We are witnessing a unique moment of leadership in history. It is not easy to remember a person who would have convulsed the world as much as Ukraine’s President Zelenski has done in recent weeks. The events they face are enormous, terrifying. Only a leader in capital letters is capable of confronting them with sufficient capacity to arouse fierce resistance in Ukraine and passionate support in much of the world. He had the possibility of fleeing, as many others have chosen to do in the face of certain conflicts. But he has not, which exalts him to a unique level of leadership. And it does so in a different style, a style marked by the post-COVID era.
Only a leader in capital letters is capable of facing such terrible events with sufficient capacity to arouse fierce resistance in Ukraine and passionate support in much of the world.
COVID blew down the wall separating personal and professional life. In the many meetings we have had online, we have known each other’s homes, their children, their pets or whatever happened to them at the time. Technology and the pandemic gave us closeness, connected us to our vulnerability and most importantly, stripped us of many superficialities. It has taught us to be more authentic. And authenticity is another great trait of post-COVID leadership, which Zelenski exemplifies so well in his communication.
Authenticity is another feature of post-COVID leadership, which Zelenski exemplifies so well in his communication.
Before the conflict began, the president of Ukraine appeared in a suit and tie. He then shed his tie and later his suit to appear in a green campaign T-shirt. He left conventionality behind and rolled up his sleeves so that the battle was also his own words and non-verbal language. Again, authenticity, without concealment, showing the reality of what is there.
His way of transmitting has an incredible emotional charge. They are simple messages, full of humanity and feelings. They do not sound like canned messages or messages written by others. It asked for peace before the beginning of the war; now, it desperately calls for international aid. He does it with forcefulness, closeness and above all, he does it in an authentic way, with a cell phone camera, without excesses. Yesterday, a video of him at a press conference with journalists went viral, in which he himself was dragging his own chair, as seen in the images. This is an anecdote for any mortal, but not for many politicians who support their security in appearance and power.
Born to be a leader? He was looking like a different guy when he was elected head of Ukraine. He asked that his portrait not be hung in the state buildings, but that everyone put up pictures of their own children. Thus, before making a decision, they had to consider whether it was the most appropriate for their offspring and for the future of the country. It could have remained a gesture or a marketing act, but looking at subsequent events, it was a sign that pointed to a heroic and authentic leadership style. I doubt very much that you could foresee a size like the one you have demonstrated. And I doubt very much that his enemy ever guessed it.
Life offers us opportunities and only those who are leaders have the courage to accept them and take on their challenges.
I have always believed that leadership is trained, but it is also life offers us opportunities. Only those who are leaders have the courage to accept them and take on their challenges. As President Zelenski has done, paying a very high price for himself and his family. But a great leader knows that there are times when dignity and duty to others outweighs possible personal consequences, as I have been taught by many military and police officers with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the years. Hopefully President Zelenski’s leadership style will be an inspiration to many other leaders around the world.