Ted Lasso leadership is all the rage, with good reason. Learn about leading with empathy, kindness, owning mistakes, and helping others grow.
Ted Lasso’s aw-shucks wisdom and earnest optimism hooked audiences in Season 1. This season, the commitment of the writers, performers, and viewers has expanded (winning four Emmys). The lightheartedness of the first season is still there, but the characters’ familiarity, buoyed by audience investment in the emotional arcs, has created an irresistible intensity.
Speaking of intensity and irresistibility, how about Roy Kent?
Roy Kent makes Ted Lasso stronger
Teams are strengthened by the different approaches and perspectives held in leadership. Roy Kent’s crusty exterior and salty language are holdovers from his days playing football. Ted Lasso’s homespun openness is attributed to a Midwest upbringing and a complete lack of experience in English football. Together, their styles knit the team closer together.
The way they approach coaching, living, and interpersonal communication are miles apart. Or are they? As a parent, I’m incredibly affectionate and sentimental. But, on the other hand, my persona at work is more Roy Kent than Ted Lasso, with high expectations, gruffness, and a footballer’s mouth.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t care for employees or have lower expectations for my kids. It’s the role I play and the capacity to do the most for our team. I’m not the Ted Lasso and my partners aren’t the Roy Kent, but together we are a team that rounds out the needs of our players.
Professional lessons through emotional moments
Ted Lasso is steeped in moments of reckoning cushioned by a midwestern twang and lightened by pitch-perfect humor. Lasso’s second season’s braided storylines and high emotional stakes create deeper connections to the characters’ journey and, quite honestly, our responses to each episode. While it may focus on soccer, the enlightenment is universal.
Knowing how to be authentically supportive
The men and women of Ted Lasso show us through laughter, tears, and a healthy serving of profanity, how to be our best. As AFC Richmond’s season wears on, the players struggle with everything from the yips and family trauma to dating snafus. While Ted, Coach Beard, and Nate plug along in their ways, Roy Kent does things no one else can. Kent doesn’t do something because he has no emotion; rather he sees things differently.
For the TL/DR crowd: a summary*:
Ted Lasso’s Roy Kent provides us with the following workplace wisdom:
- Stay true to your style and your talents
- Embrace learning rather than fearing being wrong
- Understand when to stop
- Allow for differences
- Admit what you don’t know
- It’s worth giving your whole heart
- Preserve the fun
- Nurture what keeps you going
- Passion requires attention
- Settling will always be settling
*Potential spoilers below
Be who you are, anything less is weak
“Jamie, deep down at your core, you are a pri*k. So just be a pri*k.”
Roy Kent is a man of few words because he doesn’t have to say a lot. He’s drawn the lines of how he communicates and what matters to him. When one of the players is having a streak of unremarkable performance, he lasers in on the problem. Jamie had adjusted his playing to be more courteous on the pitch. However, the magic of his playing had always been his defiant pursuit of the win.
“How will I know?” he asked aloud, to which Roy nodded and said he’d get a sign. Improving how we work is fine, but the solution is never wholesale changes to how a person communicates.
When you get it wrong, say so
“Hey Siri, Play the Roy is sorry for not understanding Keeley playlist.”
Communication is a two-way street, so while Roy may know exactly what he needs and means, it’s still possible to miss the not-so-subtle nuance of other people’s needs. This might look like a person who likes to talk through plans and another who prefers to plot things on a chart. The compromises or combinations we make to operate can create more space for different styles to coexist. And, of course, there’s always the option to say sorry and to start over.
Know when you’ve said enough
“Shut up. Just shut up! You had me at coach!”
During a delicious, low-key homage to rom-coms, memorable lines were peppered into the show, this being one of them. It can be tempting to go all-in for a position. As you make your argument, you pick up steam, feeding off the momentum until the point that you’ve stopped talking to someone. Instead, heed the people’s cues and understand when to slow down or allow the other person a chance to speak.
Make room for different traditions
“Stupid barking means it’s over, right?”
The players have their area, and the coaches have a different office situation. At one point, Coach Beard, Nate, Ted, and Higgins discuss something and perform a chant of barks. It displays camaraderie and levity, two things that aren’t high on Roy’s list. He allows them to finish with characteristic detachment. They don’t push him to participate. Neither does he try to end their tradition.
As the workplace expands, moving beyond walls and time zones, the likelihood of being faced with things or ideas that are unfamiliar to us will grow. Finding ways to coexist is essential to establishing a functional workplace.
Admit what you don’t know, like Roy Kent
“We’re not in the locker rooms with them. We’re not on the pitch with them. We can’t look them in the eyes and encourage them to be better than they ever thought they were capable of being. We’re just on the outside looking in. Judging them.”
During his stint as a sports commentator, Roy responded to the endless musings about what the players were thinking or doing with a credible declaration of not knowing. Along the professional spectrum, there are varying levels of involvement. Roy makes a solid point that you can’t ever know what people are thinking. Instead, have opinions on what they do and tips on improving. Always remember that you don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle. So be available, open, and respectful of our different positions.
It’s worth giving your all
“Have some f*cking pride in your shirt or don’t f*cking wear it.”
For athletes, it’s possible to suit up for games and lose. There needs to be a balance between the uniform and the effort. The same is true in the workplace. Don’t punch a time card; stay engaged with a spirit of pride in where you work, what you do, and the people who show up alongside you (in the office or on Zoom or Teams, day after day.)
Nurture the spirit of enjoyment
“I brought you here to remind you that football is a f*cking game that you used to play as a f*cking kid. ‘Cause it was fun, even when you were getting your f*cking legs broken or your f*cking feelings hurt. So, f*ck your feelings, f*ck your overthinking, f*ck all that bullsh*t, go back out there and have some f*cking fun.”
This particular exchange happened as Roy took a player to a soccer field to play with regular people. No rules, no glitz, just the game. The player was apprehensive, concerned about injuries or wasting his time. However, once he gave himself to the experience, he rediscovered his love of the game, and in doing so, his performance improved. The lesson here: Sometimes we need help getting out of our heads and into the game.
Roy Kent knows the flame needs to be guarded
“You gotta date your wife.”
Roy was quoting Motley Crue as he spoke to a taxi driver. Nonetheless, the wisdom holds. It’s in the moments when we go from an effort to halfhearted motions when we risk the most. Whether it’s the fire of wanting to work or the connection to purpose, it isn’t possible to put your motivation on autopilot.
Settling will always be a concession
“Don’t you dare settle for fine.”
This particular scene will be shared, quoted, and revisited for the rest of time. It’s equal parts romantic, triumphant, and unbelievable. But, perhaps the most poignant and enduring element is that the warning is given with no potential of loss or gain for Roy. Instead, he said it purely to impress upon someone their inherent worth and right to demand the best.
This encouraging generosity transcends work or profit. It’s the kind of exchange between human beings that acknowledges the importance of believing in who we are, how we are valuable, and that regardless of opinions or circumstances, our being worthy of the best is an enduring truth.
Ted Lasso has been a breath of comforting air, lifting us in ways that encourage empathy, self-reflection, and confidence in the potential of improving. Right now, you have a co-worker, employee, or client who can benefit from any number of the lessons here. Be a conduit, a connector, or simply a student of the life lessons you catch through the Lasso.