Rom-Communism: How Ted Lasso Revolutionizes our Idea of Leadership
After almost two years in a pandemic, small talk is almost impossible. However, the Apple TV hit, Ted Lasso has made small talk much easier. Asking, “Have you seen Ted Lasso?” Can ignite any boring conversation. For those who haven’t seen it, go watch the masterpiece. Ted Lasso is about an American football coach hired to lead a professional soccer team in England with no knowledge about the sport.
Leadership styles/ Great man theory
Ted Lasso as a show challenges the Great Man Theory of leadership, that leaders are born with certain traits and are destined to lead. We see a team of leaders that bring different talents to the table, as one person cannot fill all of the gaps. The Power of Hidden Teams shows how a dynamic team can be powerful in medical care, “loves what she calls the interdisciplinary approach, in which the family, the case manager, the physical therapist, the physician, the occupational therapist, the social worker, and the nurse all come together to choose the best care for each patient.”
It isn’t hard to see the connection in Ted’s approach, he works to create a similar, interdisciplinary team to help AFC Richmond thrive. Aside from the title, the show ultimately isn’t just about Ted. It’s about how everyone can contribute as a leader. There is no one leader.
Ted is the big picture, people person guy. His leadership style is more Laissez-faire. Ted puts the tools in people’s hands, empowering them to help themselves. When the team is forced to deal with the “bad boy” superstar, Jamie, who has an obnoxious ego. Ted doesn’t address the situation head-on. Instead, He allows Jamie’s bullying and pompous act to play out. This allows players to become leaders organically, like Roy stepping up himself to stop Jamie.
Ted is incredibly talented in balancing the individual and the collective. He knows how to help each person fit in and see themselves. He motivates people by showing them how they play a key role on the team. Ted knows that once people see themselves as part of the team, they will excel. We see Ted throw a birthday party for Sam, a key player on the team who is incredibly talented but lacks the confidence to excel while playing and being a leader off of the pitch. Ted goes out of his way by throwing the party to help Sam realize his true value to the team. He is one of their best players, but more than that he is a leader amongst his teammates and someone they look up to.
Ted also shows his knack for making everyone feel important and valued when he builds a friendship with the team equipment manager Nate. Ted is the first person to really take Nate under their wing and consider what he has to say.
Ted shows his true ability to balance individual needs with the community's well-being when he brings Jamie back onto the team after being traded to a rival club. Ted knows Sam and other players would not be happy about his decision, but Ted sees how Jamie, as an individual and a leader, would benefit from having another chance at Richmond. Ted allows Jamie onto the team but requires Jamie to work his way back up to first-team and earn his spot. Jamie matures and learns to take responsibility for himself.
We also see how this helps other players grow, like Sam. Sam had to come to terms with Jamie’s troubled relationship with his father. It is a cliche example of learning the school bully has a bad home life. Their behavior isn’t excused, but empathy is important and the team has to learn that.
While Ted is a great leader, there are some drawbacks to his hands-off approach. One example is his failure to recognize Nate’s declining attitude. It’s hard to say if Ted ever realizes the pattern of Nate’s habits. These include calling players rude names and disrespecting them when he is given the opportunity to. Ted should’ve addressed Nate directly, as his silence may send a mixed message and this isn’t a situation to risk that.
I love coach Beard, mainly because I think we could all take a page from his book: read more, talk less. Ted and Coach Beard are one killer duo. Ted can be more of an idealist or brainstorming person, whereas Beard is more logistical. Beard is disciplined and we see him make a real effort to learn about soccer, which we don’t see from Ted.
For every fault Ted has, Beard is there to pick up the pieces and meticulously place them in their correct order. Every time Beard has a lapse in social cues or faults in trying to relate to others emotionally, Ted is there to patch up any awkward situation and miscommunication. There is a good reason Ted brought Beard halfway across the globe and an even better one why Beard agreed to it. Where these two go to lead, success always finds itself with them.
Beard finally communicates to Ted that his constant optimism can be frustrating and ultimately harmful to the team. This is valuable not just because Ted needs to face reality: that winning does in fact matter to the team. But more importantly, leaders need a balance.
It’s true that only focusing on the outcome can be harsh, as this can create a culture with little empathy. However, if we never have goals or a sense of direction we can feel like we are working towards nothing and making no progress. Work can feel pointless and defeating if you don’t have anything to show for it. It doesn’t matter how competitive you are, you need small wins to keep going.
