Volodymyr Zelensky’s leadership is widely praised. And rightfully so. He has the qualities of a leader that is talked about on blog sites. But do you also have to learn something from it as an ordinary manager?
Countless blogs, articles, and podcasts now list leadership lessons from the Ukrainian president. Often it is about opening doors such as: being authentic. Or: communicate comprehensibly.
Sometimes you also read a nice description of the courage that Zelensky shows and its effect on the population. For example, psychologist and publicist Adam Grant describe how important it is for leaders to take a stand and stand up for the values of their group. Grant: “We follow the leaders who fight for us — and we make sacrifices for the leaders who serve us.”
Nicely said. But still, do you have to do something with this if you are a team leader of a group of accountants in Amersfoort? Two important considerations.
Behind the scenes
Reflection 1. You don’t see most of a person’s leadership in public.
Leaders – whether active in politics, the military, or other organizations – fulfill many roles. For example, they solve practical problems, distribute financial and other resources, and negotiate in decision-making processes. Most of the work takes place behind the scenes.
Yes, as a leader you also have to come out from time to time. As a figurehead, advocate, and inspiration. And in that area, there’s certainly a lot to learn from Zelensky. With more than 25 years of training as a comedian, actor, and media entrepreneur, he is a master at this.
But has he built a good team around him? Does he organize sufficient dissent in his own circle? It’s an unknown.
Reflection 2. Leadership is situational.
What works well for Zelensky in Ukraine in a war situation probably doesn’t work in your company. In fact, it probably won’t even work in Ukraine if the situation has changed again.
Perhaps it is also a bit crazy to want to get lessons from a current war situation for a working day at the office.
Professor Micha Popper, responsible for the training of military leaders in the Israeli army for many years, conducted research into differences between military leadership and leadership in companies. In doing so, he mainly looked at the way in which leaders have influence.
In a business environment, all kinds of rewards play a big role, popper says. Think of recognition, prestige, and money. But in a military environment, it’s primarily about emotional influence. Then you have to think of naming and embodying higher goals.
Popper states: in a war, there is a real chance that you and your colleagues will be injured or die. This means that the tension that people experience is incomparable to that in an ordinary work situation. In such circumstances, people are in great need of a leader who will help them curb fear, keep hope, and sacrifice themselves, if necessary, for a higher purpose, such as the freedom of a country.
Volodymyr Zelensky’s performance is a fascinating example of inspiring leadership. It’s amazing what one person can do for countless others in times of crisis. And that is valuable in itself. Even if you don’t learn any practical management lessons from it.