The character Ted Lasso is probably most well known for his wildly positive attitude.
Hey, that’s a crowd I don’t mind being smack dab in the middle of, buddy.
This is an awesome trait that we may cover in a future video, but in today’s video, we’re actually going to dive into leadership. While the show is pure fiction, ted demonstrates techniques that reallife leaders like Steve Jobs, Hobbs, Larry Page, and Phil Jackson used to achieve incredible success. If you already naturally do these things, it’s a sign that under the right circumstances, you could be a fantastic leader. Although people may not give you quite as much loyalty as Ted gets in the show.
Bills. I can watch you do this jaunty North Korean military thing you do all day, but I need a favor.
Good time for you, coach. Okay, so let’s get into the details of leading people and more specifically, being someone that people want to follow. We’ll show some clips with plot spoilers for season one, but we won’t touch on season two. The first sign of a great leader is that they make everyone on the team feel like they matter. The show illustrates this well on Ted’s very first day as a coach of his new team when he meets the team’s equipment manager. You see a small habit here, but it’s an important one.
So we’re supposed to meet with a Rebecca Welch.
Yeah, that’s what I’m taking you.
Oh, look at the sky. One step ahead. What’s your name, by the way?
No one ever asked my name.
And then later that day, we see this.
You continue to impress Nathan.
You’re let me.
This may seem like cliche TV stuff, but making people feel like they matter is a core part of being a leader. Author Simon Sinnick lays it out well in this next clip. He’s explaining the test of a good leader according to a marine corps general he knows who’s a three star general in the marine corps, he says his test for leadership and I love this he goes, his test for a good leader is if you ask somebody how.
Their day is going, you actually care about the answer.
The big mistake that most people make is to only tap into that genuine interest with their bosses or socially when they’re talking to the most attractive person in a group. This is a common mistake, and it hurts you twice. Not only does it make the people you’re blowing off feel like you don’t care, it also makes the people you’re trying to get to like you dislike you, because it creates the feeling that you’re a taker or a user. You’re only giving them attention because you want something from them. So the best thing you can do as a good person and for your own self interest is to make everyone feel like they matter without weighing what you think they’ll be able to do for you. Ted lays it out. Well, here.
You got to see the way I see it. Okay? Everybody in this building part of the team, part of AFC richmond team’s got a bond.
Now, while you may consider everyone a part of the team, that doesn’t mean that everyone else automatically bought in or cares about your goals as a leader. In fact, most people probably care mostly about themselves. Ted star player, Jamie tart, takes this to the extreme after he scores a goal. Check it out.
Thanks to budding superstar Jamie Tart, richmond are right back in. It at two one in the 29th minutes. What’s come follow me is pointing in the name on his back and repeat is a yellow me.
Now, most people you’re trying to lead won’t be quite so obvious about it, but that’s probably not too far off from some people’s internal monologue. So, what you want to do as a leader is align your goals. Instead of trying to get them to do something that’s good for you, get them to do something that’s good for them that also happens to be good for you. That’s a sign of a natural leader. You don’t try to persuade someone by talking about what you want or need. Simply put, speak in you, not I. As a side note, if you want to be a great leader, try to help your teammates achieve their goals even when it doesn’t benefit you. The show demonstrates this very well. Ted wants Jamie to be more of a team player, but what Jamie wants is to be considered a great footballer. Listen to how Ted aligns their two goals and starts the process of making Jamie into both.
I can honestly say you are the best athlete I have ever coached. You are truly great at everything you do out there, except for one thing. If you just figure out some way to turn that me into us.
Guy is the limit for you.
This one speech doesn’t magically transform Jamie overnight, but it’s a start, at least until Rebecca sabotages Ted. Now, that said, ultimately, as a leader, your goal isn’t just to get people to do what you tell them. A good litter creates lieutenants. They set up other people to become leaders again. Let’s turn to the show just to see an example. This clip is from when Ted was struggling to come up with new ideas for his offense.
So I’m officially on the prow for any new ideas you hear? You guys on night?
No? Never mind. I’m sorry.
Come on, now. You’re one of us. Let’s go. Fire away. What do you got?
Ted thinks anyone is capable of good ideas, and so he solicits Nate to speak up. In this next clip, you’ll see that he also forces Nate to actually bet on himself and his idea or have it thrown out.
