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Leadership and management skills have never been more important than they are today, yet people still often confuse them with each other. 

Below, are 5 TED Talks that examine the differences between leadership and management, and how to increase skills in both areas. 

What Is Leadership?

Adapted from an article by Kevin Kruse for Forbes Magazine:

Leadership has nothing to do with titles. Just because you have a C-level title, you aren't automatically a “leader.” In fact, you can be a leader in your place of worship, your neighborhood, in your family, all without having a title.

Leadership has nothing to do with personal attributes. Leadership isn’t an adjective. We don’t need extroverted charismatic traits to practice leadership, and those with charisma don’t automatically lead.

Leadership isn’t management.  This is the big one. Leadership and management are not synonymous. Good management is needed. Managers need to plan, measure, monitor, coordinate, solve, hire, fire, and so many other things. Typically, managers manage things. Leaders lead people.

What is Management?

Adapted from “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management” by Alan Murray, published by Harper Business:

Perhaps there was a time when the calling of the manager and that of the leader could be separated. A foreman in an industrial-era factory probably didn’t have to give much thought to what he was producing or to the people who were producing it. His or her job was to follow orders, organize the work, assign the right people to the necessary tasks, coordinate the results, and ensure the job got done as ordered. The focus was on efficiency.

But in an economy in which value is primarily derived from knowledge work, management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but also to help define a purpose. And managers must organize workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.

Peter Drucker was one of the first to recognize this truth, as he was to recognize so many other management truths. He identified the emergence of the “knowledge worker,” and the profound differences that would cause in the way business was organized.

With the rise of the knowledge worker, “one does not ‘manage’ people,” Drucker wrote. “The task is to lead people. And the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.”

5 Great TED Talks for Developing Leadership and Management Skills

1. Drew Dudley | "Everyday Leadership"

: Drew Dudley’s interest in developing people’s leadership began when he was the Leadership Development coordinator at the University of Toronto, Scarborough. In 2010 he founded Nuance Leadership Development Services, a company that creates leadership curricula for communities, organizations and individuals.

Summary: We have all changed someone's life without realizing it. In this short talk, Drew calls on all of us to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other's lives. He admonishes leaders to realize how impactful their role can be.

Takeaway: "If you change one person's understanding of [leadership], understanding of what they're capable of, understanding of how much people care about them, understanding of how powerful an agent for change they can be in this world,you've changed the whole thing."

2. Roselind Torres | "What it Takes to Be a Great Leader"

Roselinde Torres is a senior partner and managing director at the consulting firm, BCG. A senior leader in the firm’s "people and organization" practice area, she is also the company's resident expert on leadership, a topic she has studied her entire career.

Questions she likes to ask include, "what innovative methods can help prepare the next generation of leaders?" and "how do we enable leaders to unlearn past modes and habits of success?"

Prior to joining BCG in 2006, Roselinde was a senior partner at Mercer Delta Consulting, while she has also led internal consulting teams at Johnson & Johnson and Connecticut Mutual Life. She speaks frequently about organizational transformation and leadership; her work and thinking have been featured in publications such as BusinessWeek and The Economist.

Summary: Great leaders are not head down. They see around corners and don't rely on traditional development practices that stunt true growth as a leader. In this talk, Roselinde discusses the characteristics of leaders and the practices that enable people to grow to their full potential. 

Takeaway: “Great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is a source of pattern identification at greater levels and also of solutions, because you have people that are thinking differently than you are."

3. Carol Dweck | "The Power of Believing You Can Improve"

Credentials: Dweck is a professor at Stanford and the author of Mindset, a classic work on motivation and "growth mindset." Her work is influential among educators and increasingly among business leaders as well. 

SummaryThe key is understanding what it means to have a growth mindset. It means understanding that skills, all skills, can be learned. As a manager, this means encouraging your team to learn and improve their skills, and to work with them to learn how to get better rather than avoid the weakness. 

Takeaway: “We taught [students] that every time they push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in their brain can form new, stronger connections, and over time, they can get smarter.

4. Dan Ariely | "What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?"

Credentials: Dan Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. He is the author of the bestsellers Predictably IrrationalThe Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty as well as the TED Book Payoff: The Hidden Logic that Shapes Our MotivationsThrough his research and his (often amusing and unorthodox) experiments, he questions the forces that influence human behavior and the irrational ways in which we often all behave.

SummaryIn this talk, Ariely highlights motivators that lead to employee success. The first principle is having Meaning, since people need a reason for the work they’re doing. They also want Recognition, since without recognition, they’re much less motivated and can even become discouraged. Finally, they need Ownership, because people give more value to work they can own. 

Takeaway: "What motivates us to work? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn't just money. But it's not exactly joy either. It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose."

5. Kelly McGonigal | "How to Make Stress Your Friend"

: Kelly McGonigal 
Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal is a leader in the growing field of “science-help.” Through books, articles, courses and workshops, McGonigal works to help us understand and implement the latest scientific findings in psychology, neuroscience and medicine.

SummaryKelly tackles an issue familiar to many managers: chronic stress. But rather than offering advice on how to avoid it, McGonigal urges us to reframe how we think about stress to see it as an empowering force. While her TED Talk primarily looks at the positive physical effects associated with having a more positive attitude to stress, Kelly’s research encourages us to think about the idea of resilience more broadly – how coping effectively with stress can improve both personal and organisational performance. 

Takeaway: "How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful,you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience."


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