Isn’t leadership in and of itself about you, the leader, entirely?? Both SLG and Ted Lasso suggest otherwise.
A wise mustached man from the Midwest once said, “For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It's about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves, on and off the field.” If you have been inspired by a selfless style of leadership embodied by a fictional soccer coach that transcends the individual, you are one of millions of fans captivated by Ted Lasso’s charm.
I too was captivated by his words of wisdom, his innocent ignorance of English “football” and his magical biscuit-making talents. As I got further into the series, I realized why the show offered so much more than entertainment and was truly a study in inspirational leadership. Ted Lasso, played brilliantly by Jason Sudekis, initially seems in many ways to be the anti-leader. Empathetic, vulnerable and humble, he doesn’t appear to be in it for the wins at all. This is humorously demonstrated by his lack of understanding of the offsides rule but poetically captured in his relationships with the team and his desire to bring the best out in each of his players.
What is this style of leadership?
As a recent graduate of Seven Leadership Group’s Fellows Program, I can understand the draw to Ted’s style of leadership. When I first started the program, my vision of a leader was more in line with Rupert Mannion, the power-hungry former owner of the Richmond team, someone in charge, disconnected from the people under him, and largely interested in personal gain. My perspective on leadership shifted enormously during the SLG Fellows Program and I came to realize the significant positive impact that Ted’s way of leading could have. Leading with love was his style and I could see why it resonated. I began to see the correlation between the “Lasso Way” and what I was learning in my SLG sessions.
“It starts with you but it isn’t about you”
I encountered this saying in my SLG Fellowship many times and initially it seemed counterintuitive. Isn’t leadership in and of itself about you, the leader, entirely?? Both SLG and Ted Lasso suggest otherwise. Reflecting on your own strengths and weaknesses allows you to become a better leader and be able to more effectively serve those around you. SLG strives for personal growth in order to better serve teams just as Lasso moves the focus away from the win and towards the players becoming their best selves.
“Be a Goldfish”
In one of the most recognizable quotes from the show, Lasso shares some wisdom with a player who has just made a mistake on the field. He tells him that a goldfish is the happiest animal in the world because it has a 10-second memory, suggesting that he should move on from his mistake. SLG has a similar approach in their teachings on failure. Encouraging one to move on from mistakes by using them as lessons. Not to dwell on them but to use them as learning opportunities shifting the negative view of failure to one more of positivity and goldfish happiness.
The Diamond Dogs
Lasso and his fellow coaches hold “Diamond Dog” meetings where they can share their feelings, talk about relationships, and encourage one another. This is directly in line with SLG’s focus on Emotional Intelligence and the importance of knowing your own EQ in order to balance different attributes. Just as the Diamond Dogs rallied around each other, my mentor and the SLG Network supported me in my own emotional growth which is an integral part of leadership.
Into his second season as coach, Lasso makes a shift in the team setup to something he refers to as “total soccer.” Instead of players staying in set positions, they move around the field giving them freedom, while making sure that every open position gets filled. It becomes all about the team working together to achieve greatness rather than a couple of key players taking all the credit and staying static in their positions. Similarly, SLG encourages leaders to focus on the health of their teams and achieving excellence through bringing out the best in everyone by working together, knowing your team and being able to achieve levels of excellence because everyone on the team is in sync with each other.
Any fan of the show would recognize the iconic, yellow sign with blue lettering that spells out “BELIEVE” and hangs in the Richmond Locker room. Lasso encourages the players to turn inward and believe in themselves and in each other. As a leader, he encourages them to focus on their purpose, summed up by Danny Roja’s constant insistence that “football is life.” SLG similarly tasks leaders with a deep dive to discover their own purpose and what is at their Core, to believe in and cultivate the virtues of love, integrity, truth, excellence, and relationships (LITER). In doing so they can help create a better future for their team, the community and ultimately the world.
Fans who have watched all three seasons know that while Lasso generates these ideas and words of wisdom, it ultimately isn’t the “Lasso Way” that transforms the team. In a heartfelt scene towards the end of the series (semi-spoiler alert here) Lasso suggests a title change to a novel written about the team. His suggestion of naming the book “The Richmond Way” embodies Lasso’s belief that it was never about him as the leader. It was about the entirety of the team and what they accomplished together. Much like the humility Lasso shows here, SLG encourages leaders to understand themselves first, make personal changes to strengthen their core through the LITER virtues, and then let their behaviors be an example as they develop others on their team.
The similarities between one of my favorite series and the transformational SLG Fellows program have made a lasting impact. Binging the series and participating in the program gave me the tools to focus on my own purpose and how I wanted to lead moving forward. Both the “Lasso Way” & the “SLG Way” informed changes in my professional and personal life that have been transformational. By starting with myself, identifying and believing that I could make changes, holding some “Diamond Dog” sessions with my mentors and family, and adopting a goldfish mentality I have been able to find a deeper connection to my work and a greater sense of well being.
Renee Sherwood is an SLG Fellow from the 2023 Virtual Cohort program. After her fellowship, she was thrilled to become a part of the SLG as their Operations Manager. She is passionate about education, leading with love, and making a difference in her community.