Hello fellow or soon to be Ted-Heads,
Let’s talk leadership and how the Emmy award-winning Apple TV+ series portrays a … let’s say, unconventional leadership style. If Ted Lasso (no, this is not a sponsored post) has taught us anything, it’s that nice guys can finish first.
For the uninitiated, Ted Lasso follows the titular character, an American football coach who takes up the coaching (or manager) job of the AFC Richmond team in the U.K. The comedy series has received so much positive attention since launching in late 2020, that it’s already aired a second season and recently renewed for a third.
Disclaimer: I’ll try not to spoil anything here, so if you’re yet to board the Ted train, it’s safe to keep reading.
The reason why the character of Ted Lasso appeals to the masses can be pinpointed to Ted’s charisma that hides beneath a layer of naivete. It’s this type of leadership quality that inspires all of us, even if we don’t realise it, it’s earnest and genuine. Ted is focused on building positive relationships and showing empathy towards others, which is a critical part of leadership.
Another takeaway from Ted’s leadership style is humour. Simply put, high-pressure environments need a bit of levity from time to time as it eases tension and allows staff to enjoy their work.
Circling back to showing empathy, Ted’s leadership style exhibits the qualities of kindness, honesty and this ultimately results in softening hearts and winning over the naysayers. There’s a strong sense of integrity there that ends up becoming infectious, spreading through the entire AFC Richmond team as well as pretty much everyone Ted encounters. Not to mention, the fun quality of his leadership style builds, fosters a positive environment, building comradery between the staff and team.
One example that springs to mind appears early in the first season, Ted starts utilising plays given to him by the kit man Nate, a character that is so used to being in the background that he constantly turns around when Ted waves at him, just to see if someone was behind him. This translates beautifully to any workplace where staff might feel unvalued or essentially invisible. It’s not just about how Ted is acknowledging a subordinate for being there, he’s actively allowing Nate to have input and share his value to the team. This is also further echoed by Ted’s placement of a banner saying ‘believe’ in the locker room. It serves as a reminder for the team to believe not only in themselves but in each other.
Ted isn’t afraid to be vulnerable either. Vulnerability is such an important quality when it comes to being a great leader. Haven’t you ever wondered why films with heroes that aren’t indestructible resonate with people? Think of the original Die Hard, where Bruce Willis’ John McClane struggles throughout the film to stop the bad guys, getting battered and bruised throughout.
Too often there is this false belief that being vulnerable equates to weakness, which is simply not the case. Ted Lasso experiences this very thing himself throughout the series, such as suffering a panic attack during one of the games. At first, he tries to cover it up but then later decides to be open with the team, letting them know of his own personal struggles. Here, Ted’s decision demonstrates trust to the team, a sense of openness that also allows them to be upfront and honest with each other.
Look at it this way, if you’re leading a team and you show this type of transparency, your true self, then you’re able to build a real rapport with them, showcasing qualities that are relatable. This appeals to people, it’s raw and it’s real.
This also relates to the topic of self-care, something great leaders should focus on. Too often, bosses can get wrapped up in their work and their staff that they neglect themselves. After his panic attack, Ted’s anxiety continues to take hold of him but he combats this by seeking professional help, which he initially avoided. It’s through helping himself and gaining control of his anxiety that he is able to continue being there to support the team.
Of course, it’s also not just about playing Mr Nice Guy all the time, is it?
Leaders and most people share that desire to be liked or validated. However, there are certain times when avoiding doing something because you’re worried about how others will perceive it can do more harm than good in the long run. Ted knows where to draw this line, he even benches the star player at one point for refusing to pass the ball. Whilst this angers fans, he holds his ground because Ted knows it’s for the betterment of the team, which then leads to them winning the game. It’s about putting the interests of all above the interests of one, building a unified team.
A leader doesn’t just have to be someone that delegates, gives orders or even ‘bosses’ people around. They can be vulnerable, able to make rational decisions, open to suggestions and not afraid to make mistakes.
Because remember, at the end of the day, we all make mistakes, and when that happens, do what Ted says, be a goldfish. Think about it for five to ten seconds and then move on.
Peace out guys and for those yet to watch Ted Lasso, happy viewing!