I have a pit in my stomach as I watch war break out in Europe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed the world order and we’re all left wondering where things go from here.
In the darkness of that event, something quite miraculous has happened. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has emerged as a hero not only of his own country, but of democracy across the world. It’s been incredibly inspiring to watch him lead his country, and I am moved by how he has handled this crisis.
This has made me ask, what has made his leadership so effective during such a challenging time and what can we learn from him?
We are closer to the beginning of this crisis than the end, though from my perspective, there are three early leadership lessons we can all take from Zelenskyy as we lead our own organizations and communities through uncertain and often challenging circumstances.
Avoid panic; it helps you win.
Zelenskyy kept his people remarkably calm during the build-up of this conflict and yet was honest with them about their circumstances. The result: when he said it was time to fight, Ukrainians were ready, believed him, and marched into battle.
Takeaway: Leaders often have enormous amounts of information flowing to them. How and when you share that information matters in how effective you are at mobilizing your team. Too much too early creates panic, not enough or too late you lose credibility. Ask yourself, are you quick to sound the alarm or slow to react? How do you find a better balance?
Build relationships before you need them.
Zelenskyy seems to have every global leader on speed dial. This isn’t by chance. He’s spent the last few years building those relationships carefully. That laid the groundwork for him to advocate his positions effectively across the EU and the US.
Takeaway: Spend considerable amounts of time building relationships, in part because when you need them you need them to be very responsive. Ask yourself, what is the status of your key relationships? Do you need to invest more time to strengthen those bonds this year?
Invest in multi-channel communication skills.
Zelenskyy’s PR game is on point. He knows his audience is both global and local and spans several languages.
Takeaway: Effective leadership requires managing communication across a multitude of stakeholders in the way they want to be communicated with. Are you investing in multiple channels of communication or defaulting to the one you personally prefer? Ask yourself, where is the opportunity for you to improve your communication abilities?
Finally, we should all remember Zelenskyy went from TV comedian to war hero and target number one for Russian in three years. He must wonder to himself, “how the hell did I get here?” The positive takeaway is, anything is possible, and we are best served by remembering the power of that truth.