Anyone who wants to work on becoming a better leader has a wide range of tools at their disposal, from books to podcasts. One of the most unique, however, is TED Talks. TED, a nonprofit dedicated to sharing knowledge, allows people to record lectures on a variety of subjects and posts them online.
For business leaders, TED offers a number of Talks from successful executives and the like on what they believe contributed to their success. As business leaders may guess, a large number of these Talks are focused on leadership. Deciding which ones will be most helpful depends on what exactly a person wishes to get out of a lecture. At the same time, there are some classic Talks that everyone can get something from, including the following:
“How to start a movement” by Derek Sivers
This TED Talk has become one of the most iconic examples of a great lecture on leadership. The video has about 7 million views on the TED website, largely because it is less than four minutes long. Despite the short length, Sivers delivers an incredible lecture about how to motivate the people around us. He explores the social underpinnings of leadership and talks about how groups choose its leaders with a focus on how people can develop themselves into natural authority figures.
“Tribal leadership” by David Logan
In this lecture, Logan talks about the five stages of a tribe, a group of 20 to 150 that occurs naturally. He argues that about half of working tribes get stuck in the third stage, which is defined by an attitude of superiority to other tribes. This mindset actually limits productivity. Logan shows leaders how they can move a tribe from this third stage to the fourth, which is defined by greater collaboration and the emergence of a unique tribal identity. In the fifth stage, tribes look beyond themselves to take on a more global view of success.
“What makes us feel good about our work?” by Dan Ariely
A behavioral economist, Ariely focuses on what motivates people. This Talk is based on a series of experiments that he designed to figure out what truly motivates an individual to work hard. He found that people go to work not to make money, but instead to fulfill a purpose. The best leaders pay attention to the bottom line, but they draw motivation from something much larger—and it is this purpose that gets them out of bed every day. People can learn a lot from this Talk about how to form their work in relation to their larger life goals.
“What it takes to be a great leader” by Roselinde Torres
The value of Torres’ talk is in three focused questions that she asks. These questions are meant to spur new thinking on what it means to become a great leader. The nine-minute talk is very candid and gets to the point quickly, although it will likely leave individuals thinking about their own work for a long time. In the Talk, Torres dismisses seminars and executive leadership programs in favor of more organic, not to mention more accessible, means of developing leadership skills.
“Listen, learn . . . then lead” by Stanley McChrystal
A decorated general, McChrystal spent decades serving in the military. In this TED Talk, he distills what he learned during that time into a very simple directive: listening and learning are directly connected to how good of a leader a person will become. Great leaders are not influential because they are always right, but rather because they are willing to learn and generate trust. McChrystal also digs into the importance of positioning failure as a learning opportunity.
“Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast” by Tom Wujec
This Talk by Wujec has become legendary because it exposes so much that we take for granted about great leadership. Wujec challenges listeners to walk through something as simple as making toast. However, it quickly becomes evident that making toast is much more complex than we think and describing how we personally do it becomes very involved. Over the course of the lecture, he shares what he has learned by asking thousands of people to repeat this simple exercise and extrapolates important principles about how leaders can better handle complex challenges in the workplace.
“Why we have too few women leaders” by Sheryl Sandberg
The chief operating officer of Facebook, Sandberg has a long history of professional leadership. However, she recognizes that only a small percentage of women ever assume executive roles. In this TED Talk, she explores the reasons behind this unfortunate truth and provides three succinct pieces of advice for women currently in the business world who would like to make it to the C-suite.
“Your body language may shape who you are” by Amy Cuddy
A social psychologist, Cuddy believes that body language has many implications outside of how other people perceive us. In this Talk, she explains how body language can actually shape how we think of ourselves, which can have an impact on our confidence. When business leaders choose to power pose, they actually make themselves feel more confident and thus become more likely to succeed in business.