30 Must-Watch TED & TEDx Talks That Inspire Leadership

Check out the top TED Talks that will increase your leadership skills.

What makes a great leader? We often associate leaders as those with a stern demeanor who are responsible for creating quantified organizational processes and delivering positive results in their respective roles. But true leadership can come from anyone in any situation. It requires being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, listening to and learning from others, and working to continuously improve yourself so you can be the best leader possible.

The best way to improve your leadership skills is to learn from the world’s best thought leaders on the subject. We put together a list of the top 30 TED Talks that are sure to increase your leadership skills.

1. How Great Leaders Inspire Action: Simon Sinek (17:57)

This talk has accumulated more than 35 million views and is one of the most shared TED Talks to date. Simon Sinek, a seasoned leadership expert, breaks down the formula of real inspirational leadership. His “golden circle” model explains why some organizations’ leaders are able to inspire while others aren’t. Learn how leaders like Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Wright Brothers were able to utilize this model and how you can too.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

2. The Puzzle of Motivation: Dan Pink (18:31)

How do effective leaders inspire real motivation? The answer goes beyond monetary reward. Dan Pink, a former speechwriter for Al Gore, attempts to discover the truth behind what really motivates employees. He finds out that there is a mismatch between what science knows about motivation and what a business does. Find out what this mismatch is and how leaders can utilize it.

Watch: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation?language=en

3. Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders: Sheryl Sandberg (14:56)

Why do so few women make it to the C-Suite in today’s workforce? Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, wants to ensure women stay in the workforce and reach for every opportunity they can. In addition to establishing concrete goals, she reminds her audience that equal responsibility in partnerships creates stronger relationships and benefits women trying to climb their way up in the workforce.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders

4. The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding: John Wooden (17:32)

It’s time to give a different meaning to what being successful means. John Wooden, known simply as “Coach,” led UCLA from 1948-1975 to a wins record that is still unmatched in college basketball today. With all those wins, he could say that the definition of success is winning, but in this talk, he states otherwise. Learn how pure effort to be the best can lead to major success in your life.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/john_wooden_on_the_difference_between_winning_and_success

5. What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work: Dan Ariely (20:22)

It takes more than money to motivate employees. In fact, it takes more than enjoying what they do. Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist, breaks down what really drives meaningful work by explaining his groundbreaking experiments. The results remind us that the true meaning of motivation is derived from progress and self-satisfaction.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_what_makes_us_feel_good_about_our_work

6. Dare to Disagree: Margaret Heffernan (12:56)

People fear failure, but Margaret Heffernan thinks we should embrace it. People who dare to speak up and challenge the status quo create lasting and robust leadership skills. She says that those who create conflict enable those around us to do their best thinking. Listen to this inspiring talk on why great leaders should never avoid conflict.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_heffernan_dare_to_disagree#t-755221

7. Lead Like The Great Conductors: Itay Talgam (20:51)

The conductor guides an orchestra, but are they the ones who are responsible for the beautiful music? Former conductor, Itay Talgam, gives an elegant metaphorical talk on how different leadership styles yield different performance results. Learn how conductors can turn noise into music and how great leaders can turn disorganization into success.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/itay_talgam_lead_like_the_great_conductors

8. As Work Gets More Complex, Six Rules to Simplify: Yves Morieux (12:00)

Employees are becoming more disengaged from their work than ever before. Yves Morieux, director of the BCG Institute for Organization, wants to close the disengagement gap caused by the modern workplace. All too often, organizations try to use complex organizational maps and charts to solve this problem, but the solution can be found in six simple rules. Find out how the rules of “smart simplicity” can remedy complexity in the workplace.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/yves_morieux_as_work_gets_more_complex_6_rules_to_simplify

9. What It Takes To Be A Great Leader: Roselinde Torres (9:19)

What makes a great leader today? BCG’s Roselinde Torres reminds us that leadership programs today are outdated and do not match today’s leadership style. She shares three simple rules that will allow senior leaders to succeed in a twenty-first-century business environment.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/roselinde_torres_what_it_takes_to_be_a_great_leader

