5 Inspiring TED Talks All Education Leaders Should Watch

Need a dose of inspiration? Ideas to enhance your leadership? Here are five TED Talks from influential leaders that you can watch on your own or reflect on with your team.
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When was the last time you had an "Aha!" moment? Engineering them in our lives requires inspiration. As the product of a global community with the sole mission of spreading ideas, TED Talks are the perfect avenue to hear inspirational stories from great leaders.

We curated a list of TED Talks delivered by leaders in education and beyond to serve you as you recommit to your passion and ready yourself for the new school year. You'll find stories that inspire, tips that enhance your leadership, and reminders about the importance of your work. Watch them yourself or share them with your team so you can reflect together. To see our complete list of recommended resources, read How Education Leaders Can Restore, Retool, Recommit Now—And All School Year Long.

1. How to Fix a Broken School? Lead Fearlessly, Love Hard

Turning around struggling schools is not easy, but with the right passion and skills, it can be done, says veteran educator Linda Cliatt-Wayman. Reflecting on how she and her team transformed a high school in North Philadelphia, Cliatt-Wayman shares the three fundamental principles that guided them. 

Worth quoting: “As we lead, we must never forget that every single one of our students is just a child, often scared by what the world tells them they should be. And no matter what the rest of the world tells them they should be, we should always provide them with hope, our undivided attention, unwavering belief in their potential, and consistent expectations.”

Read stories of other principals who led their schools through adversity:

2. The Danger of a Single Story 

Life, as we know it, is made up of overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie cautions that we risk misunderstanding others if we only focus on a single story about a person or their culture. Adichie shares how she found her authentic voice and why stereotypical stories are incomplete. 

Worth quoting: “The consequence of a single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

The bottom line? Representation in school leadership benefits all students. Read more about why this is so:

3. How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Influential leaders inspire others by starting with "why" rather than "what" or "how." British-American author and thought leader Simon Sinek’s lecture is the third most watched TED Talk of all time with 34 million viewers. While it speaks directly to business executives, Sinek’s talk has implications across industries for how leaders can communicate, lead, and inspire others to act.

Worth quoting: “There are leaders, and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to.”

Continue to hone your personal leadership skills with these articles:

4. How Schools Can Nurture Every Student's Genius

Education visionary Trish Millines Dziko questions if our public education system is designed to cultivate future leaders. Millines Dziko co-founded the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) with the central goal of eliminating racial disparities in education. In her TED talk, she discusses an approach to promoting equitable learning and helping students develop critical thinking and leadership skills. 

Worth quoting: “Education either functions as an instrument to bring about conformity or freedom. Let’s give our children freedom.” 

Need strategies to strengthen your equity focus? These articles will help:

5. Building Student Identity and Agency

As educators, we have the power to shape the identities of our students. We can either build students up or tear them down. Practicing school leader and author Dominique Smith suggests we examine how some practices may be labeling students and what we can do to help kids build positive identities instead.

Worth quoting: “We have the power to change how individuals feel about themselves. We have the power to make students go home and say, ‘I am proud of who I am. I’m excited about who I am. I make a difference in this world.’ Sometimes we don’t take that power.”

For more tips on building a positive school culture, peruse these articles:

Inspiration found

The new school year is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. It’s also a time to recommit to your passion and remember why you entered the profession in the first place. Get inspired by the personal stories of other leaders so you can start the new school year with courage and as the best version of yourself. Your staff and your students are counting on it.

What inspirational talks are you playing on repeat? Let us know by tweeting them to @NewLeadersOrg.

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