Lessons in Leadership from Ted Lasso: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

[Photo: Apple TV+]

As a big fan of the Apple TV series Ted Lasso, a recent article from FastCompany caught my attention – “Was Ted Lasso’s leadership to blame for Nate’s betrayal?” If you’re familiar with the show, you know about the rift between head coach Ted and his assistant coach Nate. I want to share my perspective on this issue, as I believe it has important implications for all (but especially) new leaders.

Holly Prather

Holly Prather, Chief Operations Officer at Leadership Louisville Center

Ted Lasso’s job as a coach is to create an environment where his team members can thrive. It’s not about him, it’s about them. As leaders, we need to be humble enough to recognize that we don’t have all the answers, and that our team members have unique perspectives and strengths that we can learn from. This is why organizations that understand the need for nurturing and teaching rising leaders and their teams will find the most success during these transitions.

As Nate moved into a leadership role within the team, he mistakenly attributes the team’s success primarily to his technical expertise. He fails to recognize the instrumental role that Ted played in creating the team culture. As we move up in management and leadership, our role evolves from being a technical expert to helping others perform at their best. It’s a transition that can be challenging, and a common one. Most leaders come into the workplace with expertise around their field, and as they are promoted into management roles, it’s critical to gain expertise in leading both themselves and others. Becoming an expert in either of these is a career-long endeavor, and the most successful leaders consider themselves lifelong learners for this reason. So where to start?

Here are some skills that will help you combat those common (but damaging) tendencies and bring your leadership style toward the Ted-end of the spectrum:

Leading Self

Cultivating emotional intelligence, or EQ, can be one of the most effective tools for making the needed adjustments to effectively get things done with and through others. As we ascend the ranks and take on new responsibilities, we often find ourselves falling into the same trap as our dear friend Nate did in Ted Lasso. We think we need to be the expert in everything, but in truth, our ability to lead comes from our self-awareness and our capacity to form meaningful relationships with our colleagues. This requires us to dig deep and make the necessary adjustments to effectively work with others. Bestselling author Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, provides very clear and practical advice in this area. And if you’re looking for additional support, our LeadingBetter course, Level Up: From Leading Self to Leading Others, incorporates Goldsmith’s solution-based curriculum, along with emotional intelligence and change management principles to help you grow as a leader. Remember, true leaders know that there’s always room for improvement when it comes to building strong relationships with others.

Leading Others

Leading others is an essential part of long-term development, and the ultimate goal for managers is to 1.) create an environment that brings out the best in their teams, while 2.) nurturing the growth of individuals along the way. How do you achieve both of these? In our LeadingBetter course, Developing & Leading High-Performance Teams, we cover the Six C’s: Conscious Leadership, Common Purpose, Communication, Collaboration, Conflict Management, and Celebration. These skills require emotional intelligence, empathy, and connection with your team members. If you want to see these skills in action, watch Ted Lasso or read another FastCompany article, “5 Times Ted Lasso Reminded Us What Great Leadership Looks Like.” Remember, it’s more about relationships and motivation than technical expertise.

Coaching individuals can be the most challenging part of this. For those who like having a formula for employee development, the world’s most taught leadership training model, Situational Leadership II from Ken Blanchard Companies, gives leaders a language and a framework to appropriately respond to the needs of each person. This model is available for First-Time Managers and has been especially useful in my journey as new team members are added, and others are in different stages of development and responsibility.

Leaders are high-performing and achievement-oriented individuals, and many of us continuously work towards growth in understanding and effectiveness. Especially as the world of work changes, the needs of teams and individuals continue to evolve, including leaders themselves. As someone in a leadership role, working for a leadership organization, it’s especially nice to gain insights while enjoying a show like Ted Lasso. It’s a good reminder of what my focus should be and where I can access resources. It’s bittersweet to enjoy the final season of the show, but I’ll certainly be using it as my cheat sheet for leadership lessons!


Looking for additional support for leading yourself or others?

We’d love to discuss how our leadership training courses can best fit your organization’s needs, and our Director of Business Development Paul Bolton, is the perfect person to talk to about those opportunities. Contact Paul Bolton at pbolton@leadershiplouisville.org. Or fill out the form below, and he’ll reach out:

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