10. A Life of Purpose: Rick Warren (21:01)

Pastor Rick Warren warns us of a disease that inflicts everyone, “spiritual emptiness.” His book, “The Purpose-Driven Life,” was the most popular worldwide for three consecutive years. In this reflationary talk, he gives solid advice on leadership, responsibility, and stewardship. His passion for the pursuit of a fulfilled life is revealed in this engaging 21-minute talk.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/rick_warren_on_a_life_of_purpose

11. Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe: Simon Sinek (11:59)

Simon Sinek is back with another inspiring talk. This time he tackles the idea that great leaders make you feel safe. How do leaders capture the feelings of trust and cooperation and use them to better their work environments? Learn why leaders who create a safe work environment are the most effective at yielding results.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_why_good_leaders_make_you_feel_safe

12. Listen, Learn… Then Lead: Stanley McChrystal (15:38)

There are tons of lessons on leadership to learn from our military members. Four-star general Stanley McChrystal shares what he learned about proper leadership from his experience in the military. The biggest thing he learned is that “leaders can fail,” and from these failures can come a shared sense of purpose that drives real leadership.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/stanley_mcchrystal

13. Got a Wicked Problem to Solve? First, Tell me How you Make Toast: Tom Wujec (9:01)

How does the simple act of making toast help solve complex problems? Designer and business visualization expert, Tom Wujec, uses this analogy to put common design issues into perspective. He says we intuitively know how to break down complex things into simple ones and bring them back together again. This way of thinking can help leaders break down wicked problems in their environment and truly match their employees’ and customers’ needs and wants.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_got_a_wicked_problem_first_tell_me_how_you_make_toast

14. Everyday Leadership: Drew Dudley (6:14)

Leadership doesn’t mean we have to change the world. Drew Dudley, an experienced leadership educator, tells us why we all have the capability to be leaders in our everyday lives. Find out why having “lollipop moments” can redefine how we think about being a leader.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership

15. Tribal Leadership: David Logan (16:39)

Interestingly enough, we are all members of tribes. David Logan, a management professor at USC, tells us why we form tribes in our everyday lives. Great leaders can move these groups through what David calls “the five stages of tribes.” By understanding the similarities in our tribal tendencies, we can promote higher senses of purpose.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/david_logan_on_tribal_leadership

16. Learning From Leadership’s Missing Manual: Fields Wicker-Miurin (16:35)

We don’t have a written manual that tells us how to be a great leader, but learning from local leaders could be the next best thing. Fields Wicker-Miurin tells us several great stories about how grassroots leaders can make change happen in their respective communities. Find out how learning from these local leaders can transform how we think about being a leader today.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpTGUT-Fvf4

17. How To Make Work-Life Balance Work: Nigel Marsh (13:14)

Work-life balance is often a struggle for many people, and it is too important to be left in the hands of your employer. Our workplace tries to get the most out of us, and it is up to us to control this work-life balance. There are many sides to balance in our lives, and it’s up to us to attend to all of them.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdpIKXLLYYM

18. The Key To Success? Grit: Angela Lee Duckworth (6:12)

Angela Lee Duckworth left her job as a management consultant to be a seventh-grade math teacher. In her short time as a teacher, she realized that IQ wasn’t the only driver of success. In her research, she discovered that the attribute of “grit” separates those who are successful and those who struggle. Discover how “grit” transforms our ability to learn and lead.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H14bBuluwB8

19. The Secret Structure Of Great Talks: Nancy Duarte (18:11)

An idea is the single most powerful device known to man, and we all have them. Nancy Duarte reminds us that an idea can only be powerful if they are communicated effectively. Not everyone can translate these ideas into a compelling presentation. Still, people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Steve Jobs teach us valuable lessons about how telling stories can communicate ideas that can change the world.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nYFpuc2Umk

