5 ways 'Ted Lasso' shows how effective leadership can be achieved through kindness
Ted Lasso," a workplace comedyon Apple TV+, is especially relevant for managers and executives.
- The second season debuted on July 23.
- The show has dug its way into the hearts of viewers through its funny lessons about kindness.
To Brendan Hunt, self-confidence is like a ferret.
"Imagine it's buried under a pile of rubble," the writer, actor, and cocreator of the Apple TV+ television show "Ted Lasso" told Insider. "And the ferret keeps getting pinned by another rock."
After a childhood marred by verbal abuse and his mother's alcoholism, Hunt's self-esteem was boosted by his acting-school colleagues at Illinois State University. He founded Theater of Ted as a performance opportunity for other students and had a variety of roles in the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.
Now, as one of the creative minds behind the Peabody Award-winning, 20-time Emmy-nominated show, Hunt is paying forward lessons he learned about hardship, pain, and significant losses.
It turns out ferrets are also humorous creatures who love to dig, and "Ted Lasso" has dug its way into the hearts of viewers through its funny lessons about kindness.
At its core, "Ted Lasso," which began its second season on July 23, is a workplace comedy that's especially relevant for managers and executives. An American college football coach with absolutely no experience with European football, is purposely hired by the recently divorced owner to manage a struggling Premier League team. The show exceeds the format's constraints by illustrating the best ways to develop talent, learn from mistakes, and deal with major losses on and off the field.
"New season starts today and I'll be honest - I've got butterflies," Ted Lasso tweeted. (Yes, Lasso has his own Twitter account.) "But one great fact about butterflies is that they only show up when you care a lot about something. And also they taste with their feet."
For those who'd like a guide to the first season (with a few spoilers), here's a breakdown of the five biggest
Learn people's names
Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed) is the team's often-bullied equipment manager. On Lasso's first day, he surprises Shelley by asking for his name. This basic act of respect eventually pays off when Shelley demonstrates his knowledge of the game and earns a well-deserved promotion.
An effective leader is attentive, diligent about small details, and respects his subordinates, no matter how junior. Having an interest in people's names and an understanding of their value to the team also demonstrates curiosity instead of judgment - an act people often remember as a sign of respect and importance.
Give people a chance
In episode three, Lasso uses one of Shelley's plays. In episode seven, Lasso asks for Shelley's honest assessment of the players and encourages him to give the pregame pep talk. Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) is initially presented as a stereotypical WAG - the wives and girlfriends of high-profile athletes. But Welton sees how Jones is driven, smart, and savvy after she arranges a branding partnership. Through Welton's encouragement and support, Jones is given official marketing and communications duties, including brand deals for the players.
Great talent might already lie within your organization. Drawing it out requires giving people, especially those in junior roles, multiple chances to demonstrate their skills, capabilities, and expertise. Encouragement and a psychologically safe environment are also essential. You never know what a person can provide to an organization in the future.
Personal issues can affect work performance
Throughout much of the first season, Welton sets the team up for failure in retaliation for her abusive ex-husband's infidelity. After hiring Lasso, she arranges unflattering paparazzi photos of him with Jones, sets up an interview with a highly critical reporter, and returns a star player to another team earlier than necessary. After Lasso signs his own divorce papers, he experiences a panic attack outside a karaoke bar. Welton helps him calm down. And when Welton finally reveals her plan, Lasso's response is simple. "I forgive you. Divorce is hard. ... It makes folks do crazy things."
Significant life events like divorce, major illnesses, and deaths can become major distractions at work and affect performance. An effective way to get staff back on track is honoring their feelings and working together to find a path forward with humility and empathy.
Have a trusted advisor without an ego
The most important person in Lasso's professional life is Coach Beard, his assistant. Beard travels with Lasso from Kansas, learns the rules of the game on their flight, provides important details and plays, and assertively tells Lasso when his philosophy on winning and losing has reached its limits. Beard does something Hunt learned while working in theater: "serving the piece." In the end, both his and Lasso's ideological preferences are secondary to the greater mission. "He's not doing it for himself," Hunt said of the character he plays. "He's doing it for the whole of the job that Ted has brought him on."
Every company needs advisors and senior leaders who understand what the overall mission is and says what needs to be done, even when it goes against the desires of the person in charge.
Be willing to accept feedback
In addition to advice from Beard, Lasso is willing to accept direct feedback from everyone: his players, people in town, patrons of the local bar, Welton, Shelley, even members of the media. He gets called "wanker" a lot, but it doesn't faze him. It helps that Lasso responds with humor and a Mr. Rogers-like sense of cheer.
Even if you don't run a football team, being a good manager means being open to hearing from other people about how to improve and do things differently. Regularly scheduled meetings can be very helpful. (Homemade biscuits - a Ted Lasso specialty - are not required.)
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