It has been said by many (and award shows clearly agree) that the writers of Ted Lasso were brilliant. The overlap of life and leadership with comedy and real-life were a delight to all who have watched. Every episode was packed with meme-able moments, notable quotes and leadership lessons.

In this week’s episode of Lens of Leadership, we rewatched the “Two Aces” episode. You can watch the full podcast here.

There were so many lessons that we couldn’t just pick one so here are our 3 mini lessons in leadership:

  1. Sacrifice for Growth
  2. Embracing Help and Trust
  3. Adaptability in Crisis

At the very beginning of the episode, Jamie Tartt’s ego is in the way and it is very clear he has no intention of making any sacrifices for the team. On refusing to practice, Ted Lasso gives a passionate version of Allen Iverson’s speech about the importance of practice. When it makes no impact on Jamie, the team signs a second “Ace” player in Dani Rojas.

When Dani gets mysteriously hurt, the team is certain that it is due to the curse on the team’s training room. Ted gathers the team to hear about the history of the training room – back in the “olden days” young men were told to come to the field to try out for the football team and were instead recruited for war. Four hundred men showed up and nearly all lost their lives. Their army physicals were done in the team’s training room. Ted tells his team that those men had made the ultimate sacrifice so each team member should bring something that matters to them to sacrifice in order to reverse the curse.

So let’s look at the first leadership lesson…

Sacrifice for Growth

The team ritual to reverse the curse symbolizes the need to let go of something valuable for the greater good. This act of sacrifice is not just about loss but about making space for growth.

Sacrifice is a cornerstone of leadership. It requires the foresight to recognize when holding on to certain tasks, habits, or roles may hinder progress and the courage to let them go. (Scrolling through social media might be one of those habits many of us could sacrifice.) Effective leaders understand that growth often necessitates difficult decisions and trade-offs.

Here’s how you can leverage this concept to enhance your leadership skills and personal development.

  1. Identify personal sacrifices: Reflect on activities or habits (or mindsets!) that are holding you back (and/or wasting your time). Consider what you might need to let go of to achieve greater growth.
  2. Create team-building rituals or activities that encourage collective sacrifice for the team’s growth. This helps build a shared purpose.
  3. Embrace change: Encourage a mindset that views change and lets go of opportunities for growth rather than losses.

John U Bacon in his book “Let them Lead” talked about a team building ritual that helped the ice hockey team he coached grow. Penalties during game time were negatively impacting the game. At the practice following the game, the person who committed the penalties was required to sit in the middle of the ice while his teammates sprinted back and forth for the number of penalties committed. This was not to shame the player but to help them understand that their selfishness in committing those penalties was costing the entire team. Once the individuals participated in this activity, they were able to sacrifice their personal ego during the game in order to help the team.

Not all sacrifices are equal. Even in the ritual for AFC Richmond the sacrifices ranged from Richard’s “sand from the beach where he first was with a supermodel” to Roy Kent’s “blankie” that was given to him by his grandfather.

The question is what are the little (or big) things that are holding you back from making progress.

Reflect on some possible areas for improvement:

  • Current Role Analysis: What is one aspect of your current role that you could delegate or eliminate to make room for personal and professional growth? How would this change impact your productivity and overall satisfaction?
    • Regularly evaluate your current responsibilities and identify areas where you spend the most time. Ask yourself if these areas align with your core strengths and long-term goals.
  • Identifying Roadblocks: Are there habits or routines that are consuming your time without adding significant value? How can you modify or eliminate these to focus on what truly matters?
    • Use the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize tasks based on urgency and importance. Focus on high-impact activities that drive growth and delegate or eliminate tasks that do not contribute significantly to your objectives.
  • Empowering Others: Who in your team can you trust to take over some of your tasks? What steps can you take to ensure they are equipped and motivated to handle these new responsibilities?
    • Delegation is not just about offloading work but empowering others. Identify team members who can take over certain responsibilities, and provide them with the necessary resources and support. This not only frees up your time but also fosters team development.
  • Set Clear Boundaries: Learn to say no to commitments that do not align with your priorities. Protect your time and energy for activities that contribute to your growth.
    • Reflect and Adjust: After delegating or letting go of certain responsibilities, take time to reflect on the impact. Adjust your strategies as needed to ensure you are continually moving towards your goals.

Embracing Help and Trust

The second leadership lesson is often a tough one. Jamie Tartt has no interest in doing what Ted wants him to do or do “what everyone else does.” Keeley, however, helps him see things from another angle.

Keeley’s advice to Jamie is to stop battling against those trying to help him. This highlights the importance of trust and vulnerability in leadership. Embracing help not only enhances your capabilities but also strengthens team cohesion and morale. Jamie doesn’t take this lightly and decides to participate in the team meeting to reverse the curse.

