Ted Lasso’s leadership style of servant leadership is rare to see on the screen.
I fully expected Ted Lasso just be a bunch of skits with Jason Sudeikis be a bumbling fool. The hook of an American Football coach leading an English football team was a great fake out. The actual show turned out to contain numerous…
Despite having zero knowledge of English Football, Ted Lasso makes A.F.C. Richmond a better team. I love that Ted doesn’t have a magical skill or tool that helped him achieve this. Instead, Ted Lasso’s leadership style starts with a core philosophy:
Ted will do everything he can to help others achieve their goals.
Ted’s leadership style struck a chord with me because I approach leading teams in the same way. Ted’s philosophy is why I’m here with you to explore the five leadership lessons from Ted Lasso that made me a successful leader.
Read on to the end to hear about one more mind-blowing detail I noticed when re-watching Ted Lasso for this essay.
Spoilers ahead if you have not watched Season 1.
Disclosure: This article includes affiliate links to any books I reference. I will receive a commission for any purchases.
Ted Lasso’s Leadership Lesson 1: Ignore the Haters with Clear Goals
In first half of the season, Ted Lasso goes through a gauntlet of negative criticism. Everyone doubts him. Rebbeca consistently sets him up to fail. The players think he is a joke. His first game has him walk out to a stadium of people calling him a wanker.
How does this environment affect Ted?
It doesn’t phase him at all.
His enthusiasm doesn’t waver. He ignores being called a wanker. He doesn’t even care if A.F.C. Richmond loses! Why does Ted not care what others think?
Ted Lasso ignores the haters because he has a clear goal.
Ted explains his goal when talking with Trent Crimm, played by James Lance, in Episode 3:
For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping those young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field. And it ain’t always easy, Trent, but neither is growing up without someone believing in you.“Trent Crimm: The Independent.” Ted Lasso, episode 3, 2020. Apple TV+,
This goal gives Ted clarity. He knows that helping others become the best version of themselves takes a long time. It requires focus, understanding, and incremental steps. The outside world doesn’t see the emotional work Ted puts in for the team, so he disregard them.
Just as important though, are the people Ted Lasso does not ignore. These are the people that understand his goal. He listens to their feedback and puts it into action.
Ted’s relationship with the community is a great example of changing what you can control. You’ll achieve more by understanding your goals, finding allies that support you, and focusing on the domain you have complete influence over.
Ted Lasso’s Leadership Lesson 2: Each Person Matters
Great leaders believe that everyone on the team matters. From the owners to the equipment manager, the team succeeds with everyone’s contribution. Since the start, Ted values everyone’s contribution to the team:
- Ted builds trust with Nathan by giving Nathan space to voice his opinion.
- Ted sees Higgins as a partner and regularly gets lunch with him to build a bond.
- Ted understands how important A.F.C. Richmond is to the community. He reciprocates this care by learning all he can about the town.
- Ted manages up to Rebecca, played by Hannah Waddingham, by bonding with her via “Biscuits with the Boss.”
As the season goes on, Ted leverages these relationships to achieve his goals:
- Nathan contributes innovative new plays, which helps the team win games.
- Higgins supports Ted by advocating for Ted to Rebecca and tracking Dani Rojas’ health.
- Mae, the pub owner, provides Ted space to meet with the team to resolve “The Curse”.
- Rebecca mentors Ted in the season finale by showing that his lack of experience is a strength.
Each of these moments depended on the relationships that Ted developed. He showed up. He paid attention. He supported each person. These relationships paid off such that when Ted needed help, each of these people aided him in turn.
Remember that each person on your team and broader life matters. When you support them in their lives, they will help you in your times of need.
Lesson 3: Teach Others to Believe in Themselves
My favorite storyline in Season 1 is the growth of Nathan Shelley, played by Nick Mohammed. Nathan’s doubt in himself with how he’s astounded that Ted remembers his name in episode one.
Nathan is the representation of someone who doesn’t believe in himself. He gets bullied, is intimidated by everyone, and feels that his ideas aren’t valuable.
Ted changes Nathan Shelley with mentorship and advocacy.
Ted builds Nathan’s confidence by consistently supporting Nathan with positive feedback. It starts with remembering Nate’s name, but Ted does so much more:
- Ted shows excitement about each donation box Nathan brings to the team.
- Ted welcomes Nathan’s ideas for new plays, which shows that great ideas come from anyone.
- Ted gets the team to stop bullying Nathan while also teaching leadership lessons to Roy Kent.
- Ted gives Nathan feedback that his suit doesn’t fit and then buys a new one for him.
Ted cares deeply about helping everyone around him achieve their full potential. He doesn’t care about titles, skills, or background – everyone has room to grow. So, what does Nathan do with newfound belief in himself?
Nathan Shelley roasts all of A.F.C. Richmond.
