COVID had no greater impact on any technology more than streaming video entertainment services. New services seemed to be launched every month. (How much does a brand marketing agency charge to add a + to the end of a company’s name?) And with lots of suddenly free hours spent at home, consumers sought out programming that was fresh and engaging, while letting them escape the tedium of the pandemic.
Apple+ Television launched in November 2019, and its lead entry was The Morning Show. Star powered with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, the series is a Shakespearean tragedy set in a modern network morning television show, where a sudden discovery creates a power vacuum where numerous characters stand ready to rush in and profit.
If you haven’t seen the series, Alex Levy, played by Aniston, has been partnered with Mitch Kessler, played by Carell, for 15 years. Without giving away any plot lines, Carell is suddenly removed and Levy grabs center stage. The irony is that before the discovery, Levy is about to be “retired by the network.” Recognizing her now more important position on the network’s number 1 rated program, Levy executes a series of actions to gain and consolidate power. She has leverage and intends to use it to maximum personal benefit. Around Levy are a series of other characters who for the most part have their own plans to hold or gain power.
Nine months later in August 2020, Ted Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis, came to Apple+, the story of an American football coach recruited to tank an English soccer club as part of a vengeful campaign by the ex-wife of the club’s biggest fan and previous owner. Another powerful person, using her position to gain what they most want – in this case revenge.
Into the plot comes Ted Lasso, who it turns out knows nothing about soccer, was fired from his previous position and is facing one last chance to salvage his career. His arrival press conference and initial practice portend disaster.
Alex and Ted practice forms of leadership that are 180 degrees apart, offering us a chance to reflect on whether we personally veer more to a network television or the Premier League character in our own style.
Here are 3 differences to spark your reflection:
Is your circle of advisors shrinking or increasing?
During their times of crisis, Alex and Ted turn to advisors to help them navigate the unknown. But while Alex’s circle shrinks rapidly throughout the series, Ted’s expands. She turns to professionals, colleagues and family, and slowly ends up listening only to her instincts. She feels the need to control her destiny, and in the end only truly trusts herself.
Ted on the other hand sees his circle of advisors continually growing. Starting with an assistant coach that travels to England with him, we see a collection of diverse people from a wide become a part of “Team Ted.” They bring numerous perspectives during the different plot twists and turns, and ultimately recognize that it is not Ted’s job to create a winning team, but that the effort belongs to all of them.
Next month, the COVID pandemic “celebrates” its one-year birthday here in the US. How have your advisors changed over that time? Do you seek out and listen to more people or fewer that you did in March 2020? Do your people see working together as a core requirement of success, or has your team become more me-oriented?
How do you respond to personal affronts?
Alex seems to define all the of turmoil at the Morning Show, which she has begun referring to as “her show” in terms of a personal attack, where any small incident is meant to steal from who she is and what she represents. Her struggle to understand how all of this could “be happening to me” versus seeing the broader tragedy in the lives of others is heartbreaking.
At the same time, Ted treats every negative act, many of which are personally targeting him, as a chance to practice forgiveness. Even when key characters apologize for trying to thwart Ted’s success, he extends forgiveness and through the act adds them to his list of advisors.
While 2020 will most be known for COVID, there were many other issues that created or surfaced long-time pain between individuals and groups. When those occurred in your organization, how did you respond? Did you seek to humble the other party or to bring healing? Was it more important to be victorious or inclusive? Was your first reaction to get even or get back on track?
What flows out of your character?
The final takeaway from Alex and Ted is how the deepest parts of their character are demonstrated. Alex increasingly ignores those around her. Closed in by the tightening walls of paranoia, she walks the halls without greeting others, slams her dressing room door, and pushes away her family members. Her internal pain and narcissism demonstrated as eternal bitterness.
Ted is nearly the exact opposite. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to know what he is feeling inside as he walks through his first season and the various painful moments. His response to everyone is kindness, whether to the owner of the club or to the fans on the street who continuously greet him with disparaging words. Yet slowly, his kindness begins to overcome the scorn of nearly everyone around him.
Over the stress of this last year, what’s surfaced in your character? Do those around you see bitterness for all that was lost in 2020, or a kindness that keeps them engaged and moving forward?
Leadership is about helping your people see a better future and becoming committed to working as a team to achieve it. Alex focused on her future better, while Ted shows a commitment to helping those around him grow individually and collectively.
How about you? Would your people say you more closely channeled Alex or Ted?
About Russ Sharer
A business leader with over 35 years of experience in B2B sales and marketing, Russ Sharer serves as founder and principal of Sharer & Associates, a professional consultancy working with Executives, Sales and Marketing leaders. He combines his work experience with a lifelong commitment to learning and strong communication skills to help individuals and team maximize their outcomes.
His career includes 3 successful start-ups in networking and communications, as well as senior level positions at Ericsson, Xircom and Rockwell International. He has worked extensively in North America, Europe and Asia. Russ has also been involved with eight successful M&A efforts.