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5 TED Talks to Make You a Better Leader

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko

Leadership isn't always easy. Understanding how to best motivate your team, keep morale up, and optimize performance can be quite a burden, and it's not always simple to know what to do. The prevailing concept of leadership tends to conflate strength and confidence with success, but in the modern business environment, leadership often looks much different. What makes a great leader, and how can you improve your own leadership style?

These TED speakers have insights that shed some light on leading more effectively.

1. "What It Takes to Be a Great Leader"

In this TED talk, leadership expert Roselinde Torres discusses the ingredients that make a great leader. According to Torres, the ability to anticipate coming changes, build diverse teams with a variety of perspectives and a willingness to break from tradition to find new solutions are critical aspects of becoming a better leader. Torres suggests that leaders ask themselves three questions and then critically examine their own behaviors and what they can change to be more effective:

  • Where am I looking to anticipate change?
  • What is the diversity measure of my network?
  • Am I courageous enough to break with the past?

2. "The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers"

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant breaks down the characteristics of original thinkers that he was surprised by after missing an early opportunity to invest in Warby Parker. Oftentimes, original thinkers who have succeeded seem untouchable or otherworldly, but Grant argues that they are very human.

Original thinkers, he said, are often procrastinators who are full of doubts and fears about their ideas, many of which are just plain bad. In spite of these traits, or perhaps because of them, original thinkers often come up with creative solutions that launch them to the heights of success.

3. "Everyday Leadership"

In this TED Talk, Drew Dudley laments the fact that we have elevated the idea of "leadership" and reserved it for a select few. Instead, he encourages us all to think of ourselves as everyday leaders who can make significant impacts on the lives of those around us in seemingly insignificant interactions.

Dudley's anecdote about how he changed someone else's life involves an interaction that he doesn't even remember, and he urges all of us to think about how we can be leaders to those around us every single day.

4. "What I Learned From Giving up Everything I Knew as a Leader"

Jim Whitehurst was the leader of Delta Air Lines who came up in the tradition of top-down leadership and corporate fundamentals. When he joined open source software company Red Hat, however, Whitehurst found a company culture that was shocking in its willingness to disregard executive directives and tell managers that their ideas were bad.

Rather than resisting this culture, Whitehurst observed the results and, sure enough, he found that this type of collaborative pushback spurred success. Instead of maintaining that leaders were supposed to give edicts from on high and know more than their subordinates, Whitehurst came to find that successful leadership is about being open to changing decisions as circumstances demand and giving the right people the right information so they can act independently of management for the betterment of the company.

5. "How Too Many Rules at Work Keep You From Getting Things Done"

Often, we think of leaders as people who implement rules and procedures. Productivity must be monitored and measured, and responsibilities must be clearly delineated, or so conventional wisdom suggests.

Yves Morieux argues that too many rules and too much measurement are actually a drag on productivity and inhibit teams' abilities to work together effectively. Instead, cooperation should be the crown jewel of organizations.

When structures, processes, and systems become restrictive, Morieux argues, teams cannot effectively cooperate toward a winning goal. Good leaders know when to measure and when to let go. Striking a balance that enables optimal cooperation, Morieux said, is the key to success.

Image Credit: Piotr Swat/Shutterstock
Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Business News Daily Staff
Adam Uzialko is a writer and editor at and Business News Daily. He has 7 years of professional experience with a focus on small businesses and startups. He has covered topics including digital marketing, SEO, business communications, and public policy. He has also written about emerging technologies and their intersection with business, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.