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How People With High Emotional Intelligence Use the Roy Kent Rule to Become Remarkably Successful’

I give him love. And as for why he did what he did, that’s none of my business.’


This is a story about Ted Lasso and emotional intelligence — especially emotional intelligence for leaders

Let’s set it all up with a question: Has anything like the following ever ever happened to you?

  • You gather your team for an exciting announcement. You’re sure it will improve their lives better and earn them more money. But your words fall flat, and you can’t figure out why.
  • You see a competitor that beat you recently for a key client. You make a joke of it — and yet, they react with bitterness and anger. Where on earth is that coming from? You have no idea.
  • You call an employee into the office for a tough but important conversation. Instead of listening or agreeing — or doing anything, really — they simply shut down. You have no idea if your message is getting through, or if they even want to work for you.

They’re all frustrating scenarios, for sure. What they have in common is that you say or do something with good intentions, and you get an emotional reaction that’s basically the opposite of what you expect.

People with high emotional intelligence understand what’s going on, and the fact that they do gives them an immense advantage.

To illustrate it, I’m going to use a story from the most recent episode of the Apple TV show, Ted Lasso, a popular comedic drama (or a dramatic comedy?) about a fictional professional soccer team in England.

You don’t need to watch the show in order for this to make sense. (Although, I recommend it.) In short, the most recent episode has two key plot points:

  • First, a star player, Isaac McAdoo, reacts to a fan’s taunting, which includes a gay slur, by charging into the stands and physically confronting the fan — and thus getting himself thrown out of the game.
  • Second, the assistant coach, a former player named Roy Kent, has to face the press afterward and answer questions about what got into McAdoo, and whether the team stands behind him for having run into the stands.

Here’s part of what Roy Kent (played by Brett Goldstein) has to say.

"What a stupid ... question. Of course we don't [condone it]. What Isaac did was awful.   ... [But], none of us knows what is going on in each other's lives. So, for Isaac to do what he did today, even though it was wrong, I give him love. And as for why he did what he did, that's none of my ... business. Next question."

Now, if you watch the show, you’ll understand that two out of the three ellipses above are about me editing out all the F-bombs that normally come up in Kent’s lines; it’s part of his charm. (Video is embedded at the end, but again: same warning.)

But, there’s a lot of wisdom in that line — and we might add, emotional intelligence for leaders. 

Here’s what it comes down to. People with high emotional intelligence understand that sometimes, your words fall flat, or your invitation doesn’t get an answer, or you wind up with a completely different emotional response than you expect–and it has absolutely nothing to do with you personally. You’re often best off just forgetting the whole thing and moving on.

But, leaders don’t get that option, unless they want to abdicate their leadership role.

You can’t simply ignore that your employees aren’t engaged, or that your competitor now seems inexplicably angry, or that your team isn’t enthused by the goals or opportunities you’ve set out. You have to react somehow.

And the way to react is the way the fictional character Roy Kent suggests: You have to find a way to give them love.

  • Maybe it means asking a few questions, figuring out what’s going on behind the scenes, and holding a second meeting with your team.
  • Maybe it means sending another note to that competitor, and making sure that there’s no other fact you’re not aware of that might have created bad blood.
  • Maybe it’s about being proactive, and finding out what’s been going on with the employee whose actions led you to think you needed a tough conversation, and seeing if there are ways you can help him or her succeed.

None of us knows what is going on in each other’s lives. It’s such a key thing to realize in emotional intelligence, and such a simple thing to remember. In honor of the TV show that has now provided us with a pithy way to remember it, we’ll call it the Roy Kent Rule. 

Because, as I write in my free ebook, 9 Smart Habits of People With Very High Emotional Intelligence, I like things that are simple–just because it’s much more likely I’ll stick with them.

Next question.