5 TED Talks to Make You Rethink Leadership and Culture at Work

Posted by Justine Andrews on Tue, Feb 2, 2016

To prepare for our upcoming Talent and Career Development Summit, MITX Digital & Community Specialist, Justine Andrews, shares the top five TED Talks to spark conversation about leadership and culture in the workplace. 

Justine (@andrews_justine) is MITX's Digital and Community Specialist. When she's not tweeting from MITX, you can find her running, reading, or enjoying a Kane's donut!

If we spend 30% of our lives at work, why aren’t we spending more time talking about how to make work more enjoyable? I’m happy to share that MITX is changing that. February 9th is our Talent and Career Development Summit. Our speakers are from Care.com, HubSpot, Liberty Mutual, Wayfair and more. They’ll be leading sessions on culture, collaboration, teams, leadership, and innovation.

This conversation, about workplace culture and leadership, has the power to make our lives 30% better. Let’s start it now.

Here is a list of TED Talks that have the potential to be revolutionary to your workplace. Use this list to prepare for MITX’s Talent and Career Development Summit or simply share it with your colleagues to spread optimistic and innovative ideas throughout the office.

1. How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

Confession: I’m a recent college graduate. While at college, I had one advisor who was obsessed with this TED Talk. Thanks to him, I’ve watched this TED Talk at least six times. To this day, I can hear Simon Sinek’s voice saying “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”

However annoying that may be, it is admittedly a great lesson to remember while thinking about your career. Every time it rings through my head, I’m reminded that work is about more than getting paid and making it until 5pm without a third cup of coffee.

Check out this TED Talk before you head to the session “Building Your Greatest Self” with Emily Green, Independent Board Director and Advisor, and Jessica Knapp, AVP & Director of Selection and Assessment at Liberty Mutual. By the time you’re through, you’ll have a renewed awareness and confidence in your leadership skills.


2. The Puzzle of Motivation by Dan Pink

This TED Talk is an eye-opening lesson on what motivates people. Dan Pink uses a classic experiment to prove that while if-then rewards work well for a certain type of task, nothing will be more motivating on projects that require unique thought and innovation than individual passion and drive. This is a talk that will make you look around your own office and reevaluate whether your employees are being motivated by the right things.

At next week’s MITX Summit, one of the lunch discussion groups will be led by Sydney Atkins Mason, Director of Learning and Development at Intelligent.ly, and will look at how to keep employees happy. Watching this TED Talk before joining that discussion group will give you some perspective on how and why people work. 


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

Ladies, this one's for you. In this talk, Sheryl Sandberg outlines her three biggest pieces of advice for being as equal a contributor to the workplace as anyone else:
1. Sit at the table
2. Make your partner a real partner
3. Don’t leave before you leave (no, that’s not a typo)
Another of next week’s lunch discussion groups will cover the unique challenges facing women in tech. This TED Talk offers an insightful and honest look at women in the workplace and could inspire some provocative yet productive conversations.


 4. Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech

Okay, this one isn’t a TED Talk. But it’s worth the fifteen minutes and then another fifteen minutes to watch a second time while you scribble down your favorite quotes.  Steve Jobs gives Stanford Students an inspiring speech on doing what you love. He talks about dropping out of college, chasing his passion for learning, getting fired from Apple, and rejoining Apple. While there are many quotes I could pull out of this speech, I’ll share this one. While talking about taking risks in his career, and then comparing it to his battle with cancer, he says: “Remembering you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

 5. Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams by Randy Pausch

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This one is important. Randy Pausch was a man dying of cancer, but was more alive than many of us will ever be. He was given the opportunity to give his “Last Lecture” before he died; this is it. In this lecture, he talks about how he followed his passion, broke through brick walls, and accomplished incredible things in his career due to an optimism beyond compare. This lecture is one hour long, but I suggest giving it a couple days: get the book. During the last months of his life, Randy Pausch turned this lecture into a book titled “The Last Lecture.” It’s a small book that goes through this presentation on a deeper level. It takes only a couple days to read and it will inspire you to appreciate your life, work, and ambitions.

Do you have any TED Talks to add to this list? Tweet them at me (@MITX)! If you’re ready to take the conversation a step further, join me at MITX’s Talent and Career Development Summit on February 9th. Visit MITX.org for details. 

Topics: career, talent, Leadership, MITX