Nathan’s words, something he didn’t believe was valuable, were the reason A.F.C. Richmond one a critical match. Everything snowballed for Nathan from here, resulting in my favorite moment of the show.
Nathan being promoted to Assistance Coach.
Sometimes, the main thing holding people back is believing in themselves. Great leaders, like Ted, build that belief by supporting their team everyday.
Lesson 4: Surround Yourself with Experts
We all know the hook of Ted Lasso – an American Football coach is asked to coach an English football team.
Ted does not have the skills to succeed, and he’s aware of it! This knowledge is one of the reasons why he invests so much in the people around him.
Ted surrounds himself with experts in English football to make up for his weaknesses.
How does this play out?
- In the first episode, we see Coach Beard, played by Brendan Hunt, reading Coaching Soccer for Dummies and Inverting the Pyramid. Beard builds on this knowledge to own the tactical plays for the team.
- Ted pushes Nathan for feedback, which is often spot on. As the kit manager, Nate observes how the team behaves and has a deep knowledge of their weaknesses.
- Ted builds a relationship with Higgins, the Director of Communications, played by Jeremy Swift. Higgins understands how to navigate the team’s back office. Higgins’ experience is important when Ted manages up to Rebbeca.
As the season progresses, we see Ted develop the specific skills to effectively coach A.F.C. Richmond. He even utilizes his weakness as a strength to create Trick Plays in the season finale.
Turns out this approach is not too far from how I go about managing existing engineering teams. What we learned from Ted is:
- Surround yourself with experts in the domain you wish to lead.
- Stay curious and learn as much as you can by asking lots of questions.
- Become comfortable with your ignorance of the team’s environment. Your new perspective can be a strength.
Ted Lasso’s Leadership Lesson 5: Success Requires Teamwork
The philosophical conflict of Season 1 is between Ted Lasso and A.F.C. Richmond’s ace player, Jamie Tartt. Ted prioritizes the personal development of the entire team. Jamie, played by Phil Dunster, only cares about being number one.
Jamie is right to feel he’s the top player on A.F.C. Richmond. He’s loaned from a higher-performing team. Jamie is the only one scoring goals. Both Jamie and the community feels he’s carrying the team. Without him, the team will lose.
Yet, even with him there, the team still loses.
Football is a team sport. Ted knows this and understands that A.F.C. Richmond won’t win if he only focuses on Jamie. Ted works on the personal development in two ways:
- Working with individual players to elevate their specific skills.
- Creating an environment where the team trusts and supports one another.
Some ways Ted develops the skills of individuals are:
- Building up the morale of Sam Obisanya, played by Toheeb Jimoh, by teaching him to “think like a Goldfish”.
- Teaching Roy Kent, played by Brett Goldstein, to be a compassionate leader. Ted pushes Roy to defend Nathan and mak him read a Wrinkle in Time.
Ted Lasso’s Line: Prioritizing Only Yourself
All of this effort is the reason why Ted gets angry at someone in the show. Unsurprisingly, it’s Jamie Tartt.
Fortunately, Ted’s hard work pays off as trust is built within the team:
- Ted gets everyone to chip in for a birthday present for Sam to build his morale.
- Ted organizes a “Reverse the Curse” ceremony. In it, each player must sacrifice an emotionally significant item to the team.
- Ted has the entire team watch The Iron Giant to create an emotional experience for the team.
It’s not until the team finally trusts one another that they start winning. The trust enables A.F.C. Richmond to beat Liverpool for the first time in 60 years. The players rely upon, support, and elevate one another throughout the journey.
You can still succeed when losing
Seeing everyone elevate one another is why I love the final moments of the season. In the game’s final moments, when success is in their hands, the team loses to Jamie and Manchester City. It’s not because the team failed, but that Ted’s definition of success won.
To win the game, Jamie couldn’t go for the final goal himself. There was too much defense in front of him. So instead, he passed the ball and trusted his teammate to score the final goal.
In the end, while A.F.C. Richmond lost, Ted still won. In the end, true success is the result of helping everyone around you achieve their goals.
⭐Bonus⭐: The Secret Principles of Ted Lasso’s Leadership Style
When watching the first episode, there’s a scene where Ted and Coach Beard are setting up their office. It’s a simple montage, but Beard hangs up one picture that caught my eye: The Pyramid of Success.
I had never heard of the Pyramid of Success before, but I had to learn more given the context. Coach John Wooden created the pyramid over his career. It contains 25 behaviors that build-up to create a successful life.
Seeing this was mind-blowing to me.
Not only does it define the foundation of Ted Lasso’s character, but there is also so much to learn from it. I look forward to reading more about Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success in the future.
I love the show Ted Lasso and can’t wait for Season 2. While I learned a number of lessons from Ted Lasso, there are many more in Season 1.
- Change What You Control
- How to Manage Existing Engineering Teams
- Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
- Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success
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