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Aspiring To Lead Like Ted Lasso

| July 18, 2023

by Susan Washburn

Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Susan Washburn, Program Leader and Leadership Coach at MOR Associates.  Susan may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

It will come as no surprise to many that I am a huge Ted Lasso fan, and I will miss Ted and the gang.   It was so refreshing to see a television show achieve great success with a leader that was kind, ethical, humane, caring, and funny.  Ted reminds me of many of the leaders I have met in my time with MOR.  Now, granted the language can get a bit raunchy and I am sure there are behaviors displayed by some of the characters that some find offensive.  I am not here to advocate for those parts of the series.  I am here to advocate for a different kind of leadership – the kind that doesn’t seem to make the headlines, and yet is a type of leadership that I think many of us aspire to demonstrate.

First, Ted had no idea how to do the job he was hired to do.  In fact, he was hired to fail, an American football coach hired to coach soccer (football) in England.  Raise your hand if you have ever found yourself in THAT position!  I know I have.  But he went with optimism and humility.  He accepted his imperfections and worked on his weaknesses.  Most importantly he led with his unique strengths and didn’t try to be anyone else.  I felt as though his attitude was to be himself, always try to be better, and not take criticism as a negative.  In fact, he and his wife had a code word when they wanted the other to share honest, open feedback – Oklahoma.  

Secondly, he was kind.  He always seemed to find ways to get beyond the surface behaviors of the individuals he was leading and discover who they really were, and what mattered to them.  He met them where they were, rather than where others expected them to be.  Isn’t that something we at MOR have been encouraging leaders to do?  

Third, talk about embracing diversity!  He seemed to see every player and colleague as an individual and celebrated as well as admired their differences.  He gave his players an opportunity to shine.  He never took credit for anyone else’s success.  He always accepted the responsibility for failure.  And then, he got up and tried again.

And lastly, humor.  Ted had his own pain, his own sadness, his own hurt.  He didn’t pretend he didn’t.  But he did laugh and he made others laugh.  He did so without insulting, demeaning, swearing, ridiculing or even sarcasm (of which I happen to be a fan, but that’s for another day).

He could laugh at himself and find humor in everyday things.  He could find joy in something as simple as a friendly conversation with a neighbor.   He was, above all, grateful.  Whether it was biscuits for Rebecca, FaceTime with his son, or his acknowledged hatred of English tea, he was honest, grateful, bold, and kind.   Be like Ted.

In what way do you most want to be like Ted?

Last week we asked about ways you may have experienced impostorism:

  • 34% said “Perfectionist” – It needs to be done just right
  • 20% said “Superhuman” – I need to do it all
  • 15% said “Expert” – I need to know everything
  • 11% said “Natural Genius” – It needs to come fast and easy
  • 10% said “Soloist” – I need to do it on my own
  • 10% said they do not regularly experience thoughts of impostorism

Perhaps the most noteworthy finding from last week’s survey is that 90% of members of this leadership community have experienced thoughts of impostorism in one of its many forms.  If you are part of that 90% know that you are not alone.  Many well-accomplished individuals have identified with experiencing impostorism, including Albert Einstein, Sheryl Sandberg, Tom Hanks, Maya Angelou, Howard Schultz, and Natalie Portman.  Add to that list the fictitious Ted Lasso.  However, despite the challenges he faced, we can reflect on Ted’s steadfast confidence and authenticity in bringing himself to each situation.  How can the lessons of Ted – more optimism, humility, kindness, admiration of others, and humor – help us as we consider our own approach to impostorism?