Leigh Anne first runs into Michael almost literally when her family is driving home from a school event. Seeing him walking "home" in a cold evening wearing just a tee shirt, she takes pity on him and orders her husband Sean (Tim McGraw) to stop the car and then take him to their home, a sprawling mansion of a house that Michael would not have dreamed of entering let alone living in.
The first half of the film focuses on the changes that Leigh Anne brings to Michael's life as he slowly becomes part of the Tuohy family. She is willing to cross into his territory to make him feel welcome. Slowly, he warms up to his new family. It helps that they are super rich and could afford to buy him what he needs and wants. Yet, when one of Leigh Anne's girlfriends tells her, "You're changing that boy's life," she replies, "No. He's changing mine." And this highlights one of the themes of the film. When we help others we are helping ourselves, too.
The second half of The Blind Side focuses on the football. When his grades improve enough he is able to try out for the team. With his size, it is a slam-dunk that he will be a big impact player. Yet, in his first tryout in Spring practice, he wilts like limp lettuce. The coach is confused. But when Leigh Anne, watching from the sidelines, calls a timeout in the action, she walks onto the field and speaks to Michael, then to the team. After that Michael becomes fierce. "What did you say to him?" asks the coach. She looks at the coach and slowly replies, "You should really get to know your players. Michael scored in the 98th percentile in protective instincts."
Motivation is a second theme of the film. The coach did not know how to motivate Michael. He simply didn't know Michael. When Michael plays his first game for the school, the same thing happens. It is not until Michael sees that the coach has his back that he is prepared to trust him and literally has the coach's back.
Those of us in positions of leadership need to take this lesson to heart. This includes parents. We need to get to know our kids, our employees, our volunteers. What drives them? What gets them juiced? What do they need to be able to trust us? Until we do this, we won't know what to say to them to get the best out of them, to coax them to realize their fullest potential.
Doctrines aside, this does underscore the fact that our motives may not always be clear or clean. We may hide them from others, even from ourselves. Michael points out, "Sometimes you might not even know why you're doing something." Yet God knows our inner secrets and our inner motivations (Psa. 139:1). The best we can do is deep introspection and then cry out to God like the psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts" (Psa. 139:23).