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15 Leadership TED Talks That Will Change Your Life

April 17, 2023 SHIFT


Leaders are stuck behind screens more than ever. 

From Zoom calls to Slack messages, we’re consuming information nonstop.

But… how often do you take 10-15 minutes to make all that screen time worthwhile?

Bookmark this page because these short leadership TED Talks are ones you’ll want to keep coming back to.

We’ve collected some of the best TED Talks (and our favorite quotes) that will leave you feeling inspired and ready to navigate today’s hybrid world of work.

Whether you listen in while making breakfast or have a few minutes between meetings, work your way through this roundup of top TED Talks that will help you become a better leader.

Ready to jump in?

1. "Great Leadership is a network, not a hierarchy" – Gitte Frederiksen

“Distributed leadership is a movement that goes beyond the traditional leader. People are much more likely to do things if they feel a sense of ownership and ‘it was my idea’ versus being told what to do. We need to create leaders, not followers.”

2. "The benefits of not being a jerk to yourself" – Dan Harris

“For ambitious people, this may be a little scary. You might fear it's going to erode your edge. But research shows that this process of replacing your sadistic inner tyrant with a supportive inner coach, who has high standards but is not a jerk about it, makes you more likely to reach your goals.”

3. "Listen, learn... then lead" – Stanley McChrystal

“How does a leader stay credible and legitimate when they haven't done what the people you're leading are doing? And it's a brand new leadership challenge. And it forced me to become a lot more transparent, a lot more willing to listen, and a lot more willing to be reverse-mentored from lower.”

4. "What it takes to be a great leader" – Roselinde Torres

“So what makes a great leader in the 21st century? I've met many, and they stand out. They are women and men who are preparing themselves not for the comfortable predictability of yesterday but also for the realities of today and all of those unknown possibilities of tomorrow.”

5. "On being wrong" – Kathryn Schulz

“I want to convince you that it is possible to step outside of that feeling [of being right about everything] and that if you can do so, it is the single greatest moral, intellectual, and creative leap you can make.”

6. "I've lived as a man and as a woman – here's what I've learned" – Paula Stone Williams

“I want [women] to know you are far more capable than you realize, you are more powerful than you know and you reflect the best parts of what it means to be fully human. And to you guys who are probably feeling more than a little bit uncomfortable right now, I do understand. I never thought I had privilege, but I did. And so do you. What can you do? You can believe us when we tell you that we might have equality, but we do not have equity. It is not a level playing field, it never has been. You can be a part of the solution by elevating us to equal footing. You uniquely have that power.”

7. "The creative power of your intuition" – Bozoma Saint John

“As I think about data and how we want to live and change our world, I'm reminded that sometimes, data is the pill that we take to calm our insecurity about what we intuitively know. So I’m advocating that we decrease the dosage of our data. And that we increase the implementation of our intuition. You’ll feel great, you really will ... when you're able to prove to yourself that the power of your intuition is actually accurate.”

8. "Storytelling: How to tell a leader from a manager" – Ruth Milligan

“When you’re thinking too hard about your data and information, you’re probably sitting on the things that the audience really cares about. The things from the heart, the vulnerabilities, and the things that make us connect.”

9. "Why great leaders take humor seriously" – Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas

“When we live our lives on the precipice of a smile, we shift how we interact with the world, and in turn, how it interacts back. It's also about being human, which should be easy, because we are human. But at work, it's oftentimes harder than we think.”

10. "As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify" – Yves Morieux

“Complicatedness: This is your battle, business leaders. The real battle is not against competitors. This is rubbish, very abstract. When do we meet competitors to fight them? The real battle is against ourselves, against our bureaucracy, and our complicatedness. Only you can fight, can do it.”

11. "How to turn a group of strangers into a team" – Amy Edmondson

“In our silos, we can get things done. But when we step back and reach out and reach across, miracles can happen. Miners can be rescued, patients can be saved, beautiful films can be created.”

12. "How great leaders innovate responsibly" – Ken Chenault

“The role of a leader is to define reality and give hope.”

13. "Why we ignore obvious problems – and how to act on them" – Michele Wucker

“I've found that the people who are willing to recognize the problems around them and make plans are the ones who are able to tolerate more risk, good risk, and deal with the bad risk. And it's because as we seek information, we increase our power to do something about the things that we're afraid of.”

14. "How to lead in the new era of employee activism" – Megan Reitz

“Dialogue is messy. It's jam-packed full of vulnerability, ambiguity, and disagreement. That's why leaders try and avoid it so much. But you can't avoid it any longer. That's not a sustainable strategy. So we need to get far better at experimenting, at expecting fallout, about learning from mistakes.”

15. "The future of work" – Joe Mechlinski

“The average child asks 125 questions a day when the average adult only asks six. We’ve been conditioning each other to not ask the tough questions, and instead of having another sage on a stage tell you what the future of work is going to be, how about we try something different? How about we assume that no one knows you better than you? That your voice and your vote is the only one that matters.”

Of course, we couldn’t help wrapping up this list with our all-time favorite TED Talk presented by Joe Mechlinski… who just so happens to be our SHIFT founder and CEO.

TED holds a special place in our hearts at SHIFT. As a team, we’ve been exchanging and debating TED videos for years. There’s something magical about the conversations and ideas that these thought-provoking videos inspire.

We’re excited that Joe is heading to TED2023 to discuss the future of work and debut our AI-powered tech platform called Latch.

If you’re familiar with TED you know that getting the golden ticket to get in can be a long and expensive process. It would be unfair not to mention how we’re affiliated with TED, which is through the Tony Hsieh Awards

Have you heard of Tony Hsieh? He is the founder of Zappos who left an incredible legacy behind. Each year we pull together awards for leaders and companies on the cutting edge of innovation and who all deeply care about making the work world a better one.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Tony Hsieh delegation or think you’d like to get involved, send us a note at team@shiftthework.com.

TOPICS: Business Growth, Employee Engagement, Workplace Innovation, Leadership Development, Company Culture