Is your management style effective in leveraging creativity, productivity, and change? TED Conferences, LLC is a nonprofit media organization dedicated to sharing "ideas worth spreading." Watch the following ten talks to sharpen your management skills.

Key Takeaways

  • Nonprofit media organization TED Conferences, LLC presents motivational videos about business and leadership from experts.
  • One of 10 notable speakers mentioned, British-American author Simon Sinek delivered a powerful presentation about how leaders inspire action.
  • Jacqueline Novogratz, head of the Acumen Fund, posits that leaders should act nobly and avoid being manipulated by power.
  • Life coach Tony Robbins believes that emotions are the driving force of life and that people should produce emotions that inspire action.

1. Simon Sinek: “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” Sinek repeats over and over again in this revolutionary TED Talk. He demonstrates through powerful examples how successful leaders inspire their employees to work purposefully: “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

2. Tim Harford: “Trial, Error, and the God Complex”

Tim Harford urges leaders to abandon the God complex—which leads them to believe that they are always right—and to opt for humility and systematic problem-solving. Often trial and error produce variants that work, and we have no idea why. Harford argues that working to solve issues systematically is optimal. He also recommends leaders abstain from “laying down the law” and encourages them to admit when they're wrong.

3. Jacqueline Novogratz: “Inspiring a Life of Immersion”

“Extraordinary leaders must dare to live a life of immersion,” says Novogratz. Novogratz heads the Acumen Fund, which invests globally in innovations that focus on change. Great leaders take resources and convert them to change the world in positive ways. The most important things that businesses do and spend time on are often immeasurable, argues Novogratz. She advises leaders to take the noble path and to be wary of being manipulated by power.

4. Roselinde Torres: “What It Takes to Be a Great Leader” 

Roselinde Torres spent 25 years cultivating leadership pipelines and observing what makes great leaders. She argues that the widening leadership gap derives from outdated leadership development programs that stunt growth, based on the world that was rather than what is and what’s coming. In the 21st century, businesses must be global, transparent, and possess a complex matrix to get things done. Great leaders dare to be different. They don’t just talk about it; they do it according to Torres.

6. David Logan: “Tribal Leadership”

The tribe is a naturally occurring group of 20 to 150 people, wherein societies develop. Tribes exist in five unique stages. Most people (48% of working tribes) sit in stage three, the “I’m great, and you’re not,” stage.

Unfortunately, because of this attitude, groups aren't as productive as they could be. David Logan argues that the biggest challenge for leaders is moving teams from stage three to stage four, the "we're great," stage.

Stage four is where workers come together to unite values of creativity and become “a little bit weird.” Lastly, Logan says leaders must push forward to stage five, the “life is great,” stage. 

7. Steve Jobs: “How to Live Before You Die” 

Steve Job’s famous Stanford University commencement speech addresses his unique background, his adoption, and the events that led him to start one of the 21st century’s most revolutionary companies. Jobs urges leaders to have faith in their path, to take a leap of faith, and act individually. Jobs championed taking risks, stating: “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent.”

8. Tony Robbins: “Why We Do What We Do” 

Life coach Tony Robbins says emotion, not self-interest is the driving force of life. When leaders understand human needs, they appreciate workers and what shapes their ability to contribute. The science of achievement is understood, but the art of fulfillment lacks understanding.

Robbins suggests that excuses for failing are futile, and the defining factor of success is resourcefulness. Make decisions based on a focus, give it meaning, and produce an emotion that inspires action.

9. Jason Fried: “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work” 

Jason Fried compares work to sleep, which both suffer from interruption. Why do we expect people to work well if they are interrupted all day at the office? By deeming social media the modern-day smoke break, he denies technology as the culprit behind productivity lags. Managers and meetings can be toxic disrupters. Companies should to cut back on unnecessary interruption and consider allotted quiet time.

10. Shawn Achor: “The Happy Secret to Better Work”    

If we study the average, we remain average. We should instead study the outliers in pursuit of moving the average up in companies worldwide. Shawn Achor urges leaders to change the lenses through which they see the world, in turn changing business outcomes. We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success since 75% of job successes rely on outlook.

As a manager, are you focused on struggles and complaints or opportunity? Achor’s humorous talk offers insight on how leaders can leverage the “happiness advantage,” where creativity and productivity levels thrive.

The Bottom Line

These ten TED Talks inspire leaders to take leaps, not steps, in impacting change, taking responsibility and the road less traveled. From life coaches to scientists and artists, TED offers valuable insight from experts in the field.