When I first started watching Ted Lasso a couple of years ago, it was a ray of light during the heaviness of the pandemic. In case you haven’t seen this delightful streaming comedy, it’s about a well-intentioned “fish out of water” American coach who transforms an elite UK football team’s performance and the lives of everyone around him.
Besides the consistently fantastic storytelling, what really struck me is how much leaders of any organization can become more effective by taking lessons from this heartwarming show. Spoiler alert: I am going to mention a couple of developments from the series finale in today’s article.
Here are 10 Things Ted Lasso Can Teach Us About Being a Great Leader:
1. It’s okay to ask for help.
When I first entered the corporate workforce over 30 years ago, there was a lot of pressure to be perfect. Ambitious up and comers were expected to act like they knew everything, even when they clearly didn’t, and that created a painful learning curve for all parties involved. When the titular Ted Lasso takes on his new coaching assignment with the fictitious A.F.C. Richmond, he manages to take a Division II U.S. football team to a national championship but doesn’t know much about how the rest of the world plays football. Instead of pretending, he asks for help from others regardless of their titles or positions and sought therapy to overcome deep-rooted anxiety. His actions help him create a winning team and make him a much better coach.
2. Believe the best is possible.
Belief is a huge theme on the show, beginning from the moment that Ted pastes a homemade sign with the word “BELIEVE” writ large in a locker room filled with his talented, but disjointed, players. You need to believe in yourself, your team and that the organization’s mission can be achieved with flying colors. Ignore the naysayers and trust that by working together with talented people, you can deliver the best outcomes.
3. Actively develop talent.
One of Ted’s best skills is developing talent. He sees the potential in a groundskeeper, retired star player, and a coaching assistant looking for more and helped them transform into high-performing leaders who bring out the best in their players. Consider what is possible for the people you lead and help them develop in order to reach their full potential.
4. Be a servant leader.
Discussed in numerous business books, the term servant leader means you put the needs of the people you lead above your own. By focusing on them as the top priority, you create a more positive culture and better results. Ted consistently demonstrates that trait, down to the finale, when he tells an author writing about the club’s comeback not to make it all about him – causing the book’s title to change to the more inclusive The Richmond Way instead of The Lasso Way.
5. Play the long game.
Ted Lasso is all about generating permanent positive change – he looks at the entire season instead of a few games. This mentality is essential in helping the team find it’s groove, and you can use it to create winning results at work. If you are looking for a great read on the topic, I recommend The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World by the incredible Dorie Clark, who has provided me with some of the best advice of my career.
6. Create a culture of optimism.
Optimism is a powerful tool for getting unstuck, becoming more resilient and generating strong results – so much so that I wrote an entire chapter about it in my book! Ted always leads with optimism, which helps the team bounce back from challenging times. Anyone can learn to become more authentically positive, and to get you started here’s an article I wrote about 3 Ways to Gain More Optimism.
7. Cultivate strong friendships.
No leader is an island – you need to have kindred spirits that you trust at work, people who always have your back. Identify those individuals and consciously build a friendship with them to support each other. Ted Lasso is filled with numerous examples of strong friendships forged that allow individuals to lift each other up when needed – like Keeley and Rebecca, Ted Lasso and Coach Beard and even surprisingly at the end, Roy Kent and Jaime Tartt.
8. Apologize when you’ve done something wrong.
Nate betrays Ted, leaving on bad terms to coach Richmond’s biggest rival. He eventually recognizes the error of his ways and apologizes. If you’ve acted like a jerk, took credit for someone else’s work, or done something else below the line at work, own your mistake and sincerely apologize.
Practicing forgiveness does more than make you a better person; it can make you a better leader. The hardest thing to do can be forgiving yourself, as we saw with characters like Rebecca, the owner of Richmond, who brought Ted in initially to sabotage the team and realized the error of her ways. Here are some tips to help you start embracing forgiveness now.
10. Know your why.
Your “why” is your reason for being, what you are here to do in this world. Understanding that motivation helps you make better decisions and live in alignment with your values. Ted realizes that his top priority is being a great father, prompting him to move back to the U.S. to spend more time with his son. If you are interested in learning more about your purpose, check out this article I wrote about that topic.
If you are a Ted Lasso fan, do you have anything to add to this list? What are some other TV shows or movies that have great leadership tips?