21st-century leadership traits as shown by Ukrainian President Zelenskyy (Part 3)

Leadership Memo 2023-6

“I am transfixed by the example of President Zelenskyy. I have watched every one of his addresses. He is plainspoken, quietly forceful, and unstinting with the truth. I have been studying leadership and fearlessness my whole life. I’ve never quite seen the likes of this.” – Dr. Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor and Thinkers50’s number one management thinker in the world.

In the past 2 months, we have been analysing the leadership traits of Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and how his masterclass in leadership applies to the business world. So far, we’ve looked at 7 traits: courage, authenticity, and clear messaging, relentless commitment, empathy, relatable, and know and communicate purpose. Today, we’ll look at the remaining 3.

Trait #8: Be decisive and follow through

During the first round of talks between Ukraine and Russia, Zelenskyy said, “Don’t waste time. We do not accept such tactics. Fair negotiations can happen when one side does not hit the other side with rocket artillery at the moment of negotiations.” Zelenskyy’s decisions have been firm, and he has stood by those decisions even when it was difficult. This level of decisiveness is important if you want to earn the respect and approval of your employees. If you waiver under pressure, or if you frequently change your mind, people are going to doubt your capabilities. Also, if words are all you have, regardless of how inspirational or motivating, people are going to lose their faith in you. So, don’t just talk about what you’re going to do, follow through and actually do it!

Trait #9: Build alliances

No man is an island, and nobody can lead effectively without building alliances in boardrooms or wars. Zelenskyy has been extremely effective in harnessing the world’s media and world leaders’ attention to help him achieve his goals. He did that by making his needs clear and public (trait #3) – and by explaining publicly how other leaders’ interests were aligned with his own. His strategy of alignment and publicity gave potential allies a choice: show their own strength and morality by supporting Ukraine – or show their weakness and lack of moral fibre by failing to provide support. The choice was easy and Ukraine has been well supported by most of the world’s most powerful countries, undoubtedly turning the tide of the latest and perhaps the most important war in Europe.

Trait #10: Be with your people

A perfect bookend with courage, as they are related. So, show your face, be with your people, and be present, especially when your business is at its most difficult. Dedicate yourself to the service of your customers and employees!

What makes leaders great isn’t just their internal characteristics, or being the best versions of themselves. It is their ability to understand, reflect, and enact the values, aspirations, and identity of those they lead. That requires empathy and humility. This ability to understand and embody the values of your team is something everyday leaders can learn from President Zelenskyy.

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:

Come listen to the latest podcast episode from the series called “Change is the Only Constant” by Our Agile Tales. In this new episode, we chat with Evan Leybourn, the founder of Business Agility Institute, about how boards are becoming more agile. We even touch on CEO compensations.

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

I’m thrilled to welcome Rich Sheridan, the CEO and Chief Storyteller from Menlo Innovations, to SFBABAM (San Francisco Bay Area Business Agility Meetup) in June. He’ll be talking to us about “Joy & HR – Lessons for Creating Intentionally Joyful Culture”. You don’t want to miss it! RSVP now!

When: 21 June, 5pm PDT, 8pm EDT | 22 June, 00:00 UTC, 8am SGT, 10am AEST, 12 noon NZST.

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