and understand the differences andprovide an open platform for discussion.
The communication within the team is vitalfor the success, and moreover, team members must understand and embrace thechange they are going through, which could be possible through honest and opencommunication. Scene 8: Council meeting to end lockout (1h 39m)The council meeting was arranged to understand thereasons behind a radical decision from the coach to lock the gym. Coach Carterputs forwards his views on the issue and stresses on the idea of bringing abouta change in the society. Council also asks parents views before taking a vote.The decision was made against the lockout and coach decides to resign.
An important characteristic of a leader is tonegotiate his stand to top management and still maintain individuality in hisdecisions. Here, coach also tries to create a sense of responsibility withinthe top management and the community. He gives them example of team players whofailed to obey simple rules of a contract and warned everyone that theseplayers may soon consider themselves above law. Scene 9: The Performing Stage (1h 44m)Coach Carter wanted the team to perform good at twofronts; academics and basketball court. Unless they were not committed toacademics, wining basketball matches will not make them a high performing team.After the Council’s decision to end the lockout, players decided to respect thedecision of coach and committed themselves to academics. Moreover, they also performed good on the court winingan entry into state championship tournament. At this stage team transforms intoa high performing team.
It is mature enough to handle new challenges andaccomplish them with team performance and not by relying on individuals. Thisis the level where leadership style can be shifted to delegation and teammembers are given freedom to make decisions. Leaders give minimal direction toteam however, team is held responsible for its actions. As the team is matured from norming, at performingstage team very rarely falls back to storming. Many teams fail to recognize theimportance of the stages of development and often try to jump on performingstage at the beginning. If the team is amateur, it is likely to fail instorming phase as this stage is most difficult of all. A leader is responsible to help the team to progressthrough these stages of development.
More importantly he must assess thecompetence and behaviors of the team members and then decide the type ofsupport he needs to provide. This practice is called Situational Leadership. Scene 10: The last game (2h 8m)The team played for the first time in statechampionship tournament, which was an achievement for a young team. Team performedat their maximum potential and coach congratulates them for their effort. Hedoes not forget to mention the progress made by the team academically andduring the basket trainings.
He also thanks them for the respect he receivedfrom the players. This is the last stage in team development, named asadjourning. During this stage the team simply reflects on its performance andtakes away lessons learned in the process. This stage is important to help theteam move forward with the results; win or failure both must end somewhere togive a new start. With this last briefing, there is bittersweet ending to thegoal or project.
ConclusionCoach Carter was a movie about how a leader can inspirea change within his team and the community. It may be necessary to challengethe status quo in some situations and therefore teams shouldn’t be afraid ofchange initiatives. Coach Carter teaches the players the importance ofdiscipline and vision. Building a high-performance team requires patience andpersistence. The leader must create an environment where team could excel andadapt to changes gradually.Coach Carter has successfully practiced SituationalLeadership to deal with un-educated and arrogant team members.
A combination ofauthoritarian, coercive and delegating leadership style was necessary to inducediscipline in the team. Also, utilization of Individualistic action logic waskey to the success, as the current education system was unable to motivate thestudents to progress and inculcate a futuristic vision in their lives. Thismovie teaches some important characteristic of leadership and high-performance teamswhich could be summarized as follows;1. Teams outperformsindividuals and leader must focus on working as team and not as a group. Teamsunderstand their goals and have a sense of cohesion. 2.
Leaders areresponsible for creating a clear vision for the team. 3. A high-performanceteam is matured from stages of development like forming, storming, norming and performing.Such teams are characterized by active listening skills, open advocacy, mutualtrust, cohesion and good leadership.
4. Leadership styleor approach depends on the mindset of teams and the leader. It is also highlyinfluenced by culture, personality, structure and systems. References:1. Leliaert, P.(n.d.
). Leadership and High-Performance Teams. Course Literature.2. Rooke, D., &Torbert, W. R. (2005).
7 Transformations of Leadership. Harvard Business Review, 67-763. Gosling, J., &Mintzberg, H. (2003). The Five Minds of a Manager. Harvard Business Review, 1-9.4.
Wing, L. S.(2005). Leadership in High-performance Teams: a model for superior teamperformance. Team Performance Management,11(1/2), 4-115. Keller, S., &Meaney, M.
(2017, June). High-performing teams: A timeless leadership topic.Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com