Product School

10 TED Talks That’ll Make You a Stronger Product Leader

Ellen Merryweather

Author: Ellen Merryweather

January 9, 2023 - 8 min read

Updated: January 24, 2024 - 8 min read

This month we’re focusing on all things Product Leadership. Keep an eye out for events, podcasts, blogs, and more!

You’ve already loved our list of 10 Powerful TED Talks to Make You a Better Product Manager. But now it’s time to take it to the next level.

If you’re a Product Manager, you’re already set up to be a great leader. There are a few key things that you need to get a grip of if you want to take your career in Product Leadership to the next level. After all, it’s one thing to manage products, and it’s another thing entirely to manage Product Managers!

You need to kick all of the bad habits you may have built up over the years, as you’re going to be an example for the new generation of PMs. If you want to step into the world of thought leadership, you need to think about building your personal brand and how to create impact.

It’s your responsibility as a leader to create a safe space for your team and to give them room to grow in their careers. You also need to get out of your comfort zone, and be the one to take risks.

If you need to do all of that, you might need a helping hand to get started. That’s what TED talks are for!

We’ve hand-picked great talks from 10 speakers, all with a different perspective to make you a better Product Leader…

1. Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe by Simon Sinek

We started our first list of TED talks for Product Managers with Simon Sinek, and here he is again to bring you even more wisdom.

Sinek talks about why teams work better when they don’t fear their leaders and about how leadership is actually a choice and not just a rank.

Particularly in Product, leadership takes trust. That’s true at every level of PM. In order to influence without authority, your teams need to trust that the direction you’re guiding them in is the right one. As it’s such a cornerstone of PM, that doesn’t end when you gain that elusive authority.

This talk is great for another reason – it’s an excellent lesson in storytelling. A key skill for all Product people.

2. How To Break Bad Management Habits Before They Reach The Next Generation of Leaders by Elizabeth Lyle

Elizabeth Lyle is a Leadership Development Expert, who helps businesses thoughtfully cultivate their leadership culture.

As organizations evolve, middle and senior managers are still developing outdated habits, which they’re at risk of passing on to the next generation of leaders. Modern leadership relies on trust, speed, flexibility, and value the opinions of others. These are key lessons to learn if you don’t want to get left behind by the businesses of tomorrow.

Businesses, if they want to thrive and retain their talent, need to put more focus on their approach to leadership. But you don’t need to wait for your company to step up – as a Product Leader you can get started right away. Start learning how with Elizabeth’s talk!

3. 9 Steps to Build a Personal Brand for Business by Luron Morrison

Personal branding for business is one of the things that seems strangely easy to overlook. But if you’ve been thinking about helping others learn the complex craft of Product Management, you need to make a name for yourself.

Is there a particular niche of Product Management that you’re a particular expert in? How is that niche being talked about? Unearthing your talent and finding a way to offer a new opportunity for others to learn. Don’t be disheartened if it’s not an overnight success. Just listen to Luron Morrison’s advice on building your personal brand, and you’ll be well on your way to thought leadership!

You might also be interested in: Storytelling for Product Managers

4. Life Begins At The End of Your Comfort Zone by Yubing Zhang

Leadership is all about getting out of your comfort zone. Whether that’s plucking up the courage to ask for that promotion, or listening to your gut and daring to take risks for the good of your product.

Yubing Zhang shares her advice for how to get out of your head and out into the world. Her advice ‘it’s never as scary as it looks’ is a mantra that you can take into your next big meeting, the boardroom, or your boss’s office when you’re asking for more responsibility.

You might also be interested in: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome in the Product World

5. Why We Need Introverted Leaders by Angela Hucles

This one is for all the introverts out there! We’ve already talked about why introverts also make great Product Managers, but there’s still this misconception that extroverts make the best PMs and the best leaders. That simply isn’t true. Leadership needs all kinds of people, and that means introverts too.

In this talk by Angela Hucles, she goes over how a blend of introverts and extroverts in business really creates the best creative spaces. She cites Google as an example of how introverts can help build the best teams by ensuring equality in conversation turn-taking and building safe spaces.

6. How to Manage for Collective Creativity by Linda Hill

This is a must-watch if you’re particularly interested in creating innovative products—whether you work in an innovative company or are trying to transform yours into one.

Linda Hill is an ethnographer who spent nearly a decade closely researching exceptional leaders of innovation, going on to co-author the book Collective Genius. As the title of her book suggests, Linda found that true innovation requires harnessing the talents of many people. But it also requires a special kind leader to bring everyone together.

She found that innovative organizations are communities that have three capabilities—creative abrasion, creative agility, and creative resolution—and the most innovative companies intentionally develop these capabilities.

7. Confessions of a Recovering Micromanager by Chieh Huang

As you move from junior to senior roles, you begin to manage more and more people, losing direct control of your output. It’s normal to feel a bit of panic as you disconnect from the doing and focus more on the leading, and some people soothe this panic by getting really nitpicky about details. Don’t do that!

In this funny and relatable talk, Chieh Huang tells us how micromanagement can drive away talented and imaginative team members, and how his company flourished when he stopped doing it. His team members were better able to delight customers and come up with creative solutions when they had the freedom to make their own decisions.

But how do you stop micromanaging? You have to learn to trust.

8. The Rigged Test of Leadership by Sophie Williams

Conscious and unconscious biases affect our ability to manage and lead. Whatever kind of leadership position you’re in, it’s important to understand biases so that you can make a conscious effort to make your organizations more equitable and diverse—especially in positions at the top of the ladder.

Although we all know that diversity improves business outcomes, diversity in leadership is still quite low. In her talk, Sophie Williams examines studies FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies to find out why it’s so tough for women and people of marginalized racial backgrounds to take and succeed in leadership positions, and what we can do about it.

9. Five Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change by Jim Hemerling

Jim Hemerling gave this talk in 2016, but it applies perfectly to the 2020s. Organizations these days have to adapt on an ongoing basis, in what Jim calls “always-on” transformation. Whether it’s globalization, advances in technology, or societal shifts, the world is moving faster than ever before. Not changing is not an option, so leaders have to be ready to direct the change.

Watch to learn Jim’s 5 strategic imperatives on how to prepare for and lead gracefully through constant changes. The secret? Putting people first.

10. How Your Brain Responds to Stories—and Why They’re Crucial for Leaders by Karen Eber

Here at Product School, we talk a lot about storytelling. It’s a powerful tool for leading, for influencing without authority, for conveying research findings, for marketing. The applications are vast because it can be used in many contexts that involve human interaction, communication, and convincing, things Product Managers do a lot of.

In her talk, leadership consultant Karen Eber explains the psychology behind storytelling as well as instances of successful application she’s seen in big companies such as General Electric. Karen believes that data is hugely important, but is most effective when paired with a good story and a purpose. Take a look at her lecture to learn a framework to build a story that effectively communicates your message.

Updated: January 24, 2024

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