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A lesson from current events
The news is filled with images from Ukraine these days.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy has risen to the challenge and has inspired his people to fight. He has given the world a lesson in courage, and he is an example of how a leader who “walks the walk” can bring out the best in his people. I am moved by his example, and I hope he will be able to lead his people out of this terrible time. I urge everyone to support the people of Ukraine in whatever ways you can (e.g, unitedhelpukraine.org).
I also have considered Vladimir Putin over the past few days, and my language for describing him is NSFW. From a leadership perspective, I can only assume that he has reached that point as an autocrat in which no one will tell him what they really think. Leaders need advisors who will “kick the tires” on their ideas. Good leaders WANT their people to challenge their ideas. Consider it like “peer review.” Having people who will give you honest feedback and think of the things you haven’t helps you avoid classic blunders (like getting into a land-war in Eurasia).
Some people build such strong “group harmony” that no one wants to speak up and break the “good vibe” by voicing their concerns. Some people surround themselves with sycophants (yes-men, yes-women, yes-people?) who flatter the leader and say that every idea is genius. And some people poison their enemies and make those around them legitimately fear for the lives of their families if they don’t show total obedience. All of these lead into a spiral of increasingly bad decision-making that eventually creates major crises.
As leaders, we might not be able to choose the events that unfold on our watch. But we always have choices in how we respond to those events. And it’s usually a good idea to get a few other smart people to honestly let you know if your response is likely to work, and what the short-term and long-term consequences could be for your organization.