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4 TED Talks to make you a stronger leader
Want to take your leadership skills to the next level? Check out these TED Talks for some new tools
What’s your next career move? These days more CIOs and other tech leaders are moving into business leadership roles including COO or even CEO. (See our related article, Why CIOs make good COOs, by CIO-turned-COO Brad Cowles. ) So you can dream big even if you’ve spent your entire professional life in IT. But if you want to land – and keep – such a role, you will need high-level leadership skills.
These four TED Talks, by people who’ve spent decades studying leadership and what makes the best leaders so effective, are a great resource to improve your skills. Watching all four is like a mini-course in leadership development: These talks are bound to get you thinking about how you can be a better leader in your current role and in the role you aspire to next.
Speaker: Simon Sinek
Sinek, the bestselling author of "Start With Why," began his latest research with a simple question: Why are so many members of the military so quick to put themselves in harm’s way to protect their fellow soldiers and commanding officers? When asked, they usually gave the same answer: “Because I know they would do the same for me.”
That explains why selfless behavior is rarely seen in corporate settings, where most employees are well aware that if they make a big mistake, or their skills are no longer needed, or the company sees falling profits, they’re likely to be shown the door. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sinek explains what it takes to create a department or team where people look out for each other – and looks at what happens at some companies that did just that, opting for furloughs rather than layoffs and even instituting a no-firing policy.
Speaker: Rosalinde Torres
Most enterprises these days have leadership development programs. Yet when consulting firm BCG surveyed 4,000 companies, 58 percent reported a lack of talent for critical leadership roles.
What’s going on here? To find out, BCG senior partner Torres took a year off to study the best leaders all over the world, asking what they do differently from everyone else. She learned that the most effective leaders learn to see around corners, anticipate trends before they happen, and are unafraid to take risks and try new approaches, even when the current way of doing things is working just fine. In this talk, she describes three simple practices that help the best leaders get out ahead of the curve.
Speaker: Drew Dudley
Dudley was handing out lollipops on orientation day at the University of Toronto, Scarborough: His brief conversation with a nervous freshman had a huge and positive effect on her life. He didn’t even remember the encounter until she reminded him and thanked him years later.
That’s the point, he says. It’s a mistake to think of great leadership in terms of huge and heroic acts – more often it’s these “lollipop moments” we barely remember that have the biggest impact. In this short and enchanting talk, he discusses his own lollipop moment and why we’ve all had them, although we may not know it.
Speaker: Tim Harford
The most effective leaders don’t study a problem, plan out a course of action, and then execute it flawlessly, argues Harford, who writes the Undercover Economist column for the Financial Times. Instead, they experiment. They try something, review the results, try something else, and keep repeating that process until they find the right course of action. (Sound familiar, DevOps folks?)
That may sound simple and obviously right, yet most of us don’t do it. We try to figure out the perfect solution before we ever attack a problem – or worse, we assume because of our depth of experience that we already know the right answer. This fascinating talk will get you thinking about the benefits of experimentation and the dangers of assuming you already know what to do.
[ Read also: 5 TED Talks on transformational leadership to watch ]