As we approach the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it seems fitting to recognise President Zelensky’s inspirational leadership. He has displayed exceptionally high levels of emotional intelligence in what has clearly been the most challenging of circumstances. He is without question a leader of his generation, a role model for us all to set new standards and take our leadership skills to the next level.
Despite having no previous military or political experience and only becoming President in 2019, Zelensky’s confidence in his ability to lead from the front has inspired his fellow Ukrainians to keep fighting for freedom. He has shown true courage – and this courage is contagious. Having confidence in your skills, ability and judgement is critical to becoming a great leader. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, you will be hard-pressed to convince others to believe in you too.
Zelensky has shown impressive self-control and discipline as he managed the unimaginable pressure of leading a country at war. He has kept his nerve, remaining steadfast in his commitment to defend Ukraine as shown when he said, “we are fighting for our freedom and for our lands.” The ability to manage your emotions is a core leadership skill. It allows you to calm your mind and make rational and balanced decisions.
Great leaders need to have the courage of their convictions. Zelensky’s self-reliance and ability to back himself was clear for everyone to see when he rejected the US’s offer to evacuate him at the start of the invasion, by saying, “I need ammunition, not a ride.” Almost a year later he continues to rise to new challenges, showing true grit and grace under fire. As a leader, you need to hold yourself to account in this way. It’s about being responsible for your actions and having the initiative to seek out new opportunities.
Zelensky uses direct and clear language, whether he is communicating to other world leaders or to his own people. His use of social media as a communication tool has allowed him to be open and honest and this has made him both accessible and relatable, in sharp contrast to Putin’s controlled and stage-managed appearances. This straightforwardness is a crucial leadership skill as it holds the key to building trust and respect with others.
Whether it’s his choice of clothes or the pictures he shares of his family, Zelensky is natural and authentic in his leadership style. He hasn’t been afraid to share his emotional response to distressing situations. This authenticity lies at the heart of his ability to lead his country through unimaginable hardships. As a leader, you need to be true to yourself. This means being comfortable in your own skin, embracing your imperfections and showing you have nothing to hide.
Zelensky has earned his place in history as an inspirational leader. A lesson to all of us about the power of leading with integrity, communicating with authenticity and balancing confidence with humility. As we go out and face new leadership challenges, let’s follow these words of advice from President Zelensky himself, “Be unstoppable, be true to yourself, but be just.”