Leadership. It’s a simple concept—but, not such an easy skill to master. In fact, being an effective and inspiring leader requires some serious thought, consideration, and (believe it or not) practice.
Luckily, there are plenty of people out there with tons of insights about what makes for a great leader. And, what better place to turn for this information than the platform dedicated to all kinds of thought leadership and innovation? That’s right—TED Talks.
Give some of your time and attention to these five different TED Talks, and you’re guaranteed to walk away some some new skills and know-how to up your leadership game.
1. Stanley McChrystal: Listen, Learn...Then Lead
As a four-star general and the former commander of U.S. and International forces in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal knows a thing or two about solid leadership.
Throughout his talk—which is weaved together with numerous captivating accounts of his time in the military—he illustrates that effective leaders don’t just dole out demands. Instead, they listen, learn, and trust their direct reports.
Standout Quote: “I came to believe that a leader isn’t good because they’re right; they’re good because they’re willing to learn and to trust. This isn’t easy stuff.”
2. Astro Teller: The Unexpected Benefit of Celebrating Failure
Leading a team of people that always manages to get things right is easy. But, standing behind them, even when projects and plans take a major flop? That’s the mark of a true leader.
In his talk, Astro Teller—who works with Moonshot Company, X (formerly Google X), to develop technologies that could reshape our entire futures—talks about making it “safe” for his team to fail.
Teller’s talk illustrates an interesting point about leadership. If people are too concerned with falling flat, they simply won’t be willing to push the boundaries and try new things. True progress and innovation are typically the result of a big risk and an idea that seems just a little crazy.
Standout Quote: “The only way to get people to work on big, risky things—audacious ideas—and have them run at all the hardest parts of the problem first, is if you make that the path of least resistance for them.”
3. Simon Sinek: Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe
What exactly makes a great leader? While there’s no foolproof recipe you can follow, there’s one common theme that pops up over and over again: trust.
Effective leaders aren’t threatening or intimidating. Instead, leadership expert Simon Sinek asserts that good leaders are those who make their employees feel safe and secure in their work environment—and certain that their managers are always looking out for their best interests.
That spirit of confidence and cooperation is one of the most powerful things you can instill in your team members.
Standout Quote: “When a leader makes the choice to put the safety and lives of the people inside the organization first, to sacrifice their comforts and sacrifice the tangible results, so that the people remain and feel safe and feel like they belong, remarkable things happen.”
4. Itay Talgam: Lead Like the Great Conductors
Have you ever watched an orchestra conductor? It’s amazing, isn’t it? He’s able to get hundreds of musicians to form beautiful music—without saying so much as one word.
While you may not be directing a symphony, there are some powerful lessons to be gleaned from the way conductors lead. And, that’s exactly what well-known conductor, Itay Talgam, explores in his TED Talk.
Sharing numerous examples from famous conductors, Talgam emphasizes the importance of allowing room for creative expression and interpretation—rather than ruling with an iron fist.
Standout Quote: “But isn’t that controlling in the same way? No, it’s not, because he is not telling them what to do. When he does this, it’s not, ‘Take your Stradivarius and like Jimi Hendrix, smash it on the floor.’ It’s not that. He says, ‘This is the gesture of the music. I’m opening a space for you to put in another layer of interpretation.’ That is another story.”
5. Linda Hill: How to Manage for Collective Creativity
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone on your team was full of amazing ideas? Chances are, they already are—they just don’t feel comfortable sharing them.
Harvard professor, Linda Hill, uses examples from well-known organizations like Pixar and Google to offer advice for extracting as much creativity and innovation out of your team as possible. She asserts that great leadership doesn’t just involve directing people to act on your vision—you also need to offer room for them to develop their own visions and solutions.
Standout Quote: “They stopped giving answers, they stopped trying to provide solutions. Instead, what they did is they began to see the people at the bottom of the pyramid, the young sparks, the people who were closest to the customers, as the source of innovation. They began to transfer the organization’s growth to that level.”
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