We can all learn a lot about being a good leader from Ted Lasso
I'm gonna come right out and say it. Ted Lasso is a great leader.
Chances are, you’ve at least heard of Ted Lasso if not jumped on the bandwagon after the Apple TV series dropped last year. Now, if you’re not a sports person (which I am not), you might hesitate. A show (based on a commercial) about an American who drops everything and moves to England to coach soccer? Really?!
But here’s the thing- THE SHOW IS BRILLIANT. For a lot of reasons. There’s an unapologetic optimism and joy that runs rampant throughout the entire show, and during the pandemic, this was exactly the type of vibe a lot of us needed in our entertainment.
However, there are also a lot of aspirational life lessons to learn from this show. The show is all around an unapologetic showcase of a brilliant leader.
Ted Lasso is everything you want in a leader, and everything we should aspire to be when leading. He’s not perfect- but none of us are, so he sets a realistic, achievable bar we can all aspire towards.
If you haven’t watched the show yet- stop reading and GO WATCH NOW. Seriously, you’ll be happy you did. Spoilers ahead!
Everything you need to know about leading you can learn from Ted Lasso
Invest in constant growth
“Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.”
This principle is the entire foundation of the show. Ted leaves the comfort of his home country and profession to move internationally to coach a sport he knows very little about. There’s also the matter of Ted’s struggling relationship. It’s with an extreme act of selflessness that he realizes- even in a marriage- people change and need the ability to invest in their own growth.
In our professional lives, it’s hard to take such a leap of faith. Changing jobs, companies, careers- it takes a lot of vulnerability to lean into the principle of investing in constant growth. Being a leader who embraces and encourages growth themselves sets a brilliant example for people in all levels of their career to think about their own evolution and how to push themselves to be uncomfortable.
“Be curious. Not judgmental.”
This Walt Whitman quote (c/o Ted Lasso) says it all. Where are the opportunities in our lives to approach situations from a place of curiosity and openness versus judgment and anger?
Often in professional situations, conflict stems from a lack of alignment. Instead of immediately jumping to conclusions on people’s actions, choosing to approach the situation with openness and curiosity has the ability to not only overcome conflict, but you also have the opportunity to truly understand another person.
“I appreciate you.”
Imagine the world if every boss and leader continuously (and verbally) expressed their appreciation for others. Why is this so hard? It just is.
Early on in my career, I thought praise and appreciation should be doled out sparingly. I thought, “I have high standards and high expectations, so it should take a lot to warrant my praise, right”? I learned from an incredible female mentor of mine how to show gratitude and appreciation regularly. Everyone wants to know their contributions are valued and appreciated, and by showing gratitude you have the ability to motivate people to do their best work.
Cherish genuine passion & optimism
“I believe in hope. I believe in Believe.”
Ted gets a lot of crap early on for his constant optimism and high spirit. Even when things look dark, Ted believes in what’s possible.
I think often in professional situations, there’s pressure to have a cool and level head, and that often translates into dampening optimism and energy. Yet, by modeling a little enthusiasm, optimism and passion as a leader, you have the opportunity to inspire others. It’s not silly to really believe in something. Imagine how motivating it would be if we all had someone helping us find and nurture our true passion! Why not hang a poster over your wall that says, “Believe?”
“I think if you care about someone and you got a little love in your heart, there ain’t nothin you can’t get through together.”
The scene where Ted forgives Rebecca after her malicious actions to bring down the football club was stirring. It’s so rare we see people in positions of power offer forgiveness over anger.
Now, it’s tough in professional situations- if you have someone on your team who knowingly and intentionally tries to sabotage a work-related scenario, you might not be able to offer forgiveness and no consequences. But the principle here of recognizing we’re all only human, we all make mistakes, and that embracing that humanity has the ability to build stronger bonds in the future.
Encourage others to make the extra pass
“Jamie TARTT doo doo doo doo du-du!” (does this get stuck in everyone else’s head too?!)
Oh, Jamie Tartt. We’ve all known Jamie Tartts in our lives, right? Insistent on being the superstar, the person who can claim responsibility for success.
But what a beautiful transformation when he chooses to make that extra pass. Lean on his team, and use everyone around him to help ensure success for all. As leaders, are there opportunities where we can step back and let others shine? What are your people’s greatest gifts, and how can you enable them to flourish in their work? Taking the time to make that extra pass is not only of service to every person you support, it also likely pays dividends in the future by growing and developing everyone around you.
It’s not about winning games
“For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.”
It’s a cliche by now, but so true and important. It’s not always about the destination, it’s about the journey. As a team, if you hit all your goals, but it was a crappy experience to get there, did you win? Leaders who invest not just in driving outcomes, but in ensuring there is a healthy, supportive culture to support everyone’s performance will win in the end.
But sometimes it is about winning games
I have to end with this one. It’s all about balance. As a competitive person, I am the first to say, I LIKE TO WIN. Ted Lasso is a great leader... but he doesn't always get it right. He needed a nudge to remember that sometimes, it is about winning.
I take a lot of pride in my work and constantly strive for the best. It’s inspiring to see leaders who care and put some skin in the game. If you focus too much on the journey, you’ll lose sight of where you’re headed.
There is no better motivator than accomplishing something great with a group of people who’ve worked hard together towards the same goal. Identify that goal, ensure the best experience while working towards it, and celebrate when you win.
Which of these lessons jumps out to you?
Like most things in life, we don’t need to apply it all at once. As great as this world would be if there were more Ted Lassos, that’s not what this is about. Ted Lasso is a great leader. But even he doesn't get it right every time! If we all take a practical step toward one of these leadership lessons, your team will thank you for it. You will be setting them up for success.
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