Association of Washington School Principals
Volume 2 – 2020-21
Lessons from Ted Lasso
Leadership Lessons from an Unlikely Source
Jack Arend
Associate Director, AWSP
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture
Being an associate director at AWSP allows me to interact and work with amazing people. I am thankful each and every day that my job lets me connect with dynamic leaders who are committed to their jobs, the people they work with, and the success of their students. However, there are certain people we meet throughout our lives that we know will change us forever. I met one of these people during 2020. On a screen, while watching the first season of Ted Lasso on Apple+ TV.
Yes, while watching a television show!
This show first aired in August of 2020 and quickly became the must-watch show of the year. The comedy catalogs the journey of a warm-hearted American football coach, Ted Lasso, who is hired to coach a floundering soccer team in the English Premier League — despite having never played (or apparently watched) the game. The show is filled with plenty of hilarious moments highlighting the differences between football and soccer, as well as British and American culture.
The more that I watched the show, the more I realized that Ted’s actions, phrases, and philosophies were modeling the qualities and characteristics of great leaders and impactful leadership to viewers across the globe.
But the show is much more than a comedy. Hidden beneath the hysterical moments (warning: there is no shortage of bad language and sexual innuendo so viewer discretion is strongly advised), you will find a show that celebrates optimism, hope, goodness and...LEADERSHIP!
The more that I watched the show, the more I realized that Ted’s actions, phrases, and philosophies were modeling the qualities and characteristics of great leaders and impactful leadership to viewers across the globe. Each episode is filled with leadership lessons and how great leaders interact with their people. What follows are my top “Lead Like Lasso” lessons.
1. Believe! “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” The power of belief is one of Ted’s most powerful weapons for winning over the hearts and minds of everyone. Ted tapes the word BELIEVE above the door in the locker room. Players roll their eyes at first. By the end, even the most cynical player taps the sign for luck. Great leaders BELIEVE in their people.
2. Be positive. “It’s the lack of hope that comes and gets you. Believe in hope. Believe in belief.” Ted’s most endearing quality is his ability to identify the positive in any situation. From his excited “first day of school” mentality in episode two to his positive reinforcement of one of the players after a hard loss, Ted’s belief in the power of positive thinking is both a redeeming and transformative quality. As a leader, you have a choice to be positive every single day!
3. Lift up others ahead of yourself. It’s no secret: People appreciate being appreciated. Ted Lasso is far from being self-serving. He reminds us that great leaders are focused externally at all times and genuinely complimentary to those they encounter. Ted’s willingness to go out of his way to acknowledge the efforts and good deeds of others serves as an example for leaders everywhere.
4. Be A Goldfish: Move on from your mistakes. Every leader will make mistakes. Some mistakes will be small and some may be monumental. Ted Lasso tells one of his players after a missed scoring opportunity to “be a goldfish,” He explains that a goldfish has a 15 second memory which makes them the happiest creature on the planet. Imagine how freeing this idea is to you as a leader! Yes, a mistake was made. Reflect, forgive yourself, and move on.
5. “Be curious, not judgmental.” Ted uses this quote from Walt Whitman to express his frustration that most people in his life have second-guessed his ability without getting to know him. Great leaders consistently use curiosity over judgment in every situation. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable through your curiosity is a trait that will catapult you into a new level of your leadership.
I first decided to watch Ted Lasso because I desperately needed something light, funny, and easy to watch. While it was all of these, and more, I was immediately inspired by the direct connection to the work of AWSP and our support of all school leaders in our state.
This show spotlights the incredible power of positive, honest, and sincere leadership. Ted Lasso, like you, is a dynamic leader who mixes humor, vulnerability, joy, and positivity together to create an even better version of himself and helps others do the same.
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Association of Washington School Principals
Washington Principal | Volume 2 – 2020-21