The most popular TEDTalks on Leadership

Running a business in 2023 isn’t easy.

Leaders are having to navigate their organisations through the uncertainties of geopolitical upheaval, climate change, accelerating technologies, financial instability, the new era of hybrid working and a highly polarised political landscape.

How do you develop strategies that mitigate the risks and take advantage of the opportunities of this context? How do you build creative cultures with a sense of common purpose?

These are big and important questions, as the survival of an organisation depends on getting the answers right.

Perhaps this is why, at VBQ Speakers, we’re finding that demand from our clients for expert speakers on leadership keeps rising.

25 TED Talks for Motivational Speakers

But what does it mean to be a great leader in the 21st century?

A recurring theme we’re finding among the leadership experts we work with is that we need to move away from the model of a leader as an all-knowing, authoritative figure who manages from the top down.

This view was backed up when we analysed, perhaps the best-known platform for inspirational talks. We looked at how users had been searching for and using keywords including ‘leadership’, ‘business’, ‘management’ and ‘authority’. We went on to order the results, based on viewing figures to create a list of the top 25 TED Talks on Leadership.

We found that these talks emphasised ideas such as trust and cooperation (Simon Sinek, “Why good leaders make you feel safe”); the value of diversity and different personality types (Susan Cain, “The power of introverts”); and cultures that allow people to make mistakes and learn (Carol Dweck, “The power of thinking you can improve”).

Here’s the full list of top 25 leadership Ted Talks, according to viewing figures at the time of this research. 

  1. Amy Cuddy, Your body language may shape who you are 67M (67,763,678)
  2. Simon Sinek, How great leaders inspire action, 61M (61,504,689)
  3. Julian Treasure, How to speak so that people want to listen, 54M (54,015,399)
  4. Susan Cain, The power of introverts, 32M (32,631,405)
  5. Elon Musk, The future we’re building — and boring, 31M (31,213,851)
  6. Angela Lee Duckworth, Grit: The power of passion and perseverance, 29M (29,334,430)
  7. Dan Pink, The puzzle of  motivation, 29M (29,323,884)
  8. Jon Ronson, Strange answers to the psychopath test, 28M (28,660,264)
  9. Shawn Achor, The happy secret to better work, 25M (25,283,954)
  10. Adam Grant, The surprising habits of original thinkers, 20M (20,763,218)
  11. Simon Sinek, Why good leaders make you feel safe, 18M (18,310,219)
  12. Barry Schwartz, The paradox of choice, 17M (17,495,234)
  13. Richard St. John, 8 secrets of success, 16M (16,521,125)
  14. Elon Musk, Elon Musk talks Twitter, Tesla and how his brain works, 14M (14,916,806)
  15. Carol Dweck, The power of believing that you can improve, 14M (14,509,682)
  16. Laura Vanderka, How to gain control of your free time, 13M (13,684,475)
  17. Amanda Palmer, The art of asking, 12M (12,868,360)
  18. Sir Ken Robinson, How to escape education’s death valley, 12M (12,430,313)
  19. Sheryl Sandberg, Why we have too few women leaders, 11M (11,631,294)
  20. David Dunning, Why incompetent people think they’re amazing, 11M (11,481,911)
  21. Jamie Oliver, Teach every child about food, 10M (10,555,639)
  22. Bill Gross, The single biggest reason why start-ups succeed, 10M (10,477,253)
  23. Susan David, The gift and power of emotional courage, 10M (10,176,938)
  24. Derek Sivers, How to start a movement, 10M (10,132,892)
  25. Steve Jobs, How to live before you die, 10M (10,033,640)

The Top 10 TED Talks on Leadership

Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 Ted Talks on leadership to find out more about what they have to teach us. 

The most popular Ted Talk on leadership, with 67M views, is ‘Your body language may shape who you are’, by Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy. In this inspiring talk from 2012, Cuddy discusses how your body position influences others – and even your own brain. 

A closer runner up, with 61M views, comes from Simon Sinek. Sinek’s Ted Talk explores how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust and change. He uses examples like Apple, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers. 

Over 54M people have now watched Julian Treasure’s powerful speaking tips. In his Ted Talk, Treasure explains how to speak with empathy so that people will listen. 

Susain Cain’s Ted Talk brings a different perspective on introverts, focusing on the extraordinary talents and abilities that they tend to have. It’s been seen by 32M viewers. 

Having spent time in teaching, Angela Lee Duckworth realised that IQ wasn’t the only thing determining the success of students. In her talk, which has been seen by 29M viewers, she explains why grit is a more accurate predictor of success.

Career analyst Dan Pink explains how motivation works and why traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think in his Ted Talk, ‘The puzzle of  motivation’. Pink’s talk has been watched 29M times. 

Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test, examines the line that divides crazy from sane in his talk on strange answers to the psychopath test. To date, 28M have watched ‘Strange answers to the psychopath test’. 

Psychologist Shawn Achor delivers a fast-paced and entertaining talk discussing the idea that happiness could actually be the real key to productivity in the workplace. His Ted Talk is ranked ninth in this research, with 25M viewers and counting. 

Position 10 goes to Adam Grant. In ‘The surprising habits of original thinkers’, Adam Grant explains that those who have the most original ideas may also have some unexpected habits. “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most,” Grant says.

Examples from VBQ Speakers’ roster

These ideas and more are explored by many of VBQ Speakers’ most popular leadership speakers.

In one of our favourite TED Talks, classical conductor Itay Talgam examines the different styles of famous maestros, concluding that leaders who create space for their colleagues to expressing themselves freely is the most effective at fostering a culture of creativity.

Acclaimed authors Mo Gawdat, Bruce Daisley and Viv Groskop argue that employee wellbeing has to be a core part of any effective business strategy.

Anne-Marie Imafidon shows how organisations can thrive by embracing diversity and new technology.

Best-selling author of ‘The Nowhere Office’ (2022), Julia Hobsbawm, analyses how the acceleration of hybrid working since the pandemic is re-shaping the relationship between employer and employee.

Inga Beale, former CEO of Lloyds Of London (2014-2018), describes how she transformed a very traditional firm into one that embraced inclusiveness and technological transformation.

Dr Eliza Filby, a historian and social commentator, guides leaders through the challenges of managing a multi-generational workforce.

David Rowan, one of the world’s leading tech commentators and author of Non-Bullshit Innovation (2019), provides real-world examples of how corporate leaders have fostered genuine innovation in their organisations.”

If you’re looking for a keynote speaker for your next event, let the team at VBQ Speakers connect you with some of the most insightful and inspiring experts on the topic. 

VBQ Speakers brings businesses and speakers together. Its global network of thought leaders includes academics, journalists, bestselling authors, scientists and entrepreneurs. Contact VBQ Speakers to find out more.