A Leadership lesson from Ted Lasso

Apple TV’s award winning show Ted Lasso has a surprising amount of leadership lessons. The most obvious lesson being, stay positive! Let’s look at why being positive is better than being negative and finish up with a vital quality to add to your positive approach.

Positive v Negative leadership

Leadership is all about getting people to do what you want or need them to do, right? So, why do we need to care about being positive? All we need to do is to get people to do their work, right?

First off, let’s admit that negative leaders get faster results. They intimidate and bully their team until their team does what they’re told. It’s easy for others to look at these quick results and think that this is the best approach. But, before you decide to go down this path, take a look at this team in a few years. You will find that many people have moved on to get away from the abusive environment. Those that stay have probably stopped listening and have grown numb to the negative environment. You’ll find these negative leaders moving around from place to place because they can’t sustain their results using their negative techniques.

Positive leadership doesn’t yield quick results. My experience as a teacher has taught me that it takes years to mold a group into a cohesive and effective team. Using the example from ‘Ted Lasso’ It took three seasons before that team came together. And, they get a lot worse before they got better. Leading positively takes courage and patience. You are building people up and coaxing the best out of them. That will require trust and trust takes time to build.

I think the best example from the real world of positive coaching/leadership was John Wooden. I highly recommend that you study his approach to leadership. Ted Lasso had his pyramid of success hanging on his wall for a reason. They obviously patterned a great deal of his character from the great UCLA head basketball coach.

Add compassion to positivity

Hopefully you are convinced to take the positive approach to leadership. But, before you go all ‘Ted Lasso’ on your team you’ll need to consider adding this one thing to your positive approach. Show compassion.

In the Ted Lasso series, the main character has marital issues. He indicates that his wife has problems with his constant positivity and it’s easy to see where this would be exhausting. We can’t immediately look for the positive in every situation. Sometimes things suck and being positive comes across as being out of touch with the real world.

Several years ago I was let go (fired) from a job. I was upset and angry. When I spoke to people about the situation, many of them immediately said, “You’ll find something better!” or “This will turn out to be a good thing!”. Now, those things turned out to be true, but that was not what I needed to hear. I wanted someone to say, “That sucks! I’m so sorry! That was wrong!” I needed someone to sit with me in the pain.

Stay positive! Look for the good! But, be real with people. Otherwise, you are a ‘pie in the sky’ person who doesn’t have your head in the real world. The real world is messy and difficult. Yes, we should strive to approach things positively, but ignoring the realities of a situation will not help. Show your team that you can grieve with them. Learn to sit in the pain with them and you will grow closer together.

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