CEO Coaching: Russian vs. Ukrainian Battlefield Leadership

Recent news from Ukraine is that four top Russian generals were killed on the battlefield. The story goes on to identify this sad but unique fact because of the top-down leadership style that Russia still hews to. Only “the big guys” are smart enough to make the tough decisions so they must be on the front line. (Too bad the Putin isn’t there.)

The Ukrainian forces—God bless them!—are fighting not because they are compliant, but because they are committed. Rather than top-down leadership, they are fighting admirably in part because they have dispersed leadership. We don’t know how this will end, but we can learn more from this situation than just admiring the bravery of President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people.

  • Autocratic leadership has the advantage of quick decision making but does not allow for “battlefield” assessments to be assimilated quickly. You cannot know everything, or even “enough,” to make all significant decisions without your team. If you have autocratic tendencies, get coaching, or consider self-employment.
  • Closely related to this is the challenge of surrounding yourself with sycophants. When people get their ass kicked (or worse) for bringing bad but accurate news to the Big Cheese, information stops and bullshit reigns. 
  • Passion, commitment, and ingenuity can sometimes overpower strength and assets. This is why the little guys sometimes win. Don’t face a giant head-on, but don’t assume that you cannot win. As you grow your organization, fight to maintain passion, commitment, and ingenuity!

I pray that we might soon have more positive stories from Ukraine to learn from.

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