What Should an Aspiring Global Leader Know? — by Deborah Levine

Here’s what teenage global leaders-in-training had to say when asked what a young global leader should know. The words of wisdom come from high school and middle school students participating in the American Diversity Report Youth Global Leadership Class. Enjoy their  timeless advice and then read what leadership experts said about preparing the upcoming generation of leaders.

STUDENTS: “What does a young global leader need?”
Participants in the American Diversity Report
Youth Global Leadership Class
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS (10-12th grades)

  • Work ethic
  • Positive attitude
  • Use your time wisely (Time Management)
  • Professional mind set
  • Great mind
  • Great social skills
  • Communicate effectively with other people around the world
  • Take advantage of your surroundings and all opportunities given
  • Know & respect other cultures
  • Structure yourself and your time: Be organized, prioritize and stay focused
  • Be able to adapt to change and deal with different people
  • Don’t be afraid to be different
  • Be flexible to an extent
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Work well with different types of people
  • Incorporate diversity in companies
  • Have a good memory
  • Be able to ‘say no’
  • Be willing to learn more about things/be open to new ideas
  • Work hard
  • Be yourself
  • Do what is right


  • You must always be prepared
  • You have to think creatively
  • You have to have social skills to be a global leader
  • You must always be prepared
  • Learn to adapt
  • Know how to use a computer
  • Know more than one language
  • Speak up
  • Know how to publicly speak very well
  • Good listening skills
  • Know how to make something good out of something bad
  • Keep a cool head and don’t be intimidated
  • Give quick, snappy answers
  • Strive & Persevere

EXPERTS: “What should a young global leader know?”
Members of LinkedIn group
‘Global Leaders of the 21st Century’

“It’s especially important for any emerging leader to “know yourself” and “have a code that you can live by:” a set of examined values that can help guide decisions and actions. Curiosity, critical thought and a sense of shared humanity top my list of essential qualities for the future. The more quickly people are called on to make instant decisions on the basis of sound bites, the more important our abilities to examine ourselves, question our information and consider greater consequences become. The key here is that these are “examined” values – not something we’ve been fed. Only then does a code of ethics become our own, and serve as a touchstone when all else is a whirl … Our young people can be our best teachers, whether we’re parents or leaders of nations. This generation is facing things that those who came before cannot fully understand. If we don’t give them credit for knowing more about their lives than we do, the wisdom we “older generations” may have to impart is invalidated.”
   ~Jody Alyn, Diversity Consultant (Colorado Springs, CO)

“Emotional intelligence, flexibility, adaptability, self awareness and tolerance for ambiguity.”
   ~Lillian Tsai, Cross-cultural competency coach, consultant & trainer (Portland, Oregon)

“Entrepreneurship is the key component for opening the doors for new roads for well being and prosperity. We need entrepreneurs, people that are willing to grow and develop new and better businesses around the world, businesses that promote economical, environmental and social sustainability in our countries. Such sustainability helps us in the promotion of business models that allow us to live better and reach the well being and the prosperity we wish for.”
~Burny Lucas Perea Gil, Presidente y Co-Fundador at GEInnova (Colombia)

“Picking up on some of these great comments, I’d like to add self-awareness as being key to a successful global leader. I know Lillian mentioned this skill as one of several needed, but I would take it a step further and say that if we had to pick just one skill out of the bunch, self-awareness would be the most important. I say this because being alert to what one feels and thinks leads, in turn, to other virtues. As my area of expertise is bias-reduction, my mind first goes to how awareness of one’s own biases is the first step toward eradicating them. Also, there’s the issue of ethnocentrism, a challenge that can only be met if we are aware of our own cultural values and points of view. For those reasons, I’d put my eggs in the basket of self-awareness if we needed to settle on one key skill.”
   ~Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D., Speaker/Trainer/Author on Diversity & Bias Reduction (Greater San Diego, CA)

“From my experience and working within diverse communities and experiencing what it is like to sit in a room of young leaders from as many as 20-30 different countries speak their minds, my choice would be cross-cultural understanding/communication. WHY? Global migration has risen considerably. We just have to look around it is happening in many ways – people looking for more opportunities, refugees, asylum seekers, inter-marriages etc etc etc. We witness young leaders speak up at conferences or the like about poverty and other issues in another country and sometimes I ask myself, Do they really Understand? Many adults don’t either because they have not experienced what it is that someone will speak out about. In many cases, people call or say “it’s Cultural”, but is it? We should teach and nurture the young global leader to understand and communicate better with the understanding that each one of us is different.”
   ~Alexis LewGor, Managing Cultural Diversity/Intercultural Dialogue/Cross-Cultural Understanding (New Zealand)

“Develop the ability to see things through the eyes of others, leading to enhanced understanding of what motivates diverse people, particularly when they do them differently from the way you would have done them. I (roughly) recall that line from the movie classic, Rules of the Game: “There is one terrible thing on this earth and that is that everyone has their own good reasons.”
   ~Carlos Cortes, Diversity Lecturer/Consultant (Greater Los Angeles, CA)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *