21st-century leadership traits as shown by Ukrainian President Zelenskyy (Part 2)

Leadership Memo 2023-5

After more than a year, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, continues to inspire his fellow countrymen to fight on, and he continues to lead an international campaign to garner monetary and military support. An amazing feat by a former comedian! How did he do it? His leadership.

Last month, we looked at 3 of his leadership traits: courage, authenticity, and clear messaging. Today, we’ll look at 4 more.

Trait #4: Relentless commitment

“Charisma attracts attention. Courage earns admiration. But commitment to a group is what inspires loyalty. We follow the leaders who fight for us, and we make sacrifices for the leaders who serve us.” – Adam Grant

Zelenskyy is relentlessly committed to his fellow Ukrainians. He is laser-focused on his mission: protecting his citizens and doing everything in his power to give his people what they need against incredible odds. That focus on others over fear or ego is an example for leaders of all stripes everywhere.

Trait #5: Empathy

Empathy in leadership has moved beyond the ability to listen, validate, and support a person’s feelings. It is an action. It is shown through personal sacrifice that you are with them. Zelenskyy could have easily fled or hidden in an underground bunker, but he chose to put himself in harm’s way to show his people that “I’m in it with you”. That commitment and leadership by example have inspired their loyalty and willingness to make their own sacrifices.

Trait #6: Relatable

When a leader is relatable, the people feel seen and heard. Zelenskyy used to wear suits and ties regularly (the go-to for world leaders), but he made a complete wardrobe shift when Ukraine was invaded. When Peter Schiff, the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, criticized Zelenskyy’s casual attire, people on social media eagerly shut him down. One person tweeted in reply: “Is this a joke? Kyiv is under brutal assault with mass civilians being killed and Zelenskyy should worry about a suit?” Zelenskyy’s departure from decorum makes him approachable and relatable. It builds rapport with his fellow citizens.

Trait #7: Know and communicate purpose

We need purpose in life to accomplish great things, to fight on. We also need purpose to achieve satisfaction in our jobs. If we know why we do what we do, we are motivated to continue. Zelenskyy continually tells his people and the world why they are fighting: “we are fighting for our freedom and for our lands.” He aligned the goal of the resistance with a common purpose of defending democratic values. By doing that, he rallied his countrymen and world leaders to the Ukrainian cause like never before in world history. When leaders tell their colleagues why they do what they do, and praise them for accomplishing the mission, it’s a strong motivating force. So, remember to praise your people regularly and remind them how they are accomplishing their purpose and benefitting society.

We’ll finish examining the rest of Zelenskyy’s leadership traits next time.

Are you struggling with the challenges of leadership? Do you aspire to bring your team the motivation they need to do their best? Reach out to me today, and let’s have a conversation!

Latest happenings:

Our Agile Tales launched a new podcast series called “Change is the Only Constant”. Evan Leybourn, the founder of Business Agility Institute, has been many things throughout his career. Come find out what mistakes and failures led him to business agility and what he has learnt along the way.

You can listen to the podcast on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Stitcher or you can click here.

I’m excited to welcome Lizzie Benton, all the way from the UK to SFBABAM (San Francisco Bay Area Business Agility Meetup) in May. She’ll be “Demystifying Culture and Getting Real About Better Workplaces”. You don’t want to miss it! RSVP here.

When: 9 May at 11:30am Pacific Time | 19.30 BST | 20:30 CEST | 10 May 6:30am NZST.

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