This Halloween, I dressed up as my favorite superhero, Ted Lasso. Trading in the traditional cape for a chestnut brown mustache, my costume choice is a no-brainer. And not just because I already have a mustache, but because, in my opinion, Lasso is the hero we need.
A year ago, Apple TV+ released Ted Lasso, a show about a small-time American football coach who accepts a job in the U.K. coaching the AFC Richmond football team. This show became a huge success with fans and critics alike, earning numerous Emmy awards and the admiration of millions. Even William Shatner is a "Ted Head."
The success of this show may seem surprising. From the outside perspective, there is nothing extraordinary about Ted Lasso. He's a regular, if not kind of dweeby, guy coaching football in England. So what?
While it may be hard to pinpoint exactly why so many people are drawn to this show, one thing is for sure -- Ted Lasso represents the kind of leader that inspires us.
He exudes his leadership style in the most unsuspecting sort of way. His charisma flies under the radar, masked by a charming, if childish, naivete. Still, one thing is clear: Workplaces need more Ted Lasso-like leaders.
Great leaders are willing to be vulnerable
Rule No. 1: Never let them see you sweat. If this is something you tell yourself, you're not alone. The belief that vulnerability equals weakness is pervasive, and it prevents many of us from being our true, authentic selves at work. This is in spite of the strong link between vulnerability and courage.
Much like the rest of us, Ted also struggles with insecurities. When he suffers a panic attack during one of his team's games, he feels embarrassed, so he lies about it. However, when the truth is later revealed to the public, he doesn't get defensive or scramble to control the narrative. He opens up to the team about his mental health issues and apologizes for not being more forthright with them.
In this instance, what sets Ted apart isn't his lack of fear but his willingness to shine a spotlight on his personal struggles in order to be transparent with his team.
Great leaders are OK with being "the bad guy"
Most leaders want to be liked by their teams -- it's human nature. There is nothing inherently wrong with striving for likability. The issue arises when leaders need to be liked. If you're one of those leaders, you can probably think back to numerous times when you avoided making an important decision because of how you thought it would be received. While this may allow you to feel more accepted by your team, in the long run, you may end up driving your business into the ground.
This is another instance where Ted stands out. He is willing to make decisions that he believes are best for the team, even if it frustrates everyone else. When Jamie, their star player, refuses to pass the ball, Ted benches him. This decision angers an entire stadium of fans, but Ted knew it was the right thing to do for the sake of the club.
Great leaders see the value in self-care
When leaders focus squarely on supporting and guiding their team, they tend to neglect their own well-being. This is where self-care can help. Contrary to popular belief, self-care doesn't mean indulging in every whim that makes you happy. It's about doing things that improve your mental and physical health which ultimately protect you from burning out.
When Dr. Sharon, a sports psychologist, is brought in to help the team, Ted is adamant in his refusal to participate in a session with her. However, as his anxiety worsens, he eventually turns to her for support. By leaning into the therapy, Ted learns to take care of himself and cope with his panic attacks, so that he can be there for his team when they need him.
Great leaders focus on others' intentions, not their actions alone
As a leader, when your team says or does something that frustrates or offends you, it can be tempting to take it personally. In turn, your reaction can trigger an emotional response in the brain known as an "amygdala highjack." When this happens, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, making it exceedingly difficult to make rational decisions.
Throughout the show, there are numerous instances when Ted could have been offended but wasn't. That's because one of his strengths is his ability to focus on why people do what they do. When Rebecca confesses to sabotaging his every move, Ted doesn't lash out or storm off. He instantly forgives her because he knows that, while his life was affected by her actions, her intent wasn't to hurt him. Likewise, Ted doesn't get offended by Jamie's poor attitude because he understands why Jamie behaves that way.
Ted's ability to focus on intentions lets his team know that he sees them for who they are and is committed to investing in their professional and personal development, even when they make mistakes.