If the first episode of Ted Lasso demonstrated what Ted Lasso’s leadership philosophy is, the second episode of the Apple+ series explores how that philosophy is put into practice.
Throughout the show, Ted builds and fosters relationships at every level of the team, from upper management (represented by Rebecca and Higgins), his peers and staff (represented by Coach Beard and Nate), the players of AFC Richmond themselves, and the members of the local community who make up the fanbase.
In each area, we can see Ted’s belief in servant leadership, which accepts that his job is serving the needs of each of these groups in their own separate ways. By doing so, he builds a foundation of support on which a winning culture can thrive.
In any organizational structure, one critical relationship that will make or break a workplace is between top-tier ownership and day-to-day management. Ted demonstrates early on that he respects the importance of that relationship by choosing to begin and conclude each day by checking in with his boss, Rebecca.
To sell Rebecca on these meetings, in a tactic that would surely be met with the approval of Parent-Teacher Associations the world over, he delivers sweet treats for “biscuits with the boss.”
In those meetings, Ted establishes the expectation that they will be regular and that he will not take no for an answer. He does disagree with her about the necessity of those check-ins but does so respectfully.
While complaining about Ted to Higgins, Rebecca describes him as “relentless and… nice.” The combination of shock and disgust with which the line is delivered only emphasizes that this is far from the norm in this organization.
Ted takes steps to ensure he achieves his desired outcome but does so politely and respectfully. He waits and holds the door for Rebecca at the end of the day to ensure he gets to close out with her. He even acknowledges that she didn’t hurry and that he is content to let her get there at her own pace.
To demonstrate the worthiness of his boss’ trust, he follows through with his explicit and implied commitments from his first day as he begins his second. Ted circles back to the objectives and unfinished business of the previous day, ensuring that everything is completed. In doing so, he lets Rebecca know that he can be counted on to follow through with his initiatives.
With Higgins, Ted pushes back against the longtime assistant’s natural inclination towards self-deprecation. Though indirectly, Ted tells Higgins he values his presence in the room when meaningful conversations occur. He even carves out some of what would otherwise be personal time for lunch together.
The actual “long play” for Ted with both Rebecca and Higgins is to break down the barriers between upper management and the rest of the organizational structure. While he takes some very early steps towards that objective in this episode by attempting to involve Rebecca and Higgins in team activities, Ted’s work still needs to be completed. The two execs are still content to hide in the office, far from the realities of life among the players.
Ted’s approach with his immediate assistants is most easily described as respect for expertise and insight.
In this episode, Coach Beard retains his prominent role as Ted’s chief consultant, both in matters of European football itself and the curious differences between European and American English. He allows Beard to demonstrate his aptitude for picking these things up and actively engages in the game of it all. Throughout the show, the intellectual banter between Ted and Beard becomes a barometer of their bond and its strength in any given episode. It is obvious when watching it that these two have a well-developed working relationship built over time.
Ted’s efforts to develop Nate from a passive equipment manager to someone with a voice and role in the team’s operation offer insight into how he builds people up.
Ted seeks insight into the team’s current performance and what personal factors might be at play for individual players, showing Nate that he values his years of experience within the locker room and the inherent awareness of players’ personal situations that comes with that sort of access and presence.
When Nate says that Sam Obisanya’s performance has dipped since his arrival from Nigeria and that the statistical slump might represent difficulty adjusting, Ted and Beard directly address that insight. They do so away from the team and Nate, but they take steps to determine if Nate’s suggestion has statistical merit. This demonstrates Ted’s commitment to sourcing solutions from those on the ground.
The success of Ted’s servant leadership philosophy with the AFC Richmond team members can be viewed through the twofold lens of Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt. Each represents one end of a spectrum with which Ted and company must contend: a legendary player at the end of a great career, faced with figuring out how to lead without being the best, and a budding young superstar who hasn’t yet figured out that leadership means more than being the best.
Each represents a unique challenge, and the rest of the team falls somewhere in between the two.
With Roy, Ted must prove he’s a man of his word if he intends to convince Roy to be the leader in the locker room.
When Roy comes to Ted directly to tell him of a problem with the water pressure in the team showers, Ted and Beard look into it immediately and see that the problem is promptly fixed. While the issue of water pressure in the showers may seem minute in the grand scheme of plotting a winning strategy for the football club, it isn’t. Morale is built on a thousand tiny acts of service. In showing Roy that his input was heard and acted upon quickly, Ted and Beard proved they could be counted on to follow through when making promises.
With Jamie, Ted must show that he genuinely values Jamie as a person if he expects Jamie to value the other people on the team and in the organization.
When Ted asks Jamie whether he’d prefer to be a panda or a lion, Jamie answers, “I’m me. Why would I want to be anything else?”
Even though it clashes with his (and the audience’s) immediate perception of Jamie as a thoughtless jock, Ted salutes the unexpected psychological healthiness of that attitude.
With both, Ted strives to identify their emotional strengths and how they can be leveraged toward self-improvement and collective success.
For the team, Ted demonstrates a commitment to improving their overall quality of life and mental health by focusing on their emotional needs as people. When Nate’s insight reveals Sam’s emotional struggles, Ted involves his fellow leaders and moves quickly to create a group activity. This sort of bonding measure, designed to foster general morale, serves explicitly to build a sense of home and community for Sam. It even fits a dual purpose of showing those who might be reluctant to buy in emotionally (such as Jamie) that there are benefits to embracing the direction Ted is attempting to take the team.
The idea of putting his servant leader philosophy into practice at work is one thing. Where Ted really separates himself from the typical protagonist in stories of this sort is his continued and dedicated investment in a relationship with the community of fans and locals who call AFC Richmond theirs.
The importance of a close community is on display very early in the episode when Ted comments to Beard on the proximity of the coffee shop to his home. It’s present in the way a pick-up football game on the local green is staged in such a way as to present it as a multigenerational affair with deep roots among the people.
Throughout the episode, Ted’s connection with the local culture increases. He first watches the pick-up game with the other locals at a distance, later engages with one of the players directly on his trek to work, and returns to the same player for another impromptu lesson in ball handling to close out the episode.
He is respectful and thankful to Mae, the local pubkeeper, taking in her understanding of the locals and the local culture.
Ted’s first interaction with Trent Crimm of the Independent is an adversarial one. Even so, Ted remembers him and openly respects his formidability.
Ted even turns moves which are intended to be manipulative ploys to his advantage. When Rebecca’s suggestion that Ted collaborates with Keeley on how best to manage Jamie was born of an intent to create divides, Ted transforms it into a positive by genuinely receiving her insight into Jamie’s motivations.
While Ted’s investment in the community doesn’t show an immediate payoff in this early episode, it’s clear that it is vital to both the character and the show.
These strategies work out for Ted and the company with varying levels of success as the season plays out, but the reasoning is sound. Care about the needs of those you work for, those you work with, and those who work for you. Understand the importance of your team’s mission within your community and engage with the community’s stakeholders. They are, in the end, simple tenets, but they can serve you, dear reader, as well as they do Ted Lasso and the AFC Richmond Greyhounds.