With varying degrees of horror and serious concern the past 10 days have been filled with ongoing news pertaining to Russia’s drive to re-claim the Ukraine as their own. It is very clear that the majority of the world is behind Ukraine’s fight for their lives and their future.
On one side of this war … the ‘David’ of this contest … is one Volodymyr Zelenskyy … Ukraine’s president. It’s a role he has had since 2019. And his background that made his ascending to this position a natural? None for he was an entertainer and comedian. What he does demonstrate is that leaders can truly come from everywhere!
One strength that Zelenskyy’s background as a comic helped him develop was his ability to understand what motivates and inspires people. As we see and read daily is that he is using these skills to take them through the darkest of times. Here are the skills that he is employing in his leadership role. They are skills that are applicable and effective when used by any and all leaders.
As it is, Zelenskyy’s practices provide a very effective check list for a leader in any capacity within any organization to consider in self-evaluation:
- Be Seen By Those One Leads
To the extent one wants to be admired and respected as a leader it’s simple … they must be seen. The transparent leader builds credibility and therefore trust and cooperation. No hiding behind rules and regulations will bring these critical results.
- Be Both Active and Engaged With Those You Lead
Being willing to be a part of the needed action inspires others to want to follow one’s example. Being a ‘do as I do’ rather than ‘do as I say’ creates cohesiveness in achieving the goals of the organization.
- Lead By Example
Too often leaders tend to stay in the background and lead through the likes of memos from the back of the room. Yet demonstrating one’s interest and willingness to be in the trenches in helping to achieve the goals has a very positive impact on followers. Leading by example breeds loyalty and enthusiasm to achieve the mission.
- Communicate In the Most Effective Way Possible
Addressing followers in a manner that makes us realize that this is just one person who is the same whether have an individual or group conversation. Speaking with the press or being interviewed on television we hear the same person that we might know as leader. No playing a role. Rather just being a true self earns the respect and loyalty of those operating under the leadership.
Jessica Stillman, in writing for INC. magazine, quotes a Wharton professor, Adam Grant. He believes that “What makes leaders great isn’t just their internal characteristics, but their ability to understand and reflect the values and identity of those they lead.” Thus, this becomes the foundation of Zelenskyy’s approach. Grant further makes the point that “Psychologists find that we’re drawn to leaders who represent our group. The people we elevate into positions of authority aren’t typical members of our group–they’re prototypical members of our group. They’re the people we see as exemplifying the ideals of the group and acting in the best interests of the group.”
Zelenskyy ran to win the presidency of Ukraine a short 2+ years ago. He was determined to bring calm and peace to different factions within his country. He lack of experience as a politician caught the attention and support of the citizens. It’s a safe bet to think that he did not envision leading his country while embroiled in a war that threatens their very existence. Yet here he is … the comedian … who has risen to this very real-life threatening challenge to win the loyalty of his fellow Ukranians and the admiration of so much of the world.
I encourage all of us to use this leadership example as a litmus test to evaluate our own approach to leading. It makes no difference if one is leading an entire company, a department or a team. Leadership that embraces the ‘Zelenskyy methods’ cannot help but the develop the loyalty and following of those very ones on whom the desired success depends. He shows himself remaining resolute in adversity and still, always human and accessible.