Bob Selden on leadership
Bob Selden on leadership

Do you have what it takes to become a leader?

I recently wrote on the difference between management and leadership and today have posted an article, "How can you tell if you have what it takes to become a leader?". Someone who has demonstrated his ability to lead is Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of the Ukraine, a former actor and comedian who is serving his first term in public office and is rising to meet this moment in history. 

But what does it take? 

There are four elements leaders use to create the conditions that invigorate others to follow and in doing so, energise others to develop their own leadership skills:  

  1. They help us understand and make sense of our environment. For example, when things aren't working out or are unclear for us, they are able to explain what is happening in practical terms that we can understand. Zelenskyy is nightly on TV in the Ukraine updating the people on what's happening at the moment and in the moment - they understand the challenges the Ukraine is facing without 'sugar coating' the situation.
  2. They help give us a sense of direction. They are able to paint a picture of a brighter future and help us believe that we can achieve the things we want to achieve. Zealenskyy often talks about "re-building the country after the war", so that people can see what the ultimate aim is.
  3. They give us a belief in the values that are important to us. In doing so, they make us feel part of a team of people that share these values and have the same aims. With his regular visits to the army personnel on the front line, and to people whose houses have been destroyed, he's able to show how every citizen is sharing the same values that are holing the country together.
  4. They are able to make us feel powerful by allowing us the freedom to make decisions about our life, work and the future. Zelenskyy s reported as once having given the direction to his commanding officers, he allows them to make the decisions that really make a difference on the front line.

And it's also interesting to see his communication skills coming to the fore:

  • You'll notice that he always wears his khaki green army fatigues (with no insignias - another sign of unassuming leadership)
  • He never stands behind a lectern when presenting - he's either sitting, or in situ in the streets, demonstrating his equalness with his people and the audience
  • Zelenskyy always puts a sound case and in doing so, asks for help - good leaders are not afraid to ask for help when they see it's needed (Have you ever heard Putin asking for help?)

As many observers have said, "Zelenskyy appears to be a leader for the times".  and as Wharton management professor emeritus Michael Useem, commented, "There’s a close correlation between the skills of a statesman and a CEO. Both types of leaders need to excel at what is described as general management — juggling a number of urgent and often disparate issues at once".

“Being a one-trick pony won’t do it here. You’ve got to master it all,” he said. “That is, we have to think about everything and act on everything pulled together".

See my latest article, "How can you tell if you have what it takes to become a leader?" to start (or continue) your leadership journal.




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