By the time the team headed home, black and white players voluntarily sat together, played cards and similarly enjoyed each other, he said. “When a black kid jumped into the aisle to dance to a country-and-western song, I knew we had a football team,” Boone said.
Uniting teachers, administrators, their parents and the entire community, the team went on to post a 13-0 season and take the state championship.
“My definition of team is having one objective, one vision, but — more than anything — one heartbeat,” Boone said. “As team leader, you have to be true to your mission, core values and self. But mainly you have to care,” he said, “because you can't fake caring.”
Pretty much all of the ‘71 Titans went on to excel in life, as mayors, brain surgeons, lawyers and other professionals, Boone said. The players, coaches and cheerleaders have formed a nonprofit (71originaltitans.com) to help high school students in depressed areas pursue college educations.
Boone closed his speech with a checklist of questions executives can ask themselves daily about whether they're successful team leaders.
“Did you recognize someone on your team today? Motivate or counsel someone? Listen to someone?” he asked.
“You mustn't wait, but act now on your beliefs,” he said, “because your beliefs become your character.”
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The first step toward building and sustaining a winning team is getting people to talk to one another. It doesn't matter if you don't like each other, but you've got to respect each other.”