As a leader of an organisation or a team, you will have learnt your expertise through experience and practise, or if fortunate, within some additional learning and development programmes. But since February 24th 2022, we have seen a human who rose to the occasion of leadership and has excelled at it. As a student of leadership, I’ve written this to identify one of the most inspiring examples of leadership I’ve ever seen.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has demonstrated daily lessons of behaviours, attitudes and mindsets that are astonishing in the quality and inspiration that they have created. He has put his head and heart on the line and argued for the continuance and sustenance of the Ukrainian people.
He has effectively mobilized his troops and his people. Daily, he exhorts them to victory, even if the night has brought shelling, many deaths and destruction of villages and cities. He has marshalled the spirit of the Ukrainian people and focused their energies and activities to resistance and opposition of the aggressor.
What we can draw from the examples he offers us:
Truth Telling and Self-Reliance:
He has immediately done two key things that are vital: create clarity and engage people in the work that needs to be done. He has identified the tough situation they are in, naming the issues which confront them, whilst also not bowing down to the challenge of them. Secondly, he has taken on the responsibility that he invites the people to take on, to do all that they need to do to be victorious. He continuously acknowledges the attributes that the Ukranian people have that will enable them to prevail and be victorious. He defines their reality and offers hope as to their ultimate outcome. He exhorts them to take hold of their agency and empowered, act to shape their own outcomes.
Engagement in the Work:
President Zelensky has consistently inspired Ukrainians, as well as equipped them to do the work of defending their country and freedom. Through role modelling courage, distributing AK-47’s and posting online instructions for how to make DIY Molotov cocktails, President Zelensky and his team are doing everything they can to engage people in the work needed to fight back. Every day, he suggests actions they can take to resist the aggressor; and even for example Kherson, the town has been taken over by Russians, he continues to encourage actions that enable its citizens to fight back. Daily, he even suggests to leaders of NATO and the EU, actions they can/should take, to support Ukraine in the war.
Envisioning the Future:
As a leader, you will know that having a vision for the future of your organisation or your team is one of the core competences necessary. In the heat of war, holding a vision of the future beyond the turmoil and difficulties of the daily erosion of territory is one of the most inspiring activities that President Zelensky has demonstrated. He does not allow the grind of punishing shelling, deaths and destruction to move him to despair or lose courage. Every day he speaks to the people, and each message carries not only information, but inspiration for the future that they will create, when they re-build their country. This sight of what will happen -after the difficulties have been dealt with – enable a vision to hold and build throughout difficulties that may need to be gone through.
Resilience in the face of such difficulties must show us the importance of keeping sight of the ultimate outcomes of our efforts. And the importance of continuously voicing it to our people, inspiring them to the consistent actions that need to be taken, in order to achieve that vision.
5 March 2022