Lasso on Leadership

It’s been a busy few weeks of fixing people’s retic and a lot of time spent in the car driving between jobs. I have a range of podcasts I listen to spasmodically and this week I tuned in to Brene Brown to see what was going on there.

Curiously she had Jason Sudeikis on the show because of his part in the Apple TV, Ted Lasso comedy series. I had watched an episode and found it rather banal and a little silly. So I only listened to 10 minutes of the podcast before flipping to another one. But it got me curious. She was fawning over him like he was some kind of God figure! What did Brown see in Lasso? What on earth had this show to offer that I missed? I decided to give it another shot and I was so glad I did.

The storyline is quite simple. The husband and wife owners of a British football team divorce and she keeps the club, but she hates her ex husband so much that she makes it her goal to destroy the club, in part by hiring an American with no previous experience in soccer to be the new replacement coach.

Its a somewhat silly premise – which was why I stopped watching – but when I went back I found some great laughs, but also some valuable lessons on leadership.

Everyone hates Ted Lasso, the new coach. Chats of ‘wanker’ go round the stadium each day when the team plays. He is verbally assaulted with the same term as he walks the streets or goes out to dinner. But he cops it on the chin, doesn’t retaliate and chooses to see past the insults. He looks for ways to connect with the players who brutally dismiss him as a waste of space, but the only ally he finds is Nate, the awkward bag boy who gets continually bullied and harassed by the team. He recruits one lame loser and starts his work there.

Each day he brings his steely boss biscuits – and kindness – both gifts she is unsure how to respond to. But his relentless kindness wins her over. He refuses to be fased by her initial coldness and just keeps loving her. She buckles under the sheer weight of grace.

Lasso gets Nate to create a suggestion box. 90% of the suggestions involve telling him to go and do something unpleasant, but one states that the shower pressure is very bad and could be improved. He allows the insults to go thru to the keeper while the one genuine suggestion gets his attention and he fixes the problem. He puts love into action.

But Ted arrives in England carrying his own load – his marriage is all but over and he is devastated – a broken man himself. He presents almost like Ned Flanders, but his genuineness and love actually win over those who despised him and he begins to turn the team around.

I never did finish the podcast, but I guess Brown would have loved the rawness of the conversations Ted engaged in and gave permission for. He connected with both the powerful icy boss and the weak vulnerable bagboy and treated both with the same love and kindness, winning them over. He fostered a culture of honesty, vulnerability and optimism – Ted is incurably optimistic!

You could critique it for being a little bit lacking in depth and complexity, or you could tune in to the interactions between characters – the powerful and the insignificant and see how Lasso builds a community out of a disparate bunch of individuals. The man who loves to coach, but knows nothing of the sport, does such a wonderful job of team building that the end results are almost insignificant. Lasso began by stating that wining wasn’t his goal, much to the consternation of his co-corkers and the team’s supporters, but I guess his message would be that if you focus on team unity then winning will flow from that. Take that away and its an unlikely hope.

I loved Ted Lasso’s boundless optimism, resilience and occasional rants. I loved seeing his team form and old enemies put down their weapons as they learnt new ways of relating. Ted helped them become better human beings – not just better football players.

Lasso was a leader but not recognised as one by those who only had one lens to look thru. He chose humility and serving and although his method was considered weak he ended up getting the results while also developing the people.

Its on Apple TV and well worth a binge watch 🙂

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