We have all heard the saying "nice guys finish last." Most would label the “nice guy” as one who is overly pleasant, the one who doesn't like to step on toes, the salesperson who is too soft to close the deal, or the person who suppresses their own needs to please others. The “nice guy” can be viewed as weak, a push over, lacking courage, or full of fear.

I, admittedly, have always viewed the nice guy as weak, without a backbone and may even go as far as to say that I might be insulted to be viewed as a “nice guy.” It is in my nature to be outspoken, prepared for confrontation, direct, and strong-willed and I wholeheartedly believed that those were the characteristics that great leaders possessed.

Last year, I was introduced to the nicest of the nice guys, Ted Lasso. While he is a fictional character in an Apple TV show by the same name, he has left an unexpected imprint on both my professional and personal life as well. My first impression was that Ted, and the show, was a happy, feel-good show in the middle of a global pandemic whose sole purpose was to bring a laugh and a little positivity in times of fear and hopelessness. Several episodes in, I realized this show had much more to offer. In reality, the show provided a How To guide for building, developing, and nurturing the relationships in our lives and creating a team mentality.

Throughout the series, many thoughts crossed my mind.

  • Why can't everyone be like Ted?
  • Ted truly cares for people.
  • Ted is so honest and vulnerable.
  • Ted is respected and valued.
  • I want to lead like Ted.
  • Ted is such a nice guy.

Being the “nice guy” came very naturally for Ted but appeared to be more of a challenge for others in his life. Much like the others in the show, being the “nice guy” is something that I have to put real work into achieving. I have outlined 5 leadership lessons that I learned from Ted in the hopes of becoming a “nicer,” more compassionate and empathic leader.

Five Lasso Leadership Lessons:

  • Ted is a vulnerable leader. Throughout the show, Ted faces many challenges such as going through a divorce, being half a world away from his son, experiencing anxiety attacks, and suffering loss. Throughout this, he remains open and honest with his team, which, in return, earned their respect and loyalty. Ted’s ability to remain vulnerable created an environment for his team where they felt safe raising concerns or asking questions, they were comfortable expressing their own thoughts and emotions, and built a unique team camaraderie.
  • Ted is a leader who listens. Ted creates connections with his team by actively listening to them. He uses details from their conversations to relate to them and creates analogies that will resonate with them and encourage a solution-oriented way of thinking. When engaging with someone, Ted makes eye contact, keeps an open body stance, and doesn’t become distracted by his phone or computer. When we listen to hear and not to answer, we are letting the speaker know that we see them, hear them, and value them. Be curious about our team, not judgmental.
  • Ted is a responsible leader. Not every day is a good day where we bring our authentic self to the table. There are moments during the day where we are run by emotion, especially when facing high stress and high pressure. Often on those days, we will owe someone an apology. Ted is extremely self-aware, and, on those days, he has the courage to apologize. He is 100% responsible for his actions, which sends the message to the team that we are all human and will make mistakes, and when that happens, leaders take the necessary actions to correct it.
  • Ted is a leader who believes. He believes in his team, their ability to achieve, and himself. Ted takes a “potential first” mindset with his team. He doesn’t minimize a person by their current state. Instead, Ted looks at the potential people have when given the right tools, coaching, and encouragement. Everyone has layers of doubt caused by their past - past failures, past mistakes, missed opportunities, and lost hope. When we let someone know, we believe in them and provide them with positive reinforcement, we are helping alter their mindset, increasing motivation, and producing a higher level of engagement.
  • Last, but certainly not least, Ted is a goldfish. Ted believes that goldfish are the happiest animals on earth because they only have a 10-second memory. When we hang on to mistakes, upsets, and negative feelings towards ourselves or others, we allow the feelings of disappointment to define our perception of the person. Ted believed that people are not defined by the mistakes they make, but how they react to them. Mistakes are made daily, and the sooner they are accepted, the sooner they can be corrected and moved past. Accepting mistakes and moving forward will help to motivate those around us and cultivate a more positive mindset.

Ted has influenced and redefined my perception of being the nice guy. Nice does not equal pushover or spineless, cowardly, or full of fear. The nice guy can be strong and compassionate, honest and respectful, a goldfish and a marlin, and brave enough to do, even when scared.

Ted’s influence has led me on a personal journey to find my inner “nice guy.” My hope is that this journey will teach me to transition my mindset and adapt my leadership style to reflect the characteristics Ted possesses. On this journey, I am hoping to learn to lean towards giving grace rather than rigidity, be slow to judge rather than writing people off, and to listen to hear rather than to answer and correct.

As you continue your leadership journey, embrace your inner Ted Lasso and generate positivity, empathy, and unwavering belief in the power of niceness.

Just keep swimming,