TED Talks on leadership

In my Management Principles for Computing Professionals course yesterday, I showed the students 2 TED talks. About half the 46 students had not heard about TED talks before. Just introducing them to TED talks felt valuable, and I highly encouraged them to peruse the site.

The first video was a 3 minute talk by Derek Sivers on how to start a movement:

Just watching the speaker smile is a pleasure. It is infectious. He is clearly having a great time telling his story.

This video led to an engaging conversation with the students. We started by discussing whether the leadership displayed in video match the Kouzes and Posner leadership model defining five practices of effective leadership:

  1. Challenging the process
  2. Inspiring a shared vision
  3. Enabling others to act
  4. Modeling the way
  5. Encouraging the heart

Did the leader in this video exhibit these behavioral traits? Yup.

And then the questions flowed:

  • Who were the leaders in this video?
  • Was the second fellow a leader because he chose to follow?
  • Was he more intentional than the first fellow, since the second fellow chose to follow and then recruited others to follow him?
  • Were the third and fourth people who joined the crowd also leaders, helping to lead yet more people into the dance?
  • Where does leadership begin and end?
  • How long does the original leader need to stay with a “movement” or process?
  • Is it sufficient to simply start something, and then move on?
  • Does a leader need to want to influence others?
  • Does a leader need to be intentional in their leadership?
  • How much with the first and second people leading versus managing?
  • What does it mean to manage in such a circumstance?
  • How does a bunch of young adults dancing on the side of a hill relate to the complicated and complex processes within an organization?
  • How to movements and processes evolve and become codified?
  • At what point to processes impede innovation and creativity?

And so on.

The second video was David Logan on tribal leadership:

The students have a homework assignment to relate the material in this video to the chapters on leadership. I am looking forward to what they find.

At the end of the class, several students came up to me and related yet other ways that the video connected to their lives.

The videos are brief, convey insightful distinctions, introduce visual examples, and provoke interesting questions.  They engage the students and bring laughter and a richer visual medium into a classroom whose material is otherwise based largely on papers and books.

I wonder what it would look like to have a class centered around TED talks….


About davidsocha

In autumn 2010 after spending 19 years working in a variety of software organizations as a programmer, architect, manager, teacher, ScrumMaster, product designer, change agent, and agile coach, I finally listened to what everyone had been telling me I should be doing and joined the University of Washington Bothell as an Assistant Professor in Computing & Software Systems. My interests are how to create and maintain great teams, particularly those in software development organizations. I am most interested in distinctions that dramatically increase the effectiveness of teams, such as systems thinking, design thinking, biomimicry, and human centered design. I am a pragmatist, a collaborator, and an optimist.
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3 Responses to TED Talks on leadership

  1. joe larson says:

    Love TED, Love Sivers, right on!

  2. Will Richardson says:

    We’ve actually begun using TED talks at the dinner table with our kids. Once a week, we fire one up and watch it, then spend dinner discussing it. It’s really been great fun, and it gets my kids thinking about stuff they normally wouldn’t.

    And by the way, a TED course sounds like a great idea…

  3. Nia says:

    It’s great to hear about how you used TED talks in your classroom.

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