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Leadership in Crisis: Lessons from President Zelenskyy’s Resilience

Adolf Hitler once said, "The beginning of every war is like opening the door into a dark room. One never knows what is hidden in the darkness."

As a 40-mile line of tanks heads from Russia to Kyiv, it is clear there is much darkness ahead for the Ukrainian people. Many leaders who face this darkness aren’t up to the challenge.

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy, has proven that he is.

In the midst of crisis, he has demonstrated that he is an agile and adept leader, one that we can learn from.

Here are a few of my personal takeaways from watching his actions in the last week:

He has said, “We are here. Our weapon is our truth. And the truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of that.” He is clear on his vision and resolute in executing it, even to the point of risking his own execution.

You can’t watch a news program or social media feed without seeing President Zelenskyy. He is seemingly everywhere – talking with world leaders, giving televised speeches, walking the streets, meeting with soldiers. He is communicating frequently, rallying his country, swatting down rumors, and doing so by using all communication channels at his disposal.

In spite of an offer by the US to evacuate him and his family to safety, he elected to stay, work, and fight alongside his countrymen. He posted a video with his chief advisors showing that no one had left. They are united with the people of Ukraine and are doing exactly what they’ve asked of all other Ukrainians.

Zelenskyy has always positioned himself as a man of the people. When he took office he said “I do not want my picture in your offices: the President is not an icon, an idol, or a portrait. Hang your kids' photos instead, and look at them each time you are making a decision.” His decisions and actions since the conflict began show he is staying true to these values.

Our influence and credibility as a leader are things that have to be earned and re-earned.

We can’t compel respect. We can’t force engagement.

A very large portion of Ukraine’s population is highly engaged, highly motivated, and united in their focus and efforts. And much of the West is now united as well.

Zelenskyy’s leadership is at least part of the reason why.

Of course, his leadership will not stop the Russian tanks from advancing. Like you, my thoughts and prayers are with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, his family, and all the people of Ukraine.

What other lessons have you taken by watching Volodymyr Zelenskyy lead his country?


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