You know what? It’s not very even very good. It’s probably really bad. You know what’s embarrassing? Even.
Sorry, Nate. I have a real tricky time hearing folks that don’t believe in themselves. So I’m going to ask you real quick again. Do you think this idea will work?
Yeah, I do.
Whoa. Why are you screaming at us, Nate?
We’re right here.
Come on, Ellen. Walk us through it.
This may also seem like something that only works in a scripted TV show, but Phil Jackson, one of the best NBA coaches of all time, had a similar philosophy. Here are a few quotes of his from his book on leadership. I always tried to foster an environment in which everybody played a leadership role, from the most unschooled rookie to the veteran superstar, the most effective approach is to nurture everyone else’s leadership skills. When I did that, it paradoxically strengthens my role as a leader. This philosophy that anyone is capable of a great idea is also similar to Google’s 20% project. Before Google’s, IPO co founder Larry Page codified the project by saying, we encourage our employees to spend 20% of their time working on whatever they think will be most beneficial to Google. And Google credits this with some of their biggest innovations. You don’t even have to try every single idea that’s suggested to you in order to be a good leader. The sign of a good leader is if you’re genuinely open to ideas outside of your own. There’s another aspect to creating Lieutenants that the TV show does a good job of showing.
Watch this next clip for an example of it after Nate tries to write a pregame speech for Ted.
Read through your thoughts. Yeah, they’re great, and I agree with every last one, but I can’t say.
This to you, but I need to hear it.
I agree. That’s why you’re going to do it.
Are you drunk?
You’re giving the pregame talk. You’re going to read this.
A good leader lets people get the credit for what they’ve done. A common mistake people make when they’re in charge of something for the first time is to try to hoard all the credit for themselves. But a good leader knows that if you feel proud of your work, you’re going to work harder and do better. In that last example, Ted read the speech and actually made sure it was good. Then he pushes Nate to give it himself, and it’s a huge step in Nate’s career. Ted’s lack of ego also lets him actively solicit feedback and try to improve. This is one of the first things he does when he gets to his new team.
And if the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes it’s easier to speak our minds anonymously. Right. So I asked Nate here to make us a good old fashioned suggestion box. Hey, look at that.
Yeah. Did it with Mane. She loves craft.
Yeah. I love glimpses into your personal life. It’s lovely.
If you haven’t seen the show, this comes at a time when Ted knows he’s not very well liked by his new team. To them, he’s a random American coaching a sport he knows nothing about. But he still makes it anonymous because he actually wants to know how to improve his team, even if it means waiting through a ton of insulting comments to get there. Wanker.
Let’s see what else we got. Piss off, wanker. I hope you choke on a Big Mac.
Good thing these are anonymous.
No, Roy signed that one. Roy? Oh, here’s a good one. Shower pressure is rubbish. Make a note of that.
Even if you’re not currently a leader, this idea of soliciting feedback is one of the most powerful self improvement exercises you can do. For example, you can do a blind spot circle. That’s where you sit down with a group of close friends and ask them for honest feedback on what they think your blind spots are. This can be terrifying. It can lead to things you don’t want to hear. And it can be an incredible catalyst for making positive change in your life. It works so well because if one person tells you constructive criticism, you probably have the urge to fight it or ignore it. Disagree. But if five close friends all have the same feedback, it’s hard not to at least consider it deeply. Just make sure to do this with a group of people who respect you and whose opinions you respect. Another sign of a natural leader is having the empathy to understand the people you lead. Simply put, if you can put yourself in their shoes, you’ll know how to get the best out of them. If a leader isn’t able to do this, they need to create a lieutenant who can do it for them.
Here’s a quick clip from the show to illustrate the point. Notice that Ted’s assistant coach is quick to assume a struggling player just doesn’t have talent. But Ted’s empathy clues him in to that. It might be something else.
Maybe the premiership is too much fun. No, he just needs to get a little more comfy here, that’s all. He turned to 20 on Saturday. There we go. Birthday. We’ll do something special for him. Nudge that ship in the right direction. Yeah.
