If you’re a fan of Ted Lasso, the sad news is that the second season finale has been released. I say “sad” because, if you’re like me, you’ve come to look forward to a weekly dose of humor, hope, and optimism. Now that the season is over, we’ll just have to wait. There’s good news though–the season finale included one of the best quotes of the entire series.
That isn’t surprising, the show is full of great lines, many of them from Ted himself. In this case, however, the best line came from Leslie Higgins, AFC Richmond’s Director of Communications.
Warning, if you haven’t watched the season finale, you might want to do that before you read the rest of this article.
Near the end of the episode, Higgins tells Keeley–who has just been offered the opportunity to start her own PR firm–something that every leader should hear. Keeley is worried that Rebecca, AFC Richmond’s owner, and Keeley’s mentor, will be upset or disappointed that she’s leaving. After all, it was Rebecca that gave Keeley her biggest opportunity and helped her rise to the point where she’s receiving recognition and success on her own.
Higgins’s response is beautiful, but it would be easy to chalk up as just another Ted Lasso-ism and move on. That would be a mistake. This one is worth taking a beat.
“A good mentor hopes you will move on,” Higgins tells Keeley. “A great mentor knows you will.”
Two sentences. Fourteen words. That’s it. After two full seasons, this might be the most profound statement from the entire show. It’s definitely the most powerful lesson on leadership.
It’s worth mentioning that not every leader is a mentor. Some people in leadership positions are terrible mentors. That’s unfortunate, because I think mentoring is an incredibly important part of leadership. As a result, if you’re leading people, you should pay very close attention to those 14 words because they reveal an important distinction between good and great leaders.
Every good leader builds into his or her team hoping they will succeed without them someday. That’s important, but it isn’t the same as knowing they will.
You see, expectations are everything. When you expect something, you behave accordingly. When you expect that someone you lead will move on, you actively work to prepare them for their better future. Your job is different, your expectations are different, and how you approach leadership is different when it’s a given that the people you are responsible for leading will move on.
I don’t believe leading is fundamentally about getting people to follow you. I know that seems confusing because the word “leader” implies that there’s a person at the front of the line with followers behind her. Sure, that’s a part of it. But I think leadership, at its core, is about helping people get somewhere–whether you go with them or not.
As a mentor, you have an incredible opportunity. Mentoring people is a truly extraordinary gift. It’s a challenge, for sure, but it’s rewarding to see people thrive and grow.
But as much as it’s an opportunity, it’s an even greater responsibility. Because mentoring people isn’t about bringing the people around you to your level. It isn’t about imposing on them all of your wisdom and experience. It’s about preparing them to go further, to a place that you’ve never been, and a place you may not be able to lead them.
Good leaders point people in the direction they should go, give them all the tools they need to get there, and then motivate them on the journey. Great leaders, however, prepare people to go even further. They aren’t afraid of pouring into people who might leave and do greater things because that’s the entire point. That’s the call of leadership.