Ted Lasso first aired on Apple TV on August 14th, 2020, during the Covid 19 pandemic. Viewers were quickly drawn to him because of his optimism, can-do attitude, humility, and empathy. His personal characteristics were soon recognized as effective leadership qualities which were needed at a time when the world united in a cry for resilience, optimism, understanding, and humble, vulnerable leaders.
Human-Centered Leadership in Healthcare, a contemporary theory, based on findings of a qualitative research study, was developed in late 2019 – early 2020, just before the pandemic. When nurses, from the bedside to the boardroom, were asked to describe the “leader they would follow to the ends of the earth,” the leader turned out to be very much like Ted Lasso. We call that leader a Human-Centered Leader.
During our first professional engagement, in early 2021, our team, uLeadership, found ourselves using clips from the Ted Lasso series to demonstrate the dimensions of a Human-Centered Leader: Care for Self, Awakener, Connector, and Upholder. The key mantra of Human-Centered Leadership in Healthcare is, “It starts with you but it’s not about you!” I think you’ll agree that Ted did a good job of demonstrating this!
It starts with you…
Like many of us, Ted occasionally experienced anxiety and stress. He was hesitant to reach out for help but ultimately discovered that when he asked for support, advice, and feedback, it deepened his relationship with himself and others. His vulnerability was very human and authentic. As it turned out, caring for himself likely made him more able to effectively lead and care for others.
Ted showed us all that we need to treat ourselves with grace and kindness. When the team was lamenting their loss of a big, important game, Ted’s response was, “You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? It’s got a 10-second memory.” Ted wanted the team to experience the pain of their loss together but to not let the pain and disappointment keep them from moving forward.
But it’s not about you!
II. Awakener – Cultivate your people to lead to a Culture of Excellence.
Ted states his mission for this team is about “helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves, on and off the field.” His love for each player and commitment to their individual growth played out in his experience with every character surrounding AFC Richmond. Ted believed in each team member.
Ted wanted to understand the team members’ internal motivation. He once said, “Boy, I love meeting people’s moms. It’s like reading an instruction manual as to why they’re nuts.” Once he better understood each team member, he knew how to better connect with their “why” and help them become “the best version of themself.” This informed his ability to individualize coaching and mentoring.
III. Connector – Bring unity to the community to develop a Culture of Trust.
Ted was an attentive listener to his team and colleagues, always valuing their input and demonstrating his trust in them. Remember the locker room scene when Ted allowed Nate to share his observations and feedback with the team? Ted’s decision to trust Nate, who was merely a waterboy at the time, with the important task of delivering the pregame talk, demonstrated his trust in each team member as a contributor.
Ted also encouraged the team to embrace change and provided what was needed to help them overcome challenges. Ted once said, “Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn’t it? If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.” He modeled and mentored embracing challenges and change, just like the Human-Centered Leader who embraces “edgewalking.”
IV. Upholder – Recognizes the humanity in others and builds a Culture of Caring.
One of the most valuable lessons, Ted consistently demonstrated was his emotional intelligence. This skill is highly visible as he empathized with others; listened deeply; had a positive attitude; approached challenges with level-headedness; prioritized building positive relationships; soughtwin-win solutions to conflict; and recognized his own strengths and weaknesses. Basically, he influenced those around him in a positive way and created a supportive and inclusive environment. He reminded us all to “Be curious, not judgmental.”
All the way to the end of the third and final season, Ted Lasso didn’t disappoint us Human-Centered Leaders. When Trent Crimm, the journalist played by James Lance, shared the name of the book he wrote about the team’s season as, “The Lasso Way”, Ted corrected him: “It’s not about me – it never was.”
It starts with you but it’s not about you!