At Insight Experience we believe — and research suggests — that how you lead impacts the effectiveness of the operating decisions implemented by your team, which ultimately drives business outcomes. We call this idea the Business Cycle of Leadership™. You can learn more about it from founding partner Nick Noyes, who explains it in full here:
The how-you-lead portion of this model is essentially about what you do. It's how you, as a leader, communicate and spend your time and what you ask others to do. Each of these activities signals to your team and organization what you deem most important.
All of these activities are behaviors with various intentions driving them. The mindset that you as a leader bring to the essential activities of communication, time allocation, and prioritization can make a huge difference in the way you lead. Your mindset is about your intent as a leader and what you are ultimately trying to accomplish.
We call this idea Leadership Mindset. It is the mindset a leader brings not only to their leadership activities but also their critical interactions with others. It consists of four core dimensions that can help leaders think about how they lead.
If you've seen the beloved, critically acclaimed television show Ted Lasso, you know that the titular character — the American transplant in Richmond, England, who leads a soccer team — possesses a remarkably optimistic leadership style. It's one that provides numerous illustrations of each dimension of the Leadership Mindset. Let's look at some of those examples.
Above the coaches' office at AFC Richmond's Nelson Road Stadium (aka the "Dog Track") hangs Ted's bright yellow “Believe” sign. Although, at first, his players are hesitant to buy into the power of “Believe,” Ted’s consistent repetition of the message ultimately leads to the players' embrace of it, not to mention [spoilers!] the decision on the part of each team member to save a piece of the sign, which they rebuild in the show's final season.
If you keep this now-iconic sign in mind as you lead, you might ask yourself: How much of your Leadership Mindset is about inspiring your organization? As a leader, one of your critical roles is to encourage your team members to see beyond their day-to-day responsibilities and understand the why behind what they do — as well as inspire them to engage with the organizational vision and, as a result, see things from a different perspective. You help your team to both see and frame opportunity. You inspire what is possible.
One of the most cited examples of powerful leadership is from the darts scene in the eighth episode of Ted Lasso's first season. In this scene, Ted and Rupert Mannion (Rebecca's ex-husband) make a bet over a game of darts. They agree that if Rupert wins, he gets to pick the Richmond starting line-up for the last two games of the season. If Ted wins, Rupert will no longer be allowed in the owner's box during Richmond games.
Although Rupert underestimates Ted's skills with darts and is convinced he's a shoo-in, Ted reveals as he plays that darts were a big part of his adolescent years. He is, in fact, highly skilled at the game. “Be curious, not judgmental," Ted advises Rupert, whom Ted has just destroyed in the game by racking up a ton of points.
One way to think about the "Empower" element of the Leadership Mindset is by asking yourself if you are "curious, not judgmental" when your team members do things altogether differently than you would. Ted recalls in this scene the people who used to doubt and even belittle him. "Not a single one of them were curious," he says. "If they were curious, they would have asked questions."
As a leader, ask yourself:
- Am I querying my team members and empowering them to do more? This often involves the clarification of ownership and the pushing of decision rights down to the lowest possible level.
- Am I exploring their thinking?
- Am I really enabling my team to be their best selves and do their best work?
Be curious. Inquire. Empower your team.
Support & Develop
Supporting and developing is all about intentionally developing your team members and encouraging them to take a growth mindset. Suggest that they try new things and then support them in those endeavors. Have their backs when it doesn’t necessarily go as planned.
In the second episode of the first season of Ted Lasso, arrogant Jamie Tartt embarrasses Sam Obisanya, another player, on the field. Ted then calls Sam over to him and asks if he knows what the happiest animal is. It's a goldfish, Ted tells him. "You know why?" he asks. "Got a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish, Sam.”
Ted is encouraging Sam to continue to push and — when it doesn't work out — shake it off, carry on, and try something new. A leader’s ability to help team members experiment and move through rough patches is invaluable.
The final element of the Leadership Mindset involves role-modeling. As leaders, we need to demonstrate the behaviors and capabilities that we want and that the organization needs to see.
Are we being transparent about our strengths and weaknesses? Are we staying cool under pressure? Are we willing to change our minds (and have people see that happen) so there is the possibility of growth and insight at every level in the organization? Are we living by the values we think are important and that the organization wants us to embody?
At the beginning of the third season of Ted Lasso [more spoilers ahead!], a journalist at a press conference asks Ted about speculation that the team will be relegated at season's end. Coolly, Ted replies: “We got 38 chances to prove all them folks wrong."
In the same episode, Ted demonstrates in yet another (and especially unconventional) way the need for leaders to react well under tremendous pressure. Recognizing the team's agitation over all the talk of relegation, Ted takes them to London's underground sewage system (a scene worth watching if only for Jamie Tartt's pronunciation of "poopy") to essentially discuss what growth could look like for the team.
Although the Role-Model portion of this Leadership Mindset model is about what leaders show their teams, Ted even suggests in this scene that the players role-model by leaning on one another's strengths: "Make an internal sewer system within yourselves," he tells them, "and then connect to each other's tunnels. Help each other keep that flow." If you're feeling down, he suggests as but one example, "get some Dani in your life." (Dani is an abundantly enthusiastic team player.)
Role-modeling also calls for leaders to exemplify strong values. Later in this same episode, a journalist asks Ted about "Wonder Kid" Nathan Shelley's new role with West Ham. Ted publicly congratulates Nate, putting pettiness and ego aside. Ted rises above the cynicism, thus serving as an example for his players and fellow coaches.
These four critical elements of the Leadership Mindset are what you actively bring to your leadership actions. Many senior leaders would agree that your mindset as a whole becomes more of a critical driver of your success as a leader of people and an enabler of organizations than any specific actions you take.
Leadership Mindset is a core model of our Leading Organizations solution. Click here to learn more about it.
Is there one element of Leadership Mindset you want to improve upon? Are there other examples from Ted Lasso of these elements in action? Let us know in the comments!
Krista Campbell is an Associate Director who designs and facilitates business simulation-based learning programs at Insight Experience, an award-winning global leadership development company with an expertise in business simulations. She specializes in programs that promote communication, strategic thinking, and developing people.