8 Powerful TED Talks About Being an Effective Leader

In the 21st century, leadership is no longer about power, but about collaboration.
These TED talks can help teach us about toady's business world, leadership is no longer about who has the most power, it’s about collaborating with those you’re seeking to lead. (Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Flckr)

Whether you’re talking about a sports team, community group, global corporation or a small business, there’s no doubt that good leadership is an essential element of success. But what makes a good leader?

In these eight inspiring TED Talks, one thing is clear: In today’s world, leadership is no longer about who has the most power, it’s about collaborating with those you’re seeking to lead.

Tom Wujec on the nature of collaboration

There’s a design challenge called the Marshmallow Challenge, which asks teams to build free-standing structures out of dry spaghetti, a yard of tape, string and a marshmallow. Tom Wujec, a fellow at AutoDesk, has used the test in a number of workshops around the world, from groups made up of Fortune 500 CEOs to kindergartners. And the really interesting thing is, the kids are the best at it.

Rather than spend the majority of their time planning and jockeying for power, they get right down to it and start building, each time with the marshmallow on top so that they know right away what doesn’t work. Wujec says success comes when you spend less time seeking power and more time managing and understanding the process.

Charlene Li on being a leader in the digital era

Doing business in the digital era is less about a drive for efficiency and scale, and more about the need for innovation and rapid decision­making across all management levels.

Charlene Li, social media expert, author and recognized thought leader on strategy and social technologies, says effective leadership is about enabling and empowering employees to acquire the information they need to make their own decisions and take action.

Drew Dudley on how to be a leader every day

Drew Dudley, the founder of Nuance Leadership Development Services, says we’ve made leadership into being something bigger than us. But leadership isn’t all about changing the world; sometimes it’s just about changing someone’s life.

In his very funny TED Talk, Dudley recounts a moment that was so significant in one young woman’s life, she walked up to him four years later and thanked him. But the same moment was so insignificant to him, Dudley doesn’t even remember it.

“As long as we make leadership something bigger than us, as long as we keep leadership something beyond us, as long as we make it about changing the world, we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it every day from ourselves and from each other,” he says.

Stanley McChrystal on building personal relationships

During his decades-­long career in the military, Gen. Stanley McChrystal experienced all types of leadership styles, but in this era of global communication, with operations spread across continents, a new kind of leadership is required.

McChrystal says leadership is no longer about giving orders, but about building a shared consensus and a shared sense of purpose. It’s the personal relationships that are important now, because when you get knocked down, it’s the people you’ve counted on who will help you up. And it’s those same people who need you on your feet as a leader.

Itay Talgam on building a partnership with the orchestra

An orchestra conductor is faced with the task of creating music from chaos with nothing more than a tiny gesture. How do they do it? By building a partnership with the orchestra, says conductor-­turned­leadership expert Itay Talgam.

In his TED Talk, Itay says the music is about telling a story, which is told by the orchestra; the conductor is not the commander, he’s the enabler. Each musician is an artist proud of their work, but when the conductor brings them all together, you get the entire symphony, a product greater than the sum of its parts.

Roselinde Torres on the characteristics of leadership

Despite an ever-­growing number of MBAs in the workforce and extensive corporate leadership development programs, in a survey 58 percent of more than 4,000 companies showed significant talent gaps in critical leadership roles.

Rosalinde Torres, a senior partner and resident expert on leadership at consulting firm BCG, says there are characteristics that all great leaders share: anticipation, collaboration and the courage to be different.

Simon Sinek on inspiring action

Simon Sinek is the author of “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” He wrote the book to explore what he calls the Golden Circle, which he says explains the way that great leaders think, act and communicate. Rather than simply try to sell their products, they inspire their customers by selling what they believe.

Sinek says people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. Learning to communicate what you believe before what you’re trying to sell is the key to building a successful team and a successful business.

Margaret Heffernan on giving up the pecking order

In her TED Talk, management consultant Margaret Heffernan tells the story of a superflock of chickens that had been bred for productivity. After six generations, all but three were dead; the productive chickens were only successful by suppressing the productivity of the rest.

Heffernan says that in the real world, collaboration among teams far outperforms individual intelligence. “We need to redefine leadership as an activity in which conditions are created in which everyone can do their most courageous thinking together.”

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