Three Questions Great Leaders Ask Themselves in the 21st Century

Guest Post by Marissa Levin

I recently designed and facilitated a two-day leadership training program for senior managers in the Air Force. The program objective was to educate them on the mindset and skillset required to lead effectively in the 21st century. They work in an environment of heavy demands, limited resources, and severe time constraints, and are challenged to motivate a highly-pressured workforce.

My training included 7 interactive and introspective modules. In each module I included a TED Talk on leadership and a discussion worksheet to encourage transfer of concepts from the presenter to the student.

One of the TED Talks I shared was “What it Takes to be a Good Leader” by Roselinde Torres. In her talk, she shared her experiences of working with hundreds of organizations to uncover why leadership ability is declining, even though attention to leadership development is increasing.

She presented three questions that all leaders will need to constantly ask themselves as they hone their leadership skills in the 21st century:

1. Where are you looking to anticipate change?

To answer this question, she recommends looking in one place: your calendar. With whom are you spending your time, and on what topics? What are you reading? How are you distilling?  Great leaders see around corners and shape their future based on what they see. What you read, where you are, and who you are with will shape what you see.

2. What is the diversity metric of your personal and professional stakeholder network?

To some extent, we all have a network of people that mirror us. This question addresses your capacity to develop relationships with people that are different than you. Those differences can be biological, physical, functional, political, cultural, socioeconomic. And yet, despite these differences, they connect with you and they trust you enough to cooperate with you in achieving a shared goal. Great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is a source of pattern identification at higher levels, and is an important component in solving problems, because you have people that think differently than you do.

3. Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

There is an expression: Go along to get along. But if you follow this advice, chances are as a leader, you’re going to keep doing what’s familiar and comfortable.

Great leaders dare to be different. They don’t just talk about risk-taking, they actually do it.

The most impactful development comes when you are able to build the emotional stamina to withstand people telling you that your new idea is naïve, reckless or impractical.

When you step out with a new idea, the people who will join you are not your usual suspects in your network. They’re often people that think differently and therefore are willing to join you in taking a courageous leap. And it’s a leap, not a step.

Asking yourself these three questions will force you to have important conversations with yourself, and examine how you are showing up in the world & in your organizations. All great leadership begins with self-awareness. We can only lead others well when we know ourselves well.



Marissa Levin


Marissa Levin is a 25-year entrepreneur, speaker, & globally recognized growth  strategist.  Marissa’s lifetime legacy mission is to educate, equip, & empower 100 million entrepreneurs & leaders with the skillsets and mindsets they need to reach their greatest potential.  In 2012, she launched Successful Culture, a leadership consulting organization that helps CEOs master the 3 most critical aspects of business growth: leadership development, strategy formulation & execution, and organizational culture assessment & improvement. In 2017, she co-founded Women’s CEO Roundtable, a professionally facilitated year-long program for women business owners from noncompeting organizations that are committed to scaling beyond $1 million in revenue.  Marissa is also the author of the #1 best-selling book “Built to SCALE: How Top Companies Create Breakthrough Growth Through Exceptional Advisory Boards.” 


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