More lessons from Ted Lasso. Be a “Beard”!

More leadership lessons from the hit Apple TV show, Ted Lasso. Last week I blogged about the importance of being positive. This week, let’s talk about learning to support like coach Beard.

What in the world is a “Beard”

Simply put, Beard is a person who is willing to be #2. In the TV show, Coach Beard is there to support the leader, Ted. He has subjugated his life in order to help Ted. He’s even traveled thousands of miles for Ted!

Putting it a another way, Beard is a “First follower“. He is pointing to the leader and rallying people to his side. Ted knows that Beard will be there for him. He won’t be alone. Leaders are nothing without someone following them. And, someone has to be the first to follow. If you are unsure that you’ll have anyone on your team, you have to expend more energy to create even the smallest amount of momentum.

It’s tough being a Beard

We aren’t wired to want to be a Beard. We want the credit. Everyone wants this. It takes strong character to resist this pull. And, why wouldn’t we want the credit. The credit usually comes attached to money and notoriety. People look up to you and admire you. You might be overlooked and underpaid and you might find yourself moving at times in a direction that you disagree with.

There’s a classic moment in the show where Ted is confronted by Beard over the issue of winning and losing. When you watch the clip below you can see how much pain Beard is going through. He wants to support Ted, but he just doesn’t agree with the direction that Ted is taking. Being #2 is gut wrenching at times.

So why be a Beard?

First off, not everyone can be the overall leader. In every situation there will be a leader. That may be you, but most of the time it will be someone else. If you can’t be humble enough to follow that leader, the team will suffer.

Secondly, you will almost always have someone in leadership over you. You might be the coach of the team, like Ted. But, remember that Ted has someone over him that owns the club, Rebecca. He has to follow her lead. You might be a teacher which makes you the leader in your classroom, but the principal leads you and the school board leads the principal and on and on it goes.

Lastly, there is freedom in being #2. The buck doesn’t stop at your door. You don’t have to explain failures to those above you. Not only does this give freedom, but it should also help you to appreciate the leader. They are in the line of fire. Ted did almost all of the press conferences, not Beard.

If you can’t follow, you can’t lead

I believe that learning to follow well is the greatest training ground for leadership. Watching the leader and looking for ways to help them is a great education. Not only does the team benefit from your support of the leader, you will benefit from the thrill of true and honest support.

When you are following, you will see mistakes being made. You’ll have times when you believe you can do things better, these are learning opportunities. No one is saying you have to stay with this leader forever. (Spoiler alert, Beard breaks off from Ted at the end of the series.)

Learning to “lead up”

One of the largest lessons you’ll learn from being a Beard is the skill of ‘leading up’. This is the ability to influence your leader in order to make the team more successful. There are numerous ways to accomplish this and I think that’ll make an excellent topic for a future post. Until then, I hope you’ll find someone or somewhere that you can be a ‘Coach Beard’. Good luck!

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