How to lead like (Ted) Lasso
The Emmy award-winning Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso is loaded with laughs. But at the same time, it offers valuable leadership lessons. Whether it is properly addressing mental health, not standing for oversized egos or just lighting up, there’s a lot we can learn from. KWT Global chief executive Aaron Kwittken explains how we can all be a little more like Lasso.
Apple’s Ted Lasso, which slayed at the Emmy’s, is both an escape and the tonic we need during these tumultuous times. The show, which just aired its second season, at first blush seems silly and sophomoric. It is. It’s also way more than that. Jason Sudeikis, the show’s creator, is as inspiring a leader as his snappy one-liners are hilarious. In his Emmy’s acceptance speech, Sudeikis said, “This show is about family, this show is about mentors and teachers, this show is about teammates, and I wouldn't be here without those three things in my life."
To be honest, I watch Ted Lasso to laugh. But I also walk away from almost every episode learning how to be a better leader and coach for my staff, clients, family, friends and community. Here are a few lessons in leadership from the show that are probably more important now than ever as we slowly emerge from the pandemic and try our best to reverse “the great resignation.”
Don’t take yourself so seriously. Lighten up. The best advice I received when entering the business 30 years ago was “this is PR, not ER” and I was in crisis/issues management. It’s true. Most of us are not saving lives in this business even when we are using our skills for the greater good. It’s important that we maintain this perspective and feel free to be ourselves, be humorous, be human and lead with humility and vulnerability.
Take mental health and wellbeing very seriously. Resource up. I’d like to see every agency as well as our clients provide full-time mental health resources that go beyond hotlines and benefits. I don’t want Billions’ Dr. Wendy Rhoades, that would be a disaster since she’s all about protecting the enterprise. I want someone like Lasso’s Dr. Sharon Fieldstone. I was always told that you should leave your personal life at home and don’t bring your baggage to the office. This is a wrong and outdated adage. Today there are no boundaries between home and work. Companies have an obligation to create safe spaces and provide services that enable staff to process their feelings and be their best selves.
You don’t have to know it all. Hire and inspire experts. Traveling across the pond to coach a sport and culture he knew little about is perhaps the best lesson Lasso gives us. Our job is to be servant leaders, behind the curtain, allowing others to perform their best. We can all be great coaches even if we haven’t played every position on the field. We just need to allow others to show us the way because as long as we are alive, we are lifelong learners.
Practice letting things go. Move on. In season one, Ted loses it when he hears “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen. It was a defining moment for him but also an important lesson for all of us. We can’t focus on the future by dwelling on the past or past mistakes. And failing in something, anything, does not mean you are a failure. It could be a beloved staff member resigning or a client leaving, we need to let these things go and focus on the future. As Ted says ,“You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish.”
In a recent interview with GQ, talking about his breakup with Olivia Wilde, Sudeikis said, “I'll have a better understanding of why in a year, and an even better one in two, and an even greater one in five, and it'll go from being, you know, a book of my life to becoming a chapter to a paragraph to a line to a word to a doodle.”
Quash bad behavior. Remove toxins and toxic people. Willful blindness is the same as committing an injustice yourself. Ted teaches us this when he removes Jaime Tartt from the team for bad behavior, regardless of his incredible skills. It was the right thing to do even if painful. We can’t and shouldn’t tolerate bad behavior from anyone, even if they are high performers.
Ted says, “I believe in hope. I believe in ‘believe.’” While hope is not a strategy, it can be a North Star for all of us. Where there’s life there’s hope and I hope that Ted Lasso continues to bless us all with his lessons through laughter for years to come.
Aaron Kwittken is founder and chief executive of KWT Global.