5 Leadership Lessons from President Zelensky

leadership Mar 09, 2022
Ukrainian President Zelensky Leadership Lessons


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was under-estimated and untested in crisis. As the Russian Army amassed on Ukraine’s borders…

  • His leadership was questioned.
  • His decision making was questioned.
  • His background as a comedian was the behind-the-hand snicker supporting the belief of his presumed ineffectiveness.
  • His age was evidence of his presumed ineffectiveness.

 As the horror of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine unfolds, I've reflected on the leadership of both leaders.

 President Zelensky illuminates a form of leadership worthy of reflection. I believe the leadership lessons he shares will be studied and, hopefully, emulated by leaders of countries and companies.

Leaders are role models who convey in action and word what they believe, stand for, and are willing to do. Here are 5 leadership lessons that President Zelensky models for 21st century leaders.

5 Leadership Lessons for 21st Century Leaders


Consistent Messaging

Consistent messaging clearly states expectations, accountability, and the WHY of the mission or effort. This type of communication is a gamechanger for a Nation, company, or team. Zelensky’s messages to his team, Ukrainian people, and the global community shape our collective focus and inspiration. We feel ourselves lean into his unwavering words; his conviction.

Clarity of Purpose, Mission, Vision

Leadership (whether in times of calm or crisis) requires clarity of purpose. Coupled with consistent messaging, it is critical for a leader to share an unmistakable clarity of purpose. Clarity brings focus to people, a sense of direction, a sense of resolve. In the most chaotic of times, clarity brings calm and deliberateness. Clarity births conviction.

Humility and Grace

Leaders who—even in the worst of times—demonstrate measured humility and grace inspire and draw people closer. Zelensky's humility and grace is not weakness. It is a subtlety that galvanizes action, inspiration, and courage. People step forward to help, in part, because of the humility and grace he conveys.


The most courageous leadership stance is when a leader’s life, liberty, or livelihood is in jeopardy. Courage requires soul-searching. Weighing the costs of actions and reaffirming clarity of purpose. It is not easy to know that a leader’s actions, decisions, or stand could cost one’s life, liberty, or livelihood. Courage is in short supply among leaders today. Zelensky’s naked demonstration of courage is worthy to emulate.


In the face of enormous odds, Zelensky’s resolve to galvanize his people to resist tyranny is a leadership lesson worthy of reflection. How many leaders fold under the slightest bit of pressure or unpopularity? How many leaders are unwilling to risk being unpopular? Being steadfast and resolute is a leadership characteristic key to inspiring people to persist—to do the difficult things in difficult times.

Put the Leadership Lessons to Work

These 5 lessons apply to every person who holds a leadership role. 

If you lead a team, these lessons apply. If you lead a company, these lessons apply. 

The assault on Ukrainians’ sovereignty brings President Zelensky’s leadership sharply in focus.

The global pandemic creates untold challenges. As companies seek to bring people back to the office, leaders will manage more difficulties, rapid change, unclear priorities. President Zelensky’s leadership model is worth reflecting upon.

Which leadership lesson will you apply to your leadership role?

In the most difficult times, a leader either rises or falls.

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