Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

By Leah Smiley, CDE

Tonight I watched the movie “Remember the Titans” for the first time. Honestly, I never expected the movie to be that good, that’s why I never watched it before now. But as I made dinner, my husband and oldest daughter turned the channel to ABC Family. I started to turn it when they weren’t looking, but my oldest daughter, who watched the movie in school, kept saying that it was so funny.


In my snarky Generation X style, I started to question what they were teaching her in that high school; but instead I watched the movie.  Suddenly, it became crystal clear.


Besides the fact that I absolutely love Denzel (and my husband too -:), two things about the movie stood out to me.


1.  It illustrates a great point about the role that education can play in facilitating diversity– when there is commitment to equity, fairness, teamwork, and excellence. Think about it, initially most of the townspeople had never been exposed to different individuals, and when they were, their experiences were negative. This included both the black and white families.


But something happened when the football team went away to camp; because when they came back to the town, they were a unifying force in the school, the community and their families. They not only grew as individuals, they matured as a group.


Like diversity in many workplaces and campuses, it was forced at first. But as the team became more competent and the right pressures were applied (i.e., interventions), the dynamics changed and the players became Champions–not only on the field but also for diversity.


2.  Furthermore, it demonstrated how systemic change has a trickle-down effect. The leadership demanded excellence and the team delivered. No excuses and no exceptions.


In addition to leadership, this true movie proves that it takes courage to risk your own reputation for the inclusion of others. This same courage is the driving force needed to win—beating out the competition and finishing strong.


To me, “Remember the Titans” is one of the greatest movies of all time! It was an inspirational movie about diversity, inclusion, teamwork and winning—in spite of hate, challenges and fear. I hope it inspires more people to move beyond external appearances toward achieving goals for the greater good.



Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto

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