Real Leaders

What Business Leaders Can Learn From Zelensky’s Heart-based Leadership

We see examples of the misuse of power and poor leadership in the news on a daily basis, whether on the political, corporate, or world stages. But recently we have been seeing a refreshing leadership style by Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky. What is it about him that has us all so enamored?

We are bearing witness to a leader who is using courage and compassion to lead his people. Indeed, Zelensky’s heart-based leadership has captured the hearts of his people and those around the world. Zelensky is rewriting history by embodying the power of the heart in his leadership.

What Is Heart-Based Leadership? In action, it is when leaders fully utilize their skills and humanness to guide their communication, choices, and relationships with others.

Men aspiring to be allies and leaders typically ask the question, “What do I do?” The reality is that this is more a question about our states of being and we should ask ourselves how to achieve our highest state.

If we all need to aspire to be in our best state, then most certainly our leaders need to be in theirs — to connect with us, to empower us, to lead from their hearts.

Men in power and position need to be in their hearts and model a different relationship with their own sense of masculinity. As a playbook for leaders, the power of the heart has five cornerstones to guide leadership:

Emotional Literacy
Emotional literacy requires that we have a conscious relationship with our emotions so we can experience them instead of ignore them and allow them to build unchecked. More importantly, we can respond instead of reacting. No doubt Zelensky feels unimaginable depths of fear, anger and sadness, yet he remains grounded and taps into the strength of his heart to maintain composure and lead his people.

Vulnerability gets a bad rap and is unfortunately often seen as a sign of weakness as opposed to a sign of strength. True power comes from one’s willingness to be vulnerable — and this is especially true for leaders, as vulnerability fosters trust and respect from others. We can measure how brave you are by how vulnerable you’re willing to be. President Zelensky, perhaps thanks to his training as an actor, models his emotions for all to see, and allows vulnerability to be one of his strengths. Further, his vulnerability serves to demonstrate the deep empathy he has for his people.

Instead of portraying the image of what you think others need to see, which is persona-driven, authenticity is all about character … as in yours. People see through the performative tactics of inauthentic leadership. Zelensky recognizes the world stage he finds himself on and rather than performing, he shows us who he really is. The result? Both his people and the international community want to follow and support him. His authenticity is quickly earning him trust and respect.

Those who lead from the heart possess the power to make everyone feel included. When people feel like they belong, they make more positive contributions. A culture of inclusion is imperative for good performance in business as in life. The solidarity Zelensky has inspired amongst Ukrainians and the international community at large is a testament to his inclusive leadership.

There is true love in seeing, listening to, respecting, and valuing others for who they are and what they contribute. When Zelinsky recognizes the men, women, and children around him who have been through horrific experiences, when he listens to their stories, respects them, and values their contributions, he is demonstrating love.

There is true power in leading with heart. It takes copious amounts of courage and compassion — for oneself as well as for others. Those who lead with heart are authentic and demonstrate vulnerability. While they are not fearless, they are willing to face their own emotions and grow from their experiences. They center others, encourage others, and don’t let their egos run the show. They know life is not a dress rehearsal, and ergo, they work indefatigably to achieve their highest state of being. Heart-based leaders galvanize the strength of those they lead and inspire them to rise to their highest states — where just about anything is possible.

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