Ted Lasso: Leadership Lessons Take 2

Seldom can we say that watching a television show will help you gain insights into what it means to lead better, but in the case of Ted Lasso, Season 2, it is true. In 2022,  I wrote a post about the management lessons gained from Season 1, and now I find that the sequel season is even richer. The characters have matured, their frailties more pronounced, and their strengths deepened. 

Chief among them, of course, is the lead character, Ted Lasso (played by Jason Sudeikis, who co-created the Apple+ series). In his second season as manager of AFC Richmond, an English football team, we find that his often cheery attitude and never say quit demeanor stems partly from a loss suffered as a teenager. This fact gives his character a richer dimension that makes exploration of his journey and that of his colleagues all the more compelling.

Community at work

Standing back a bit, the series depicts community – among the team, the organization, and the fans themselves. What unites each is a commitment to one another and a greater goal of doing their best. They embody Ted’s mantra, “Believe,” symbolized by the hand-painted sign posted in the locker room.

Here are a few key aspects worthy of consideration.

Trust. Fundamental to leadership is belief. For a leader, trust is earned by showing respect for others, understanding their needs, and doing what is necessary to bring people together. Trust takes much work and patience, as Ted quietly and repeatedly shows in his interactions with others. Hard work, yes, but so necessary.

Difference. The key characters in the show all have their own agendas, which is good for comedy and drama because it gives us a compelling reason to pay attention. Their differences, however, underscore their sense of community. They disagree, argue, and even fight, but they are bound to one another by – and yes, there’s that word – belief in the greater good – the team.

Mentorship. There is a lovely scene where Keeley speaks to Higgins, the team president, about her future. Higgins replies with a beautiful quote about mentorship. “A good mentor hopes you move on. A great mentor knows you will.”In other words, mentorship is about enabling the mentee to achieve their goals, not the mentors.

Grace. The series is a celebration of kindness. Ted is the embodiment of a kind person who lives his creed. Never is this true when Ted discovers that he has been betrayed. He embodies what it means to lead with grace under pressure. He keeps his cool, harbors no ill will, and moves forward. Notably, after working with team therapist, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, how show himself some grace, and in doing so provides a valuable lesson in self-care.

Stronger for being together

All of these factors – trust, difference, mentorship, and grace – come together to strengthen the AFC Richmond community. Players, coaches, staff, owners, and fans believe in the team. They embody the words of singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, “I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.” The team is their community, a community that accepts them for who they are quirks and all

The lessons of Ted Lasso embody a dictum of the legendary Hollywood director Billy Wilder. “Never bore people. And if you have something important to say, wrap it in chocolate.” And that’s precisely what the Ted Lasso series does. It is out loud, funny, as well as piercingly poignant. Characters win and lose, and most come out the better for their struggles, like life.

First posted on Forbes.com 02.00.2023