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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Nicholas

Compassionate Leader

Warning: Spoiler Alert! If you haven't watched the last episode of Ted Lasso, you may want to skip this post.

Growing up in basketball county where Coach Wooden was a demi-god, Ted Lasso was an immediate hit with me. The leadership principles John Wooden is famous for embracing are prominently displayed in multiple episodes and, even more important, embodied by the show’s protagonist in each episode of this stellar series.

Like its millions of fans, I’m disappointed to see the uplifting show come to a close, and, as many have observed, the last episode was a bit of a letdown. So, I did what any committed fan does and watched it again.

I’m so glad I did!

The first time, I focused on the WHAT but the second time it was all about the HOW. From this perspective, I came to realize this last episode was perfection in leadership instruction. Akin to enjoying a 5-star dinner or a beach sunset, Lasso’s leadership fundamentals of humility, empathy, and compassion, co-opted from Wooden, are beautifully presented.

A noteworthy example is Ted’s response to the various people in his orbit struggling to come to terms with his decision to leave AFC Richmond. Notice what he does. He shuts up.

The otherwise loquacious homespun storyteller, aside from the half-time talk in the locker room, says very little during this final episode. Instead, he gives everyone – Rebecca, Nate, Willis (Beard’s real name!), and others – the space to navigate the changes unfolding. He listens intently, supporting them as they verbally process his imminent departure and express their sense of gratitude for having collaborated with him and their loss in seeing him go.

He does not interrupt. He doesn’t explain his decision. Instead, he is quiet and affirming, demonstrating his love and respect for each character. His reassuring silence powerfully conveys his confidence in them.

As leaders, how do we approach our team members who are experiencing enormous change? Do we sit with them, calmly, without judgment or debate, to show them our support? What would simply shutting up and listening with a compassionate ear do for that person and our relationship?

There are rumors of a Lasso spinoff and I'll be watching if it comes about. Thankfully, we always have Wooden's Pyramid of Success:

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