Lessons in Leadership from Ted Lasso
Back in March, my family and I had the opportunity to take a mini vacation to the Grand Canyon. What an amazing place to visit — the perfect Spring Break getaway after a year of being at home. On this trip, I met Ted Lasso, an English Premier League soccer coach for AFC Richmond.
But here’s the thing, Ted is not a real, live human being — he’s a fictional character on AppleTV’s, Ted Lasso, that debuted last October, and I got the pleasure of meeting him while on vacation.
Now, if you know and follow me, you know I don’t watch a lot of TV... in fact, I hardly watch it at all. If I have down time like that, I’m usually reading, listening to a podcast, or just hanging out with my family. But a couple of weeks before our trip, I was chatting with a friend and he shared this series with me, and I decided that while we were traveling, I’d watch it and give myself a break from professional development and growth — we’re on vacation after all.
Little did I know, the 10 hours I spent binge-watching this funny, original TV show would provide so much insight on life and leadership. The series catalogs Ted’s journey as an American football coach, who was hired to be the manager of AFC Richmond — despite the fact he’d never watched or played the game of soccer. It’s hilarious, no doubt, but this show is so much more than a comedy — even though I laughed out loud a lot watching it. The show gives an amazing example (and a great reminder) of what it takes to be a good leader, especially in difficult, unexpected, and challenging circumstances.
I’m not going to share the entire story with you in the column, that’s not why we’re here — you’ll have to go watch the show for that. However, I do want to share a few lessons in leadership that I think we can all learn from this fictional character, Ted Lasso:
ONE: Kindness matters
One of the most overlooked and underused aspects of leadership is simply kindness! Why? Because it takes more effort and time to be kind; it’s a conscious effort. We all get wrapped up in our day and our lives and with that can come distraction, frustration, fear, exhaustion, and stress. All of life’s distractions take away our choice to be kind — or make us feel like we “don’t have the time” to prioritize kindness on our to-do list.
Think about your workday mindset for just a minute. You’ve just gotten off the phone with your boss, he’s complaining that you haven’t finished your forecast for the month and demands you get it done now.
At the same time, you’re walking into Starbucks to get your morning coffee, and now you’re distracted, frustrated, and feeling depleted from the call. And before you know it, you’ve pushed through the door, didn’t hold it open for the person behind you, and you forcefully, if not rudely ordered your coffee.
You know the type of mindset I’m talking about — we’ve all been there and done this mindlessly. The thing is, we have no idea how our actions impacted the people around us, but had we taken a breath, paused for a moment, we could have made the choice to put this instance behind us, be kind, smile, and have a positive impact on someones day before conquering our all-important to-do’s. Because kindness matters. We may be focused on us, but we have no idea what other people are going through — much less how much we might have the opportunity to be a bright light in their day by being kind in our interactions and in how we let circumstances impact our actions.
TWO: Everyone matters, even those that seem invisible
One of the most powerful moments in this show is when Ted asks the locker room attendant his name. The young man is stunned and comments that, “no one ever asks my name.” At this moment and others throughout the series, the invisible Nate, becomes visible and grows into being an active member of the coaching staff, making a positive impact on the team.
We all know people like this, right? We’ve heard the success stories of the somewhat invisible, but the question I would ask you is why do you pass them by? You know you do, and so does everyone else, including me — we pass by the seemingly invisible. But what we don’t know is how each person could impact us or our organization. Regardless of their level or position, everyone matters. Pay attention to those around you, ask questions, engage in a conversation with them — you just never know what might happen or how they might impact you and your organization.
THREE: The job of a leader is to make people better
Though it may seem like the simplest of the leadership principles, I believe it’s the most challenging principle for leaders. Yes, leaders talk about boosting others to greatness a lot, but how many of them actually take action to impact others positively? As humans, it’s in our nature (and it’s easier) to find the worst in people, look for their flaws, and find ways to point out their shortcomings.
Too many leaders focus on fixing people, weeding out bad habits and curbing poor work ethics, etc. But here’s the thing — people aren’t broken, and you don’t need to fix them. However, what we could all use more of is the support and encouragement to learn and grow into the best version of ourselves. We all need to enhance our skills and become better or learn new skills to be a better contributor to the organization. It’s our job as leaders to lift people up, help them understand the areas they could improve and grow — but we have to let them do it and simply support their efforts. We can’t do the growing for them. We can’t fix or change them.
I talk to leaders all the time, and I’m amazed at how many of them don’t have development plans for their team members — much less themselves. My challenge to you is to start with yourself, then meet with your team members and co-create a development plan with each of them. It’s our job to help them become the best they can be and equip them to get there.
Simple and straightforward here — we need to believe in what’s possible. We need to believe in ourselves, our mission, passion, goals and future endeavors. Self-doubt is absolutely crippling and holds you back from attaining all that you are capable of. Why? Because it’s so easy for us to be swayed, moved off-mission, off-course in our careers or mindset, simply from the influence of others— we have to be unshakable in our belief and confidence in ourselves and our abilities to achieve our goals excellently.
It just takes one negative comment from a friend, family member, colleague, or boss for us to start doubting ourselves, feeling inadequate, and spiraling into other mindset blocks that will trip you up on your journey to becoming the best YOU that you can be. You know exactly the feeling I’m referring to; it happens to all of us.
If you don’t believe in yourself and your skills as a leader, who will? As you will see from Ted’s journey in AppleTV’s imaginary world, we must believe to achieve — and oh, you can have fun along the way and find joy in the journey!
At the end of the day, leadership is about believing in yourself, your team, and your organization (and doing the hard work to accelerate all of the above). Your career in leadership is about the journey of growth and development that I hope we are all on. It’s about becoming the best version of yourself — and as you know, that’s something I continue to strive for each and every day! I’m not perfect, none of us are, but if we take steps to believe in ourselves and set ourselves up for massive success — our leadership can be a positive influence on everyone we meet!
Let’s continue this conversation! Visit my blog, and let me know what you’re doing to continue your growth. We can chat about the upcoming Season 2 of Ted Lasso, launching July 23, 2021! www.sidmeadows.com/blog