Pancho Mehrotra: leadership lessons from Ted Lasso

For some, good leadership comes naturally, but for others it has to develop and evolve throughout their careers. The source of those lessons can come from people, books or even an unlikely television series. Here, Pancho Mehrotra explains the unexpected, but valuable, leadership lessons he learnt watching sports comedy-drama Ted Lasso.

Someone recently recommended I watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV.

It is an interesting show about an NFL coach from America, brought in to turn around a football team in the UK.

Not exactly a natural choice of coach.

However, as the show progressed, it was clear to see the connection and respect Ted was able to gain from his team with his unassuming and calm manner.

He managed his emotions when he got resistance to his way of thinking.

The character of Ted displayed a unique emotional intelligence, which allowed him to understand and have empathy for his team but also recognise that sometimes discipline was required. 

I found the way Ted communicated and behaved with his team was the ingredient that drew people to him.

Ultimately, they wanted to perform for him and the team. 

He communicated and made it very clear that 100 per cent effort was required, and not once did he talk about the result or winning. 

Ted’s philosophy provides a framework for how leaders should behave with their teams to get the best out of them.

Often, people forget that we are dealing with people who come from all types of backgrounds and life experiences, not a cookie-cutter automaton. 

Everything a leader says or does sends a message to his people that they interpret and respond to mentally, emotionally, and cognitively, which they may never forget. 

Language is how we remember experiences.

How easy is it to remember experiences from 20 years ago, or even longer, when someone we respected said a kind word?

We remember that feeling like it happened yesterday.

The converse is also true.

A harsh word spoken or an angry look by someone significant in our life, be it a parent, a teacher or our peers, and it continues to prey on our minds and bring us down when triggered.

That is the power of language.

Running a business or a football team requires the leader to display certain abilities and characteristics and embrace responsibility.

The success of the business or the sports team, to a greater extent, can be attributed to enlightened and creative leadership.

Think of how many businesses declined due to the founding leader leaving…the result was clear.

When Steve Jobs was fired from Apple was a classic example.

It led to the near-death of Apple before he was brought back, and the rest is history.

A leader must remember they affect the behaviour of their people.

Leaders lead and people follow.

If the leader is misguided or lacks executional experience, the people will be lost, choose not to follow or even leave the business.

People need and desire good leadership, as it gives them safety and security, which helps them feel like they belong and have the confidence to execute their roles. 

One of the most important jobs of a leader is to clarify where they want their business to go, what they believe in, and what their expectations are.

Make no mistake – your people are watching you.

Does the leader practise what they preach?

The delusional leader thinks they are fooling their people, but more likely, they’re fooling themselves. 

Here are some powerful questions for both the leader to consider when speaking to his people, and for teams to think about whether their leaders have the following abilities:

  • Does the message make sense?
  • Is it fair to everyone?
  • Is it honest? 
  • Is it emotional or rational?
  • Is it helpful or threatening?
  • Is it consistent with what they have said before?
  • Is the meaning clearly developed? Or understood? 
  • What is its purpose?

You will see the answers evident in time through the response from your people.

Good or poor behaviours become part of your team’s psyche, and it’s through the interaction of both psychology and physiology that these messages are delivered, with your people’s attitudes displayed in all they do.

What is one of the most desirable qualities of a leader? The ability to master oneself.


Ask yourself three key questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Who am I required to be?
  3. Who do I choose to be?

My reference here is Abraham Maslow, who developed a framework that demonstrates how people move through their lives ultimately towards self-actualisation or a higher form of consciousness, the spiritual plane.

At the heart of this is, becoming a better person and the evolution of your thinking and behaviour.

The real challenge for leaders is, how many will work hard to develop these characteristics? 

As NFL football coach Vince Lombardi said, ”Leaders earn the right to lead. How? They manifest character and integrity.”

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Pancho Mehrotra

Pancho Mehrota is the CEO of Frontier Performance and a recognised leading expert in the area of communication, influence and the psychology of selling.