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Lead Your Team Personal Growth

5 TED Talks to Make You a Better Leader

Learning Leadership from TED Talks
Credit: Piotr Swat/Shutterstock

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

Adam C. Uzialko

Adam C. Uzialko, a New Jersey native, graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a degree in Political Science and Journalism & Media Studies. In addition to his full-time position at Business News Daily and Business.com, Adam freelances for a variety of outlets. An indispensable ally of the feline race, Adam is owned by four lovely cats.