20. How To Start A Movement: Derek Sivers (5:41)

Creating a powerful movement isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Derek Sivers tells us why leadership is often “over-glorified” and how being an agent of support can motivate a movement. Find out how he explains this hypothesis by studying the chain of events at a music festival.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V74AxCqOTvg

21. Got A Meeting? Take A Walk: Nilofer Merchant (3:28)

Are you sitting down right now? We’ll get up because it may be killing you! Nilofer Merchant explains why sitting has become the smoking of our generation. In this short talk, she suggests that there is a benefit of letting ideas flow in mobile “walking meetings.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE9HMudybyc

22. The Leaders Who Ruined Africa, And The Generation Who Can Fix It: Fred Swaniker (13:30)

Fred Swaniker shares his gripping stories of living in struggling areas of Africa, and the experience made him question the structure of leadership in the continent. Leadership matters everywhere, but in Africa, the difference that one good leader can make is greater than anywhere else. One good leader in areas with weak institutions can make or break the success of the country, and this is especially the case in Africa.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcEIsbO0ivA

23. The Happy Secret To Better Work: Shawn Achor (12:20)

Should our work make us happy? Shawn Achor, a psychologist, explains why this notion could be backward. He suggests that being normal is merely average, and it’s our responsibility to push others outside the realm of average. Learn how optimism and a positive outlook can make you more successful at work in this witty and engaging talk.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLJsdqxnZb0

24. How to Fix a Broken School? Lead Fearlessly, Love Hard: Linda Cliatt-Wayman (17:07)

How do we give structure to failing schools? Linda Cliatt-Wayman tells a powerful story of her experience as the principal of a struggling school in North Philadelphia. She soon discovered the secret to transforming schools like these is not found in ruthless discipline. Real results are derived from fearless leadership and unconditional love.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe2nlti47kA

25. Trial, Error and the God Complex: Tim Harford (18:06)

The world is full of incredibly complex operating systems, and explaining how they work isn’t easy. Economics writer Tim Hartford explains why the “God Complex” is narrowing our worldview on how to solve these types of problems. In this talk, he explains why simple trial and error can solve the most complicated problems.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5wCfYujRdE

26. The Surprising Habits Of Original Thinkers: Adam Grant (15:24)

Where is creativity born? Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, thinks it might be a product of procrastination. In his research, he discovered that creative ‘originals’ aren’t always the innovators or first movers, but they are the ones who adapt and adopt new ways of thinking. In other words, good things really do come to those who wait.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxbCHn6gE3U

27. Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are: Amy Cuddy (21:02)

Our body language significantly impacts how others perceive us, but it also plays a big role in how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy believes non-verbal body language plays a big role in how we act in our own lives. She argues that “power posing “can boost confidence and productivity.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc

28. How to Get Your Ideas To Spread: Seth Godin (18:58)

How do our ideas get through the noise and get discovered? Marketing wizard Seth Godin explains why the concept of “idea diffusion” is why some products succeed and why others fail. A company can spend millions on advertising, but it’s worthless without an obsession surrounding it. Discover how spreading ideas and taking risks can create something remarkable.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBIVlM435Zg

29. Secrets Of Success In 8 Words, 3 Minutes: Richard St. John (3:46)

Why are some people successful? Is there a secret formula to make a person a success? In just three minutes, analyst Richard St. John gives us eight key actions that all successful people do. Strap yourself in because this is fast-paced and to the point.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6bbMQXQ180

30. Why We Do What We Do: Tony Robbins (22:30)

As an experienced leadership consultant, Tony Robbins is often told by people that they don’t need motivation, and he absolutely agrees. He wants people to ask themselves “why” they do what they do. In this talk, he reminds us that emotion is the primary motivator in our lives. He also gives Al Gore a high-five.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cpc-t-Uwv1I

Wrap Up

We hope these fantastic TED talks bring out the true leader in you. Leadership is more than just ordering people around. It requires a real understanding of not only your team and their goals but also your personal goals. Find your unique purpose, and let that purpose guide you as an effective leader in your community.

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