The Ted Lasso show has become a hit worldwide. It has been nominated for multiple Emmys and has won numerous awards. What has been most surprising about the hit show is people’s reaction to Coach Lasso’s compassionate, collaborative, generous and positive outlook. Many are calling his approach a breath of fresh air in leadership.
**Warning: spoilers ahead**
The show follows a small time football coach who is hired to coach a professional soccer team in England despite having had no previous experience. He gets hired by the owner Rebecca in an attempt to hurt her ex-husband who loves soccer. Eventually though Rebecca is charmed by Ted’s easy going and thoughtful approach (plus his baking!) and due to his people skills, the team begins to do very well under his leadership.
Here is why I think Ted Lasso’s coaching style offers a great example of compassionate leadership.
1-First, he has enough self-awareness to know that he doesn’t have to know it all and that he needs support. Compassionate leaders are kind to themselves when they don’t know about a topic and are open to learning. This is demonstrated via Ted’s comments such as “you could fill two internets with what I don’t know about football.” Ted does not judge himself because he has no experience. He sees it as an opportunity to learn.
2- Coach Lasso’s openness to feedback is reflected in his acceptance of redirection, feedback or correction from Coach Beard, Nate and Roy. “I want you to know, I value each of your opinions, even when you’re wrong.” Although this comment was made in jest, compassionate leaders are not afraid of feedback from others or afraid to change their minds. They believe in themselves and surround themselves with people that make them better.
3-Compassionate leaders focus beyond the duality of winning and losing. They understand that success is about ensuring everyone is being supported to be the best they can be. Compassionate leaders place people over profits and success because they know this is the way to attain those things. Ted also understands that true success comes from the flourishing of each individual player as illustrated when he said, “For me success is not about the wins or losses, it’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves, on or off the field.”
4-Compassionate leaders are caring leaders. When Sam was homesick, Ted gives him a gift from his home country so that he would feel a little bit less sad about being far away from home. Ted also understands the power of community and collaboration, “If you care about someone, and you got a little love in your heart, there ain’t nothing you can’t get through together.”
5-Compassionate leaders understand the power of self-compassion and the need to put their own oxygen masks on first. When Ted was struggling with his own issues, he didn’t perform as well, as when he took time out to get support from Dr. Sharon Niles. Once he was able to vocalize what his issues were, he was able to then support his team once again in his full capacity. Also, Ted doesn’t allow his team to be hard on themselves, understanding that it is not motivating to themselves or others. “You beating yourself up is like Woody Allen playing the clarinet. I don’t want to hear it.”
6-Compassionate leaders are not judgmental. They suspend their own beliefs and as Ted suggests, “Be curious. Not judgmental.” Curiosity is the cornerstone of compassion.
7-Compassionate leaders understand and see the best in their staff/players/team even when they don’t see it themselves. One of the first things Ted Lasso did was put up a sign (a crooked one) with the word BELIEVE. Compassionate leaders understand that believing is seeing and not the other way around. If you believe you are more than ½ way there!
8-Compassionate leaders listen to the needs of their staff/team/players and act quickly on what they hear. Ted lasso asked his players for suggestions on improvements early on in his coaching career, they identified food and water pressure as their key issues. He addressed these issues very quickly and the players are shocked because they had endured these issues for so long! By addressing these small but long term issues quickly, Ted lasso gained his players’ TRUST.
In my interview with Steve Farber, author of Love is Just Damn Good Business (here). He talks about how leaders who are responsive, even about the little things, demonstrate that they value input from their staff. If you acquire input but don’t move on it…you might as well not ask.
9-Compassionate leaders do not believe in hierarchy…they know leadership comes from all levels. Coach Lasso ensured that he knew the name of everyone on the team, even the water/kit boy. He also promoted Nate and listened to his ideas and gave him appropriate credit where needed. Compassionate leaders understand that networks not hierarchies are the future.
10- Lastly, compassionate leaders are wise and mindful. They understand the power that being in the present moment provides. Your power to change things is always in the present. So often we get bogged down by our own thoughts and fears, that it prevents us from getting inspiration and from taking risks. As Ted states, “You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a ten-second memory. Be a goldfish, Sam.”
This is one of my favorite Ted quotes. Which one is yours?
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