Ted Lasso has been widely regarded by critics and audiences as one of the best television series of the new decade, offering up life lessons about what it means to be human with equal measures comedy, pathos, and empathy.
It’s also no surprise that from a show about a coach, there are also leadership lessons to be found.
Dr. Jason Rogers from Rundle College in Calgary, along with his co-host Garth Nichols, created the Lassoing Leadership podcast to dive deeper into individual episodes from the series and connect those leadership lessons to the real world.
“One thing I’ve been very interested in for a very long time is leadership, and I tuned into Ted Lasso a number of years ago and started to realize very quickly that Ted was not just a comic character, but he’s a leadership guru,” said Dr. Rogers.
“He’s really working through many deep leadership principles, through comedy, through sports… and it was really fun to watch him employ what we see in research, frankly, on the show.”
That leadership style, said Dr. Rogers, is about making the world a kinder, better place.
“I think Ted is a true embodiment of that kinder, better way to lead,” he said.
The podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, is as of November 1, is on its eighth episode.
Bringing story into the real world
Some of the leadership principles that Dr. Rogers and Nichols have touched on include being an authentic leader true to oneself, the practice of distributed leadership, being a servant leader, and having a vision as a leader.
Those lessons are pulled directly from episodes of the series, which directly show Lasso engaging with other characters in the series like Nate Shelly, Roy Kent, and Jamie Tartt to help them become their better selves by the end of the series.
“We understand distributed leadership is not just giving tasks to others, but giving agency and giving opportunity for people to make decisions to make mistakes. We see that lots, particularly around Nate [Shelly],” Rogers said.
“Ted is a true servant leader in all respects. He doesn’t ask anybody to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself, and you can see it as he runs laps with the guys or he gets dirty in the tough conversations.”
Rogers said that while many fans get to take in the brilliantly written and realized characters from actors like Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, and Juno Temple on one level, there are multiple other aspects to the show that can provide more than entertainment value.
“You can watch it for any number of reasons: Sports lovers can watch it for the arc of Richmond FC and try to figure out where they’re at. The comedy lovers will watch it just for the comic genius of the entire cast. Leadership lovers can watch it and draw lessons everything from symbology to leadership practice the leadership styles,” he said.
“It’s all in clear view when you start to look for it. I think that was the reason for the podcast because as we surveyed podcasts about Ted Lasso we didn’t see a lot that were driving down on leadership. I think this is actually a very unique proposition in the in the podcast universe at this moment.”
He said that those lessons from the show have been things that he has looked at in his own leadership as Head of School for the Rundle School Society in Calgary.
“At Rundle where where I work, we say everybody leads a Rundle. Everybody. So, we aspire for our own leadership wherever we’re at, and we know that we can provide good to the organization, to our classroom, to ourselves frankly, in better understanding what leadership looks like,” Rogers said.
“We see this in the Ted Lasso series, and the fact that everybody is on a leadership journey, and they’re all succeeding and failing at their own pace.”
Lessons become something bigger
Dr. Rogers said that the genesis of the podcast came about from using video clips from the show to demonstrate leadership during a course he was teaching.
“I was teaching a course in faculty culture for independent schools in Canada, and while I was teaching the course I’d pull up a clip or two to exemplify leadership styles or practices, or different leadership moments that were really salient. As I was pulling those up, one of the people in my class, Garth Nichols, said ‘we should turn this into a podcast.'”
“I’m always a pro challenge. I find that it’s a really effective medium, it’s easy to have conversations two-way through a podcast, and people are able to access in their own time, space, and way,” Dr. Rogers.
One of the goals set out at the beginning of the podcast was to expand beyond just the pair of co-hosts, by bringing in industry experts from a variety of fields to address some of the topics brought up in various episodes.
“It’s primarily academic folks right now. We’ve got a professor from Royal Roads University joining us, and she taught my co-host in his master’s program about leadership, and I’m reaching into the folks who helped me with my doctorate in the leadership space,” Rogers said.
“There’s obvious times when we’re talking about, for instance, mental health. So we’ll be bringing in a counsellor who specializes in mental health, and maybe even an executive coach who works with executives who deal with mental health challenges in the workplace.”
Those lessons around mental health, especially in later seasons, form a poignant story arc for multiple characters including Ted.
“Everyone is on their leadership journey. Jamie Tartt, who takes the full three seasons to be a realized character. Nate, he crests early, and then he has a demise we see in season three before he recovers. Even Ted, who is a fun-loving light-hearted guy, we see under the hood his anxiety and we see his personal challenges and we see when he’s imperfect,” Rogers said.
“I think it’s really important that leaders are human. I think by demonstrating that it does bring a sense of understanding in our entire community, whether it’s a school, or business, or a football club that leaders have tons of imperfections. That’s really empowering. We don’t often see leaders quite as imperfect as we see Ted.”