Watching Sarina Wiegman’s incredible leadership of the Lionesses to near victory has been epic and emotional.  Now, the players are deservedly getting their moment in the spotlight - and are united in their praise for their leader and the impact her ‘caring’ style has had on their game, and their lives. 

How often do we see that type of leadership celebrated? Wiegman isn’t afraid to show her emotions and doesn’t hold back in her passion for the game, her team and her ambition. She has clear values, which she embodies and instils in those around her. And she gives critical feedback (which is hard) and does it with care (which is harder). 

It made me think about other female leaders - both in reality and fiction - that are celebrated for these types of qualities. And it took me down a Ted Lasso rabbit hole from which I have just emerged after binge watching all three seasons of the show.  

In the series, Rebecca, (played by Hannah Waddingham), is the owner of a struggling football club who appoints Ted Lasso as the manager. She’s not perfect, but she learns from her mistakes and over the course of the series, she grows and adapts in a way that makes her one of the best role models for leadership  - Sarina aside - I’ve ever seen.

There are five lessons I’ve taken from this brilliant, unabashed (yes I’m aware she’s fictional) leader: 

Have clear values 

And follow through on them. Rebecca comes clean that she’s been trying to sabotage her own club in a bid to get back at her ex-husband. Afterwards, she is determined to do the right thing, even when it’s hard. She sets her values and she sticks to them.

Back yourself 

Imposter syndrome is real - regardless of level or seniority. Rebecca overcomes her fears to challenge those who don’t value her. In doing so, she stands up to the criticism and sexism she experiences from the media to make a crucial defence of her manager and her club. Like Sarina, she backs herself, and she backs her team. 

Challenge your preconceptions

Ted Lasso was an outsider when Rebecca hired him. But she gets to know his unique qualities; she learns from his different perspective, and she challenges her own assumptions. Rebecca learns to support and empower others, creating a positive environment and daring to be open in a way that releases her fun and adventurous personality. 

Learn from your mistakes

Rebecca owns up about her initial bad intentions, takes responsibility, and makes an apology that serves as a model for how to do it. It’s a skill that many leaders never learn but she shows why we all should, as we see her subsequently becoming more flexible in her approach and building her own, unique leadership style.

It’s OK to show emotion 

Once she’s opened up to her mistakes and to the other people in her team, Rebecca feels able to admit that she struggles with her own insecurities. She hates being judged by the critical media, and is intimidated by her fellow (male) football club owners. By being honest with others and herself, she throws off the hard shell that served as a barrier with the world and people around her.

Overall, like the England manager Sarina Wiegman, Rebecca prioritises the team. She has high expectations but – crucially – allows others to make their own decisions and express themselves without fear.

Wiegman’s own words are straight out of Rebecca’s story. She said: “As I grew in my personality, I really wanted to be relaxed more. Yes, it’s all about winning, but you perform better when you can be yourself and when you’re in an environment where you’re safe, where you will not be judged.”

Holly will be writing a column for the MAD//Fest Newsletter regularly throughout the year.