Very few people would likely describe themselves as "natural born leaders", and that's great news for us. Although you won't suddenly wake up one day as the next Sheryl Sandberg, you can start taking steps to become a better leader today.
And even if you do consider yourself a natural leader, leadership is certainly a tool that can always use some sharpening.
Look no further than TED Talks. TED offers short lectures by brilliant, stimulating people who are doing amazing things and have noteworthy ways to improve in fields such as technology, business, science, and, you guessed it, leadership. To better help you grasp what these innovative experts have to say, I've pulled together tips from some of the greatest (among many) TED talks on leadership.
I won't keep you waiting, here are some TED takeaways you can start implementing today to become a better leader:
1.) Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree:
According to Margaret Heffernan, mastering the art of disagreement is essential to effective leadership. In this TED talk, Heffernan explains how disagreements are the building blocks for progress and how individuals actually need conflict in order to move forward.
This isn't being argumentative-it's teaching your team how to harness differences to create change for the better. Quite simply, if you have an office full of yes-men (or gals), you'll get a bunch of nods and smiles as your business heads straight into bankruptcy territory.
Look no further than Pixar. They get a good chunk of their ideas by encouraging their team to give each other criticism and having leaders be open it. I do the same thing, and you can too-having your team feel comfortable in making statements and also defending them can help foster effective leadership and overall success.
2.) Stanley McChrystal: Listen, learn... then lead:
Stanley McChrystal is a retired United States Army general who spent decades within the military. It was there that he learned life-long lessons on how to manage teams and align them around incredibly intense goals in the battlefield.
In this TED talk, McChrystal discusses how leadership ultimately boils down to how well individuals listen and learn. He's right-studies have found that actively listening accounts for a whopping 40% of leadership success.
There's a misconception that leadership involves talking others' ears off. Instead, you should take a note from McChrystal and aim to listen almost as much as you talk to your team. Even if you aren't a motor mouth, you can improve your listening through active listening, and making an effort to understand others and convey you're paying attention as much as possible.
3.) Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are:
Through her inspiring TED talk, Social Psychologist and Harvard Business School Professor Amy Cuddy shares a deep personal story of overcoming failure and discusses how our body language not only influences how others view us, but also influences how we view ourselves. Her interesting insight is valuable to anyone looking to become a more confident person and therefore a more successful leader.
The term "power posing" is used a lot, and Cuddy claims it to be a move that can change both your career and life if utilized properly. Her reasoning behind the power pose will make you seriously rethink how you approach every upcoming meeting. According to Cuddy, "Don't fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it." By practicing the body language of a superhero, you'll turn into one.
4) Tony Robbins: Why we do what we do:
People aren't just solely motivated by their self-interests. According to Tony Robbins, "that's bullsh!t at times." Tony's brilliant TED talk tip is that people are instead motivated to make a difference with others. He's been a personal motivation coach for Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey (among countless others), so he knows a thing or two about the subject.
Your team is (hopefully) after more than just a paycheck - they're driven by a passion to make big changes and impacts on the world around them. However, many forget that this starts at the top-if you don't relay to your team why they're doing what they're doing, who will?
That's why I take the time every Monday to cheer on my team, and put our tasks in the broader context of our mission. To fuel your team's passion, you should do something similar. It's always worth the effort to frame the daily grind in terms of the big-picture.
5) Nilofer Merchant: Got a Meeting? Take a Walk:
Merchant's great TED advice is that "there's this amazing thing about actually getting out of the box that leads to out-of-the-box thinking." To start, she suggests walking meetings, which have been scientifically proven to boost your team's creativity.
I've found that everything from a walk in a NYC park to trips abroad brings about the most unexpected insights for my firm, so I'll encourage my team to take vacations (for other reasons too) and always allow them to get fresh breaths of the outside world when they need to.
Beyond that, it's sourcing ideas from everywhere and anywhere. To be a better leader, you should be sourcing innovative thinking from every part of the company, not just from those on the top of the totem pole. Who knows? A junior marketing employee might just have that unexpected solution to that high-level accounting problem.
6.) Roselinde Torres: What it takes to be a great leader:
Roselinde Torres is a senior partner and managing director at the consulting firm, BCG. Crowned as the "resident expert", she has spent over 25 years observing effective leadership. In this TED talk, Torres offers a great insight about modern-day, thriving leaders: "Great leaders dare to be different. They don't just talk about risk-taking, they actually do it."
What you'll take away from this TED talk is that leadership is really all about being open to change and the willingness to accept new ideas and strategies to better manage your team's attention and therefore enhance productivity. Torres claims that focusing on our ability to bounce back from defeat and failure is also important, as innovation stems from great leadership, and great leaders require resiliency.
By doing just such, you will not only improve upon your leadership skills, but also achieve greater career satisfaction overall. So brush it off and pick yourself back up, while encouraging your team to do the same, as it will make everyone a stronger individual in the long run.
7) Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders:
Sandberg gave this TED talk in December of 2010, which ultimately led to her book that was published in 2013, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In this video, she discuss why so few women make it to C-level positions and offers a few pieces of advice to women who want to make it there to the top.
Her great advice: "Believe in yourself and negotiate for yourself. Own your own success." She says how many of us-women and men alike-lack the confidence to "sit at the table", and we end up shooting ourselves in the foot before even trying.
As a woman in finance, I wholeheartedly agree. Sometimes, when you feel like you're the only person in the room, showing up is all it takes to realize your true, fantastic self. So whether it's exuding confidence to your team or just showing up to that new job, don't be afraid to take your own seat at the leadership table.