What Volodymyr Zelenskyy Is Teaching Us About Leadership

Americans are in love with Ukraine’s President right now as he fights with his people, exuding leadership among his masses and not above them or in an underground lair. It’s impressive to see his dynamism, candor, and calmness during such a turbulent time. It’s sad Americans are baffled and inspired by this kind of leadership we don’t get nearly enough in our own country.

What can we learn about his leadership style? The limit does not exist, but let’s start with a few key things.

He’s Right There on the Battlefront

This is one management staple I firmly believe in. I will not ask you to do something I wouldn’t do or haven’t done. He didn’t think twice about arming himself and getting on the battlefront. He’s among the people, and not in a decorated tie with a pin of the Ukraine flag attached in an Armani suit shaking hands the bulk of the time. He’s following behind as a leader to make sure no man, woman, or old lady with sunflower seeds is left behind.

Ukraine’s President eats with soldiers in camo.

He’s Not Mincing Words for a Global Audience

“I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition.”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

When offered a chance from the United States to seek refuge in our country, that was his response that is now a meme, a t-shirt, and a motto inspiring generations. Boomers know that feeling all to well, GenX is still inspired by the message, Millennials are making the meme’s while still complaining about another unprecedented event, and Gen Z just found Ukraine on a map but they’re buying the t-shirts.

He’s a fearless leader who wants to be on the frontlines. I wonder what would happen if President Biden insisted on doing this? Would Congress revolt? Would it not be an option? Is that just an option for U.S. Presidents in Armageddon movies?

He’s Letting His People Do Their Jobs

He can’t be everywhere at once, and he trusts his people to get the job done. He’s also not pulling them into an office if they get a little sassy.

When two soldiers argued through loudspeakers on Snake Island telling a Russian Warship to go away, they then added a colorful “Go F#%k Yourself.”

You know what DID NOT happen next? That soldier didn’t get called into the conference room with HR, the company manual, and a paper form to sign. In full transparency, they couldn’t because they are being held prisoner by the Russians in an egregious violation of war etiquette. I’m sure when they are released (God willing) they will return to a parade and not a probation period for improvement.

You know who else isn’t going to get suspended for three days without pay? The elderly woman who berated a Russian soldier and gave him sunflower seeds to put in his pocket “so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here (die).”

He’s Sending Creative Messages to Other Leaders

As the people of Ukraine gathered their guns and sunflower seeds, they assumed help was on the way.

ANNOUNCER: Help Was Not On The Way

In an act more traditional of a emo teenaged girl, he stopped following all world leaders. Zero. He follows nobody now. That’s how you send a message without sending an actual message.

*Note: Of course help was on the way, and is pouring in, but not with the emergency pace needed at a time like this.

Even with that slight shade, he’s also visually thanking each and every world leader and people of influence who do support him and have offered resources.

He Knows How to Play War Games in 2022

Will he be the first world leader to live tweet a war from the battlefront? Or will he be the only one? Regardless, he knows how to connect right now and he can do HIS job while helping others do their job without sitting in a bullet proof office coming out from time to time to send inspiring messages.

He knows the media in Russia is gagged right now, and he might not trust British or American media outlets, so he’s making sure his message gets out in his own words, with him own editing, with his own candor.

He’s not letting any opportunity go by in the middle of the biggest breaking news of his life, and possibly your life. He knows all the tools and how to use them. He’s even translating his tweets to English, saving us all a big Google Translate overload.

He’s not doing TikTok dances. He’s reading the room well.

He’s Got Swagger

Americans are having a love affair with with President Zelenskyy, and it’s not just women and gay men or non-gendered people throwing accolades. The straightest of straight men are praising his assets, and focused on his gigantic testicles that one TikToker said “They had to let fuel out of his plane because his giant testicles were weighing the plane down.”

Men, women, children, and most pets are crushing on this guy right now.

He’s somehow found that perfect balance of badassery, compassion, toughness, and calmness needed to navigate this dire situation. If he’s having “freak out” moments, the cameras aren’t catching them, and if they are, his people have too much respect to let anyone see the crack in the armor.

He Has The Courage of His Convictions

Here’s someone who isn’t moaning about burnout or extra work hours, though certainly he’s experiencing both. He realizes his position, and his soldiers and citizens positions, require them to standup and fight. For what is right. For what is just. For perseverance in the long run.

He isn’t complaining about Putin in bathroom stalls or group chats. He’s speaking directly to the person who is making his life hell and demanding accountability.

While the worst thing many of us experience during a tough time, like breaking news or a big project, is a headache and maybe some tears while blaring Breaking Benjamin on the way home, he’s risking his life. He’s literally willing to die on this hill.

He’s Unknowingly Making Us All Have Internal Dialouge

“How can I be more like him?” many of us wonder right now. What if this was America? What percentage of the population would stand up and fight? Would I? Would you?

While some people are pitying the American soldiers that might be drafted to another war, soldiers are chomping at the bit to do the one thing they were put on this earth to do. Do they want to die? No. They also don’t want international injustices. They don’t want World War III any more than anyone else. They realize freedom isn’t free. Do you? Do I?

We haven’t had many truly great leaders in the lifetime of Millennials, and depending on your political beliefs you might think we’ve never had one.

This is what your children and grandchildren will be learning in school when they study history. They’ll ask which side of history you were on. They’ll plant sunflowers in honor of a brave elderly woman. They might event yell “F’ You” at someone invading their space. Give them so leeway on that one.

This Isn’t Unprecedented, So Stop Saying It Is

For what it’s worth, this isn’t first time this has happened. World War I ended in 1918 just as the Flu Pandemic was kicking into high gear. The Stock Market crashed in 1929 leading to a decade long Great Depression that ended as World War II fired up and lasted almost another decade.

They did all that without a fraction of the technology we have today. Let that sink in. Three decades of hell. Very little recovery time or breathing room.

Change your mindset from “another unprecedented event” to “a lesson in humility and inspiration” as we see global affairs unfolding in a way we’ll tell stories at Thanksgiving 2050. You won’t remember the anxiety, you’ll remember the leadership. You’ll never look at a sunflower the same again.

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