What businesses can learn from Volodymyr Zelenskyy | Inquirer Business

What businesses can learn from Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Courage and accountability top the list.

During the World War II, the heads of several European countries fled in fear of the Nazis. Winston Churchill stayed in the United Kingdom, as did the Royal Family, inspiring their people to withstand the enemy.

Though he does not want to be compared to Churchill, whose imperialist ambitions he decries, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is courage writ large. Refusing US President Joe Biden’s evacuation offer on the eve of the Russian invasion, Zelenskyy asked for “ammunition, not a ride.”


“Instead of running for their lives, many Ukrainians grabbed whatever weapons they could find and ran to defend their towns and cities against an invading force armed with tanks and attack helicopters,” says Time Magazine, who named Zelenskyy 2022 Person of the Year.


Courage is not usually associated with business leaders, who often follow expediency rather than morality. But leaders need to be accountable.

“As business leaders, the choices we make may not be life and death, but it’s essential to lead with vision, advocating for both the success of our business and the people who work for it,” CEO Pip Hulbert of UK consultancy Wunderman Thompson tells media site Raconteur.

“While leaders must be accountable for business goals, it’s also important to develop accountability toward people and culture,” says career site Indeed. “A lack of accountability may damage the company culture or impact employees’ morale, but a strong sense of organizational accountability leads to positive work environments.”

Flexibility and innovation

A master of improv comedy, Zelenskyy uses skills honed on stage to gauge people’s mood, inspiring his homeland and demanding help from the world. His showbiz talents rally citizens and volunteers from other nations to contribute to the war effort—battling on the front lines, treating the wounded, spurning disinformation, sanctioning rogue enterprises.

The iPhone is his most potent weapon, as he hectors the World Economic Forum, the Nato Summit, the Ivy League, Hollywood to act decisively. Such innovativeness is deliberate and effective.

“If we fall out of focus, we are in danger,” his chief of staff Andriy Yermak tells Time, which in turn states, “The attention of the world serves as a shield.”


“Being conservative, rusty and unwilling to take calculated risks, means losing,” Maksym Liashko, the former CEO of gaming company Gr8 Tech, tells Raconteur. “Zelenskyy is the opposite of that.”

Similarly, Liashko tells businesses: “If you can analyze the market situation fast and assess the potential ways to move forward with precision, you will stay ahead of the competitors and come out on top.”

Trust and empowerment

Zelenskyy stays on top of the overall military strategy through briefings with his generals, but empowers them to lead on the battlefield. “Zelenskyy surrounded himself with people who are just as committed as he is in getting the job done,” says Liashko.

Micromanagement is also unproductive in business, when bosses second-guess their employees or older generations reverse decisions made by younger ones. Lack of trust is a blow to morale.

In bunkers and on trains, as Zelenskyy travels from one region of the country to another, Time Magazine observes that everyone is too busy at their jobs, so “no one stood at attention or saluted the commander in chief.” It’s something our own leaders can learn from.

Adherence to hierarchy in businesses often backfires. Take the preponderance of company vice-presidents, whether senior, executive, assistant, and what have you. Nimbler and flatter companies are more attractive to employees who do not want to work their way up a creaky corporate ladder. While respect for elders remains a cornerstone of family businesses, senior leaders need to mentor the next generation, encourage them to be accountable, and model how to manage uncertainties.

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Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or the ebook at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected].

TAGS: All in the Family, businesses

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