Keeley Jones, the Independent Woman
Keeley is easily my favorite person on the show. Keeley is an underrated leader, and she is ambitious with a big heart. She is not just ambitious for herself, but for everyone at Richmond. She is similar to Ted, as they embody John Whitmore’s idea of a good coach: “unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
Keeley is a huge asset to the team, she helps the players find their passions and how they can use them to their advantage by connecting them to advertising and promotion deals. Keeley is obviously great at what she does, we see her go from doing small projects to owning her own business. She wants to help everyone be the best they can be. We meet an unsure and almost dependent Keeley in season 1. We watch her grow into herself and confidence.
Keeley is such a wholesome and hilarious person. She is the person you want to sit next to in boring meetings and want on your team. between her helping Ted hang the poster up and giving the best response to Ted beatboxing. However her relationship with Rebecca is truly special. Keeley uplifts Rebecca at any opportunity she can. Whether it’s as the team’s owner or just as a person, Keeley is there for her, knowing that Rebecca needs a boost in confidence. She truly is a great hype person. What really makes Keeley special is her integrity. She holds Rebecca accountable, asking her to come clean to Ted about the reason he was hired.
I will admit that Keeley is my favorite, probably because women like her aren’t always taken seriously. It shows how toxic some places can be, that just because she is kind, honest but gentle, incredibly witty, and maybe a bit eccentric she isn’t seen as valid or professional as others. Keeley doesn’t fit into the mold of what a typical leader looks like. She sticks to her roots and her moral compass throughout the entire show and leaves a mark on everything she does.
Lastly, people were mad that Keeley didn’t go on vacation with Roy. I think Keeley made a smart move, I mean, can you imagine actually getting any work done?
Roy is a leader because he is good at what he does, he’s a legend. I think of Roy as the guy in the shop who was great at his job and everyone liked, who rises up the ranks but doesn’t forget where he came from. The workers on the floor still see him as one of them and they respect him, but maybe not the other bosses. Roy is a humble leader.
We see the coaches debating a play and Roy interrupts with “why don’t you ask the people actually doing the thing.” Roy knows the coaches can be removed from thinking about what the players feel. He gets at something that is embedded in many organizational structures. People who make the rules don’t have to deal with the actual implementation.
Roy isn’t an armchair analyst, he is a doer. We all know someone who has had a similar story and has risen up the ranks because of their gifts and abilities. This is what makes Roy so special. Everyone saw him be an amazing soccer player his entire career. No one can question his intelligence when it comes to the game itself.
He is the only coach on the staff who knows what all of the players are going through. This form of leadership is rare but it is very effective. People want to be able to relate to the people in charge, by having someone like Roy on the staff both sides of the team are able to relate and work together.
Rebecca shows how a leader can grow. She learns to take accountability with Keeley and her goddaughter, Nora, who she abandoned when she grew apart from Nora’s mother. She starts to look out and care for Ted, she knows what he is going through. Rebecca is a great example of leaders being made, not born because she is thrown into this position and it takes a while for her to truly own it. It is refreshing to see someone grow into their position.
Rebecca doesn’t have it all figured out and isn’t the best person at the beginning of the show. Rebecca learns that she can’t feel good by hurting her ex-husband Rupert, but she can feel fulfilled by doing good with the help of confidence and courage. One thing Rebecca does well is that she empowers people. Whether it be bringing Keeley onto the team or helping Nate with his confidence. In the second season, she mends her relationship with her goddaughter, Nora, who pushes her to stand up to Dubai Air. It’s easy for adults to brush off what “naive” kids think, but Rebecca truly listens to her and takes her advice.
Nate, the Wonderkid
Nate is a leader in how smart he is about the game. No matter how much Ted can do for the team or how much Beard learns, Nate will always have his knowledge of soccer over them. Nate might not understand what it’s like to play, but that can give him a unique perspective.
However Nate’s weaknesses, like his reliance on outside validation and his need for power, get the best of him. Nate thinks he will gain confidence by rising up the ranks and punching down. Nate micromanages the players instead of actually helping them. He is very comfortable telling them they did wrong, but he isn’t constructive and lacks empathy. It seems like Nate wants to impress people more than he wants to help them.
As much as we can voice our disappointment in Nate, I think it’s easy to forget how we can relate to him. I know that I can relate to Nate in the way that attention can get to a person. People often just want more and more because it never satisfies. We want to be the hero, the person in front of the cameras, getting the trophy. This becomes dangerous because we get our worth from praise and we pour ourselves into our work and will do anything for validation.
Nate’s spiral also comes from his indulgence in his own narrative. It’s easy to tell ourselves our story and that we are the victim. We tell ourselves someone else is the problem and we believe it.
Nate complicates the themes of culture and hope because it shows that you cannot help everyone and Nate could learn to hope. He assumes bad intentions in everyone, especially Ted. It makes sense, when we are treated the way Nate has been you start to do that. But had Nate let himself hope and believe in Ted, the relationship could have grown into something special.