5 TED Talks to inspire leaders in the new year

Ready to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to your leadership style in 2019? Dive into these inspiring talks
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CIO as Digital Leader

IT leaders: If you wish to capitalize on all the tech trends and emerging breakthroughs coming down the pipeline in 2019, there is one thing you will absolutely need to succeed – you have to be a leader that people want to follow. As the year winds down and many of us prepare for a long winter’s break, it’s a good time to reflect on areas of improvement and opportunities to gain a fresh perspective for the new year.

[ Also read: 10 books to make you a stronger leader ]

We’ve rounded up five TED Talks that offer wisdom and advice for leaders on rethinking their approach to managing people. Whether you want to build deeper trust with your team or create a culture where good ideas – and good people – can thrive, these talks provide tried and true tips that you can put into practice in 2019.

1. Confessions of a recovering micromanager


Speaker: Chieh Huang

Imagine starting a business in your garage – you know your product, you know your customers, and you know exactly how to delight them and keep them coming back for more. Now imagine you do that so well that your business grows, and now you have to manage teams of people you hired to delight customers in the same way. That’s what happened to Chieh Huang, CEO of Boxed.com, and that’s how micromanagement happens, he says. In this talk, he explains how he overcame his tendency to micromanage by giving people a mission, the tools to succeed, and then seeing what they did with them. There’s only one solution to micromanagement, he says: Trust.

2. How to turn a group of strangers into a team


Speaker: Amy Edmondson

“Teaming” is different than a stable team, explains Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson in this TED Talk. While a team is a group of the same people who work together over time to achieve a shared goal, “teaming” is more like a pick up game at a park. It’s teamwork on the fly, made up of individuals across boundaries who come together to get work done. It’s much more difficult, due to the professional culture clash of people who think differently coming together to solve problems, but it’s the way more of us have to work today, Edmondson explains. In this talk, she outlines the keys to effective teaming: humility, curiosity, and psychological safety – and how leaders can make it work.

3. What I learned from giving up everything I know as a leader


Speaker: Jim Whitehurst

Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, introduces himself in this TED Talk as a “recovering know-it-all CEO.” In this talk, he describes what it was like going from leading Delta, where he was the person with all the answers, to Red Hat, where a junior engineer could openly disagree with him in front of a roomful of executives. This culture shock led Whitehurst to rethink everything he had learned about leadership. “Leadership isn’t about control and compliance, it’s about creating the context for the best ideas to emerge out of your organization,” he says. He shares why he believes open, transparent leadership is the best path forward for businesses to thrive in the fast-paced digital era.

4. Are you a giver or a taker?


Speaker: Adam Grant

We all have moments of giving and taking, says Adam Grant in this TED Talk, but those people who fall more into the “giver” category make organizations better, he argues. Grant has studied the dynamics of success and productivity in the workplace, and in this talk he breaks down the personality traits of givers, takers, and matchers. While takers view work as a competition to win, givers contribute to the success of all by sacrificing their time and helping whenever they can. Unfortunately, with takers in the picture, givers often burn out. Grant says if leaders create a culture in which givers can succeed and make a point to weed out the takers, the entire organization will benefit. In this talk, he explains how.

5. 4 ways to build a human company in the age of machines


Speaker: Tim Leberecht

“Machines are more efficient; humans are complicated and difficult to manage,” says Tim Leberecht in this TED Talk. Despite this truth, he makes a compelling case for remaining human in the second machine age. To do so, Leberecht says we need to focus on the work that can be done beautifully rather than efficiently. In this talk, he shares four ways businesses can remain human by doing the unnecessary, creating intimacy, being messy and unstructured, and remaining incomplete enough for out-of-the-box ideas to emerge. These are all inherently human characteristics, and they will be what sets organizations apart in the age of machines.

[ More curated TED Talks: 5 TED Talks on transformational leadership to watch ]

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.