Different things motivate different people. Some need tough love. Some need positive reinforcement. Some need a mix of both. Some people need to be told exactly what to do. And others excel when given a goal and freedom to achieve it however they see fit. If you want to be a good leader, take the time to understand what motivates someone. If you can empathize with someone instead of demonizing them, you’ll be better at aligning incentives, rewarding them, motivating them and predicting what projects they’ll succeed at. Once you do empower someone to succeed, the next habit of a good leader comes into play. Celebrate other people’s wins. A theme you’ve probably already noticed is that if you want to be a good leader, you need to get people excited to follow you. Part of that process that many leaders ignore is making people feel appreciated. The show does a good job of highlighting the power of this, albeit with over the top enthusiasm, because it is still a TV show. Ted loves to praise and reward people who are helpful. For instance, he celebrates Rebecca for helping to block a bad paparazzi photo.
So I spoke to the owner of the sun.
You spoke to God?
No, the newspaper. And he has agreed to not run the photo of you and Keeley MVP.
Left leg. Okay.
Thank you, Ted.
Bad leaders actually get their emotional reactions backwards. They react to good work with mild praise, and they save their big emotional reactions for when they’re yelling at people because they screwed up. Now, that said, as a leader, you do need to create an environment where bad actions have consequences. But the key is to do it in a matter of fact way and not become someone who takes joy in punishing other people. This next scene shows it well. For context, if you don’t watch the show, jamie is faking an injury here in protest of being moved to the bench, and he’s basically refusing to practice unless he starts. Tell you what.
Do me a favor. When you get out there, set the cone so the other reserves can do a little. Passenger.
Will say it’s quite nice seeing Jamie put in his place once. Thrilling, even.
No. This is the no shot in Freud zone, right? Nine shot and Freud. All right.
Being able to strike that balance of celebrating when people do well and having consequences for if they do something bad is a sign of strong leadership. Now, these last two habits are signs of a natural leader that have less to do with other people and more to do with your own mindset. The first is a belief in a motivating vision. Steve Jobs has the best iconic story of this. When Steve was young and needed an all star CEO for Apple, he was able to poach John Scully from Pepsi. This was a huge win because at the time, pepsi was much larger and more well regarded. So how is Steve Jobs able to convince John to quit and come to Apple? Listen to John describe what happened.
And then he looked up at me and just stared at me with this stare that only Steve Jobs has. And he said, do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?
By framing Pepsi as a company that just makes sugar water, steve reframes his job offer. This isn’t about money or prestige anymore. It’s not about which company is bigger. It’s about doing something that’s meaningful, quote unquote motivating people towards a random goal they don’t care about will be a constant battle against inaction because they don’t care about what you’re trying to achieve. You also heard there how John specifically mentions Steve’s eye contact. That’s because it’s not just about saying you’re going to do something big. Anyone can do that. It’s about subcommunicating with your non verbals that you really believe it will happen. In a word, it’s conviction. Ted shows that belief in his team even after suffering a season ending loss and demotion to a lower league.
So the next year we get ourselves a promotion, which looks good on any resume. Then we come back to this league and we do something that no one believes we could ever do win the whole fucking thing they are.
That said, don’t deny reality. This is a major mistake some people make when first becoming a leader. They want to be optimistic and show they have faith in their team, so they pretend things are going better than they actually are. You cannot get where you want to go until you admit where you currently are. The show writers knew that even the eternal optimist Ted couldn’t believably turn around a team without acknowledging that they’re not in a good place and they need to shake things up. You can watch the scene here.
Got ourselves a tie game. That’s work, fellas. We’re broken. We need to change.
If you’re unwilling to admit where you’re weak or what areas of your life aren’t where you want them to be, then you’ll never be able to put the work in to get better. This is something a lot of people struggle with, especially when it relates to things like leadership, confidence and social skills. It’s extremely common to tell yourself lies like, well, I didn’t get that promotion because life’s unfair. It’s harder to admit, I didn’t get it because I don’t do great work, or I don’t have the people skills to make my boss like me. Similarly, it’s easy to go to a bar and tell your friends, no one here is attractive. It’s harder to admit, yes, that person is attractive, but I’m scared to talk to them. Before you can improve, you need to be able to take an honest assessment of where you are and how near or far you actually are from where you want to be. Does that ring true or strike a nerve? Is there an area in your own life where you secretly wish you were doing better? Acknowledge it, accept it, even if you don’t like it, and that will allow you to improve in that area.
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