15 Great TED Talks from Inspiring Business Leaders

Posted August 2015

Here are 15 great TED talks from leaders in business, ranked according to the number of total views they received from a combination of outlets, including Ted.com and YouTube.

1. How Great Leaders Inspire Action – Simon Sinek

September 2009


According to Simon Sinek, there are leaders, and there are those who lead. He explains his theory using what he calls the golden circle. He believes the world’s great, inspiring leaders and organizations (Martin Luther King, Apple) all think, act, and communicate in the same way – from the circle’s inside out. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it,” says Sinek. Watch this talk to learn what inspires people and the science behind it.

2. The Puzzle of Motivation – Dan Pink

April 2013


In this TED talk, Dan Pink makes a case for rethinking how we run our businesses. Too many organizations are basing decisions on outdated and unexamined information. There is a “mismatch between what science knows and what business does.” Incentives and rewards often don’t work like we think they do. Here Pink introduces three building blocks to create a new way of doing business.

3. Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders – Sheryl Sandberg

December 2010


Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, discusses why there so few women at the top of their professions and how we can fix this gender gap. She believes the key is keeping women in the work force. In this talk, she reveals 3 important messages women need to hear and share with other women, including their daughters.

4. Are We in Control of Our Own Decisions? – Dan Ariely

December 2008


Using illusions as a metaphor, behavioral economist Dan Ariely shows us that we aren’t as in control as we might think. Through a series of examples, he proves we are often fooled by visual illusions as well as “decision” illusions. He says if we understood our cognitive limitations as well as our physical limitations, we could design a better world.

5. Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work – Jason Fried

October 2010


Where do people go when they need to get work done? Not the office, apparently. Entrepreneur and author Jason Fried says people are trading in the work day for work moments, making it hard to get any meaningful work done. He believes the office offers too many distractions. In this talk, he gives 3 tips to remedy the situation and give people more uninterrupted time at the office.

6. Life Lessons from an Ad Man – Rory Sutherland

July 2009


In this entertaining talk, ad man Rory Sutherland discusses the value of things and explains how advertising creates perceived value. He believes we should place a higher value on the smaller, simpler things in life and spend more time appreciating what already exists.

7. The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get – Susan Colantuono

November 2013


There’s not a lack of women leaders in middle management so why are there so few women leaders at the top? CEO and founder of Leading Women, Susan Colantuono addresses why women are mired in the middle and unable to break through to top positions. She says what’s missing is not in the capabilities or abilities of women but in the conventional advice they’re given. Check out this talk to find the “missing 33 percent” – the key to career advancement.

8. What it Takes to be a Great Leader – Roselinde Torres

February 2014


There’s more investment in leadership development than ever, yet leadership gaps are widening, says Roselinde Torres. She has spent her entire career studying leadership, including a year of full-time research on leadership practices in companies, countries, and non-profits. What does it take to be a great leader in the 21st century? She and her colleagues developed 3 questions that will determine the effectiveness of a leader today. Great leaders prepare “themselves for the realities of today and unknown possibilities of tomorrow.”

9. Dare to Disagree – Margaret Heffernan

June 2012


Author Margaret Heffernan shares the compelling story of Dr. Alice Stewart and teaches us why we should embrace conflict rather than avoid it. Heffernan believes conflict, debate, and argument allows people to be creative, solve problems, and make changes. She says we need to develop the skills to see conflict as a way of thinking. By daring to disagree, we can become thinking organizations and a thinking society.

10. Listen, Learn … Then Lead – Stanley McChrystal

February 2011


General Stanley McChrystal was raised with traditional and personal examples of leadership. During his first 25 years in the military, he encountered many different examples and learned “leaders can let you fail and yet, not let you be a failure.” After 9/11, with a force dispersed over 20 countries, he encountered new challenges with communication and leadership. How does a leader stay credible and legitimate to people with different experiences, vocabulary, and skill sets? Here he talks about the importance of building a consensus and sense of shared purpose.

11. What Will Future Jobs Look Like? – Andrew McAfee

February 2013


In the future, there will be more things that look like science fiction – and fewer jobs. Economist Andrew McAfee believes “the new machine age” is great news but acknowledges there will be economic and societal challenges, albeit not the kind we see in the movies where machines unite against us. To combat these challenges, McAfee suggests a guaranteed minimum income and reiterates the importance of education.

12. How to Run a Company With (Almost) No Rules – Ricardo Semler

October 2014


Why wait until retirement to start on your bucket list? By giving more freedom to his employees, CEO Ricardo Semler encourages them to have a greater work-life balance. He has turned his nonconventional approach from business to education, creating a school that allows students to create their own rules. In this talk, Semler discusses how asking the right questions can lead to a wiser future.

13. Trial, Error, and the God Complex – Tim Harford

July 2011


In this talk, economist Tim Harford explains the God complex – the overwhelming belief that we are infallibly right. He says the God complex is all around us; people don’t want to have their opinions challenged or tested. Although it’s difficult and uncomfortable to admit our mistakes, we should abandon the God complex and use problem solving that works – trial and error.

14. Color Blind or Color Brave? – Mellody Hobson

March 2014


Be comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation about race, says finance executive Mellody Hobson. Her advice: Don’t be color blind, be color brave. She says we need to have proactive conversations about race, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do for businesses and society.

15. Let’s Raise Kids to Be Entrepreneurs – Cameron Herold

March 2010


From an early age, Cameron Herold knew he was meant to be an entrepreneur. Although he didn’t do that well in school, he succeeded in his childhood business ventures. From selling license plate protectors to comic books (and much more!), he honed his entrepreneurial skills and has turned that into a career helping others follow their dreams. In this candid, informative talk, he shares his advice for embracing and nurturing children who may be the next generation of entrepreneurs to change the world.