“We rise by lifting others.”
– Robert Ingersoll
What I’m Learning: Leadership Lessons from the Heart
During my early years at overnight camp, I was not yet confident or even comfortable in my own skin. I was not remotely athletic nor was I at the top of any other social hierarchy. I didn’t consider myself good at anything, and I marveled at the stand out tennis players, dramatic leads in the all-camp plays, and the pretty, popular girls who seemed to have it all. I longed to fit in and be like the girls who I believed had and were so much more than me. So, it was to my great surprise when early in the summer of 1984, my name was called as a Captain — a position bestowed on four seniors in the oldest bunk by an all-camp vote, the highest distinction among our peers. I never had considered myself a leader before.
What did they see in me that I hadn’t yet seen in myself?
In hindsight, that summer changed the course of my life. In addition to creating memories that last a lifetime and deepening relationships that have now lasted 45+ years, I developed an understanding of the intersection of leadership and authenticity. Since I didn’t necessarily excel in anything, all I could do was be me. I made an effort to connect with the younger girls and to recognize them for who they were. It didn’t matter what they were known for, it just mattered that they were kind and decent people. I found that my leadership style emanated from remaining true to myself, by connecting to who I am at my core. It was only then that I could see the goodness in others. At its foundation, my leadership style is built on kindness, compassion, and teambuilding in an effort to recognize and bring out the best in others.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
What I’m Watching and Enjoying: Ted Lasso
I have been thoroughly enjoying watching and rewatching the Apple TV series Ted Lasso, particularly every episode in season 1. While Ted was plucked out of virtual obscurity to become a coach in England’s Premiere Soccer League, he has absolutely no experience or knowledge of the game. That doesn’t make him a terrific coach, but his optimism, kindness, attentiveness, and authenticity is what makes him a great leader. It is the same traits that his disposition surfaces in his team players that makes them, in turn, better human beings and ultimately a better team.
He works on a small scale. He takes the time to learn the timid waterboy Nate’s name, helping Nate understand his worth on the team. Ted bakes biscuits for his boss each morning, showing how important it is to start off the day positively; with a sweet treat and good conversation. Ted gives out unique books to each player based on their personalities and interests, taking deep care to connect with who they really are. When he notices a player homesick on his birthday, Ted rallies the entire team to throw a huge joyful celebration. Ted doesn’t try to solve everyone’s problems; instead he brings authenticity, honesty, infectious positivity to those around them, inspiring them to take make their own changes in their lives and the world around them.
Ted eventually breaks down the walls of even the grumpiest people around him through radical kindness. Radical kindness is simple: it’s treating others the way we wish to be treated. Social reciprocity theory says that once you spread kindness and optimism, those around you can’t help but act the same. Kindness is infectious. Dan Harris says it’s about “exploding the trope that kindness is a liability”: kindness is the opposite of weakness; it’s the boldest thing we can do.
The show makes me smile, cry, and laugh, and I find myself looking forward to a new episode each week. Ted’s positivity is infectious and uplifting, and I admire his ability to treat life and the those around him with warmth, laughter, and openheartedness.
Here are twelve concrete leadership lessons from Ted Lasso that we can all incorporate into our daily lives.
“Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return
but because of who you are”
– Harold Kushner
What I’m Playing: Where Should We Begin?
I believe that human connection has transformative power
in all aspects of our lives.”
– Esther Perel
Psychotherapist Esther Perel recently designed a game to explore interpersonal relationships called Where Should We Begin? It is meant to be an exercise of our storytelling and listening skills, wherein one person is chosen to be a storyteller and the other participants choose which stories they want to hear. Ultimately, it’s a practice of our leadership and relational skills — can we be vulnerable enough to open ourselves to each other and treat each other with kindness? In a relaxed and lighthearted setting, Esther is asking us to accept and tell our own stories while we learn about and have fun with each other.
“Be curious, not judgmental.”