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25 Inspiring TED Talks for Leaders & Managers

January 26th, 2011

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As a leader or manager, you have a lot of responsibilities on your shoulders. You not only have to make sure that everything is running smoothly, but that employees or workers are happy and you're representing the long-term goals of the organization – all while trying to maintain and push forward your own career. It's a lot to balance, but it can be done. These lectures from TED speakers will help inspire you to do more with your leadership position and educate you on what it takes to truly make a difference — whether in your immediate workplace or in the world as a whole.

Improving Leadership

No matter where you take on a leadership role– at a non-profit, community organization or a corporation– these talks will help to inspire you to become a better, smarter leader.

  1. Fields Wicker-Miurin: Learning from leadership's "missing manual". In this lecture, you'll hear from Fields Wicker-Miurin on some inspiring stories about local leaders.
  2. David Logan on tribal leadership. This talk will educate you on the five types of tribes humans naturally form, and how these tendencies can help you improve your leadership abilities.
  3. Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action. Learn how great leaders can inspire others to follow in their footsteps with this talk, which includes some amazing real-world examples.
  4. Itay Talgam: Lead like the great conductors. Leadership, says Talgam, is like conducting a great orchestra. Learn how this can apply to your own leadership role and get some valuable lessons along the way.
  5. Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders. Any woman in a leadership position should listen to this lecture exploring some of the reasons why so few women make it to the top of their fields – and what they can do to help themselves succeed.
  6. Derek Sivers: How to start a movement. Great leaders not only inspire those they work with, but those in society at large. This short talk provides some inspiration on what it really takes to get others to follow in your footsteps.
  7. Patrick Awuah on educating leaders. In this talk, you'll learn why a great liberal arts education is an essential part of becoming a true leader and helping to groom the next generation as well.
  8. Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge. Kiran Bir Sethi runs a school that teaches kids to take charge, but many of the lessons and methods she uses can work for a leader in any role — with kids or adults.

Better Management

Managers at all levels can benefit from watching these amazing TED talks, from marketers, businesspeople and social scientists.

  1. Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation. Dan Pink will share something with you that you might not know as a manager — traditional rewards systems for employees aren't always that effective. Learn why and what else you can do to inspire motivation from this talk.
  2. Jason Fried: Why work doesn't happen at work. Learn why your workplace may not be the most productive place to get work done and what you can do to make changes that will help shape a better office environment.
  3. Rory Sutherland: Sweat the small stuff. Many people will tell you not to sweat the small stuff, but in this lecture, you'll hear how the small stuff can actually matter more than the big stuff — something any business leader may want to take to heart.
  4. Jeff Bezos: What matters more than your talents. Being able to lead well, think on your feet and come up with great ideas are all excellent assets for any leader to have, but Bezos argues that your character matters most of all in creating a business and leading others.
  5. Barry Schwartz on our loss of wisdom. In this talk, you'll hear about the loss of practical wisdom our society has undergone, and get some ideas on ways that managers can reduce the red tape and improve the level of productivity and happiness in the workplace.
  6. Seth Godin: This is broken. Many of the things we use and protocols we interact with on a daily basis simply don't work. In this talk, you'll learn some of the reasons that's the case and new ways you can get things on track– something every business leader should educate him- or herself about.
  7. Ray Anderson on the business logic of sustainability. Waste not, want not is the lesson of this great talk from businessman Ray Anderson. You'll learn why taking a green approach to all your business resources, human and otherwise, can help turn your business around and promote greater success– all while setting an example for other businesses.
  8. Sheena Iyengar on the art of choosing. In any business, you'll have to make choices every day, whether they're small choices or on a huge scale. Learn more about how we make these choices from this talk, with results that will surprise you and make you more carefully consider your leadership decisions.

Success and Happiness

Ultimately, good leadership is about results. These lectures will inspire you to pursue greater success and happiness for yourself, those who work with you and those in the world at large.

  1. John Wooden on true success. Former UCLA coach John Wooden shares some of his secrets for success — both on and off the court– in this inspiring talk.
  2. Rick Warren on a life of purpose. Are you living a purpose-driven life? Finding your goals and personal meaning could help transform you into a better, more passionate leader — as well as a happier human being — so listen to this lecture for inspiration.
  3. Rory Sutherland: Life lessons from an ad man. While this talk is about advertising, the lessons it offers can be transferred to any leadership or management position as well. Change the perceptions of those working with you, and you'll end up with happier, more productive employees.
  4. Arianna Huffington: How to succeed? Get more sleep. In this talk, Huffington shares insights into why sleep is such an essential part of being happier, more productive and smarter in your leadership role.
  5. Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index. A nation's success is often judged by its GDP, but Marks believes that true success should be measured by well-being and happiness. You might be surprised to find out where some of the happiest countries in the world actually are and learn some important lessons about what really matters in your leadership role.
  6. Randy Pausch: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. Many are familiar with this now-famous lecture, but few have framed ambition, success and passion so poignantly as Pausch, showing leaders of today and tomorrow new ways to achieve what they've always dreamed.
  7. Richard St. John's 8 secrets of success. What makes some people succeed while others fail? In this talk, St. John will explain the qualities that have to coalesce to make a person successful in this short but sweet lecture.
  8. Chip Conley: Measuring what makes life worthwhile. Chip Conley went in search of a business model that promoted happiness — not just profits. Check out this lecture to see just what he discovered and how he put it into play — something that just might inspire you to do the same.
  9. Philip Zimbardo prescribes a healthy take on time. Have you ever considered how much of a role time plays in your happiness and the happiness of those whom you lead? Stop rushing and take a different approach to time with some guidance from this talk.

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