It is not always as evident that this is an issue as it was for those watching Jamie struggle with his ego. In her book, Bring Yourself, Mori Taheripour discusses how she often sees this struggle for “people pleasers” when they take her class on negotiations. They fear being a burden or trusting others and this hampers their growth.

Trust is a reciprocal process. As leaders, showing vulnerability by accepting help can build deeper connections and demonstrate humility. Here’s how you can integrate trust and vulnerability into your leadership practice.

Actionable Steps:

  • Identify Areas of Resistance: Reflect on the areas where you tend to resist support. This could be due to a desire for control, fear of appearing weak, or past experiences.
  • Start Small: Begin by accepting help in less critical areas. This could be delegating a routine task, seeking feedback on a project, or asking for advice.
  • Build a Support Network: Cultivate relationships with trusted colleagues, mentors, and team members. Regularly engage with them to build a network of allies who can provide support and perspective.
  • Communicate Openly: Share your challenges and ask for help openly. Transparency fosters trust and encourages others to reciprocate.
  • Recognize and Appreciate: Acknowledge the contributions of those who support you. Publicly recognizing their efforts reinforces a culture of mutual support and trust.

An Example (IRL)

Consider a leader who always manages projects independently to ensure they meet their standards. This approach, while ensuring quality, can lead to burnout and limit the team’s growth. By gradually delegating responsibilities and seeking feedback, the leader not only eases their workload but also empowers team members, leading to increased trust and overall team performance.

By embracing the importance of help and trust, leaders can create a more inclusive and supportive work environment. Reflect on these takeaways, apply the actionable steps, and let these insights guide you on your leadership journey.

Adaptability in Crisis

At the end of the episode, when Rebecca recalls Jamie to Manchester City, Ted’s initial emotional response makes him “see red.” We know that after he takes a deep breath he will find his way to his steadfast problem-solving attitude.

This adaptability is crucial for any leader facing unexpected challenges. Adaptability involves staying flexible, maintaining composure, and quickly transitioning from reaction to action. Being adaptable allows leaders to navigate crises effectively, ensuring stability and continuity. It also inspires confidence and resilience within the team. Here’s how you can cultivate adaptability in your leadership practice.

“Deliberate Discomfort” by Jason Van Camp tells several stories of Army Ranger bootcamps. The Rangers are physically pushed to the brink of exhaustion. Van Camp explains that this is not a physical test of strength but a mental one. When you are pushed to the limits, you will respond emotionally and your true character will shine through. Being pushed in this way gives the individuals and their teammates the belief and understanding in how they will react when the going gets tough.

As in many leadership moments in business and in life, there is the initial emotional reaction. What comes next is what is important. How do you turn that into a moment to assess and problem solve?

Adaptability in Crisis

  • Pause and Reflect: Develop a routine for processing emotions before jumping into problem-solving. Take a moment to recognize and acknowledge your feelings (and the feelings of others).
  • Create a Plan: Outline steps for common crises you might face, including who to involve and resources needed.
  • Flexibility Training: Engage in activities that require you to adapt quickly, such as simulations or role-playing exercises. Put a plan in place to monitor your progress and make adjustments.

The leadership journey has no small shortage of challenges that require sacrifice, trust, and adaptability. By drawing inspiration from Ted Lasso’s “Two Aces,” we can learn to navigate these challenges with grace and determination. Remember, growth often requires letting go, success thrives on collaboration, and resilience is built through adaptability. Embrace these lessons, reflect on your experiences, and take actionable steps to lead with confidence and compassion. Learning these lessons help us all Lead It Like Lasso.

One of the amazing things that has come about by us writing Lead It Like Lasso is that many folks have suggested other books to us. Here are some that we are looking forward to reading that align with these lessons (and no doubt sharing 🙂 ). We do love getting recommendations so send ‘em if you have ‘em!

“Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change” by Stacey Abrams

  • Stacey Abrams provides a guide for outsiders who want to lead and make significant changes. Her book is full of practical advice on overcoming adversity, building trust, and leading with authenticity.

“The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday

  • Based on stoic philosophy, this book teaches leaders how to view obstacles as opportunities and develop resilience in the face of challenges.

“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown

  • This book emphasizes the importance of focusing on what truly matters and eliminating the non-essential. It’s perfect for leaders looking to streamline their efforts and make sacrifices for greater growth.

“The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything” by Stephen M.R. Covey This book delves deeply into the concept of trust in leadership, offering practical advice on how to build and maintain trust in personal and professional relationships.