11 Ted Talks to Inspire Your Leadership and Management Teams

If you’re anything like me, you may have tuned into a few (hundred) Ted Talks for inspiration, education, and perspective when you feel like you’re running out of steam at work or life. I have a list of leadership-specific Ted Talks bookmarked to return to when I need a boost and I frequently recommend them to companies I work with when we talk about leadership and management. I thought I’d share them here so you can be inspired as well!

In no particular order, here are my top 11 Ted Talks on leadership and management:

On LinkedIn’s Community: A Superpower Hiding in Plain Sight

Sandra Long, author of LinkedIn for Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide, gave the first Tedx Talk on LinkedIn. In her talk, she discusses the human side of LinkedIn through real life examples and stories. Although LinkedIn is the #1 professional networking site and the place to get hired, find prospects and be noticed, there is still widespread confusion and misunderstanding. Long encourages the audience to take proactive steps to improve online relationships, which can lead to a much broader set of professional, and often life-changing, opportunities. Watch the talk here.

What it Takes to Be a Great Leader

Roselinde Torres is a senior partner and managing director at the consulting firm, BCG. A senior leader in the firm’s “people and organization” practice area, she is also the company’s resident expert on leadership, a topic she has studied her entire career. In her Ted Talk, she says that the world is full of leadership programs, but the best way to learn how to lead might be right under your nose. In this clear, candid talk, Torres describes 25 years observing truly great leaders at work, and shares three simple but crucial questions would-be company chiefs need to ask to thrive in the future. Watch the talk here.

Everyday Leadership

Drew Dudley, founder of Nuance Leadership Development Services, believes that leadership is about “lollipop moments”—those times when you’ve made someone else’s life better, almost without realizing it. Based on his extremely popular Ted Talk, he wrote This Is Day One, a guide to cultivating the behaviors that will help you succeed and empower those around you. Watch the talk here.

How Great Leaders Inspire Action

This classic has been viewed more than 40 million times for a reason: Simon Sinek outlines a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership—starting with a golden circle and the question: “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers, Sinek forces us to consider the message we’re putting out and to make it about why we’re doing what we’re doing, instead what we’re doing. Watch the talk here.

Efficient Leadership in the Digital Era

Charlene Li uses her knowledge as a CEO and Principal Analyst at the Altimeter Group to explore how we can be better leaders in this new, digital era. She recognizes that innovation and quick decisions have become more crucial to successful businesses than ever before, and in her speech breaks down how empowering employees can help foster better decision making. Watch the talk here.

Why It’s Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work

Margaret Heffernan is the former CEO of five different businesses. In this Ted Talk, she argues that organizations need to rethink the “superchicken model,” where value is only placed on star players. She reminds us that, “Companies don’t have ideas. Only people do.” Watch the talk here.

How Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

This has been on my top Ted Talks list for a while now, since it inspired me to write about imposter syndrome in 2018. Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy argues that “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our chances for success. It’s a series of small changes that can literally change your trajectory. Watch the talk here.

How to Fix a Broken School? Lead Fearlessly, Love Hard

Sometimes we need perspective from outside the corporate work world. On her first day as principal of a failing Philadelphia high school, Linda Cliatt-Wayman quickly learned that being a leader is more than just “laying down the law.” In this uplifting speech, Cliatt-Wayman presents three principles that helped her turn around her struggling school. She wrote a book on the topic based on her Ted Talk. Watch the talk here.

The Key to Success? Grit

We have a lot to learn from teachers. Angela Lee Duckworth left her consulting job to teach seventh grade at a New York City public school. She discovered that the most successful students have grit, not intelligence. In this speech, Duckworth describes why self-control, perseverance, and interest in long-term goals are so important. And like many of her counterparts, she wrote a book based on her talk. Grit is a New York Times bestseller and a must-read. Watch the talk here.

Build a Tower, Build a Team

Tom Wujec is a Fellow at Autodesk and the author of Five-Star Mind: Games and Puzzles to Stimulate Your Creativity and Imagination. In his Ted Talk, Wujec presents the “marshmallow challenge.” This team-building exercise challenges groups to compete to build the tallest freestanding structure, using only dry spaghetti, one yard of tape, and a marshmallow. Watch the talk here.

4 Ways to Build a Human Company in the Age of Machines

Want to know how to thrive as a leader in a world being taken over by machines? Be more human. In his 2016 TED Talk, Tim Leberecht highlights the importance of the emotional and social aspects of work. If you’re looking to be an authentic leader who unites people, this talk will help you get there. Watch the talk here.

I love Ted Talks. We’ve shared our list of talks focused on employee engagement in the past. I have a personal goal of speaking there in the next year. What’s your favorite Tedx talk? Leave a note in the comments and we will add it to our list.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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