A Leadership Fail
This past week, the world witnessed the senseless invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces led by madman Vladimir Putin. His deranged vision for seizing control of Ukraine was met with harsh criticism and strong tactical resistance. Global allies rallied to rebuke his moves.
The whole tragic affair, whose outcome is yet decided, highlights the extremes of leadership gone bad. Since this publication is never a political rant but a thesis on leadership, I’d like to break down the issues surrounding Putin’s latest colossal misstep of epic proportions.
First, let me say this. What Putin has chosen to do in the past several months has proven his shift from governmental chieftain to insane lunatic, neither of which deserves the mention of ‘leadership’ in the description.
Frequently, I see discussions and commentary on various social media channels that ask questions about dictators and oligarchs having leadership traits. I routinely respond to those saying “NO.” You can’t be what they really are and qualify as a leader.
Everything I have ever learned and experienced under true leaders results in people being lifted up, not beaten down. A leader builds consensus and collaboration. They find the “win-win.” The leader supports doing the right thing regardless of how difficult it may be. There is never any notion of being swayed by popular opinion.
What has been evidenced in the past few weeks coming from Putin himself, suggests none of the above. Rather, it screams spoiled child throwing a supreme tantrum. One that will cause fatal outcomes to hundreds if not thousands of lives, both on the Ukrainian side as well as his own Russian troops. The assault will destroy infrastructure, making conditions in Ukraine unlivable for generations to come. Senseless it is.
Rising to Power
The first step contributing to this situation is a rise to power. In any organization with a diagram explaining “who’s on top,” there are some boxes that indicate one person with authority over others. It is true in business and government. With the designated position comes a certain power. I call it simply the ‘Power of the Position.’
People get promoted, assigned, or elected to these positions. Anyone sitting in the role, who should be exercising true leadership, will have access to this positional power at all times. However, the use of that power should be limited for use as a last resort.
Example – I am your boss. We have exhausted all effort to get you to be a better employee. Now I must resort to giving you notice, you are fired.
Hiring and firing is a classic example of the Power of Position.
In the case of dictators and madmen, they manipulate systems to gain this power. They then use this power as their first choice. It is their sole purpose, to press this power onto the people they have under control. They rule with fear and intimidation.
Anyone opposing the head is treated with severe consequences. ‘Do as I say or go to jail or be executed.’
Putin is not without his own allegations of such cruel intimidation. Now he is putting it on display for the whole world to see.
His actions have already been called lunacy. Statesmen who have dealt with Putin in the past are admitting his recent behavior is way beyond his ‘usual self.’
How did we get here?
A common question I’ve heard about this growing problem is ‘how did we get here?’
I refer to my ‘Frog in the Pot’ analogy. The story says you put a frog in a pot of water, then slowly turn up the heat. Eventually, he boils to death. Yet if you boil the water, then drop him in, he jumps out immediately.
Authorities inside the Kremlin have no doubt been suffering the plight of the frog in the pot. Over the past decade, Putin has slowly amplified his rants and views of the West. The circle of governmental authorities elsewhere in the org chart have taken these orders and proceeded with compliance.
In my humble opinion, the key question right now is “Will anyone in Russian government circles be willing to challenge Putin?” Will the protests inside of Russia persuade him to stop?
Or has his ego gotten so big that, in his mind, there is no way to save face other than to destroy all of the Ukrainian countrysides?
While I certainly hope and pray that is not the case, it is seeming unlikely that such a coup is likely.
Will sanctions actually work?
Next, we turn to the possibility that government sanctions can deter or turn around the Russian attacks. The basic problem with sanctions is that the world’s economy is so tightly intertwined, taking one country out of the loop has unintended consequences for others.
Unlike the world’s economy of pre-war WWII, we now have complex networks of interdependent events, obligations, and currency swaps that drive the whole world. It’s the ultimate domino chain of events. COuntries and continents rely on energy and commerce to fuel currencies and sustain valuations across the globe. Once we start tinkering with bits and pieces, we may well adversely impact a wider segment of the world’s economy, not just Russia.
Leaders on all sides are carefully measuring the impact on their own countries. As they should.
The contrast between leadership examples is extreme. Inside Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been solid, resolute, and outright inspiring.
His now-famous response to President Biden’s appeal to help him evacuate shows exactly where Zelenskyy stands. “I don’t want a ride, I want ammunition.” was his response. That, my friend, is powerful, motivational leadership.
Putin on the other hand, issues daily rants and tweets about this and that, none of which is very coherent. Citizens inside their own country are protesting and questioning the initiatives.
Again, I’d argue that Putin’s action has done nothing to demonstrate real leadership. Rather, he’s shown himself a cruel dictator with no regard for human life. Zelenskyy rallies his people, delivering empowering messages, touching the hearts of the whole world.
The final outcome for this horrific siege will be resolved by solid leadership. Plain and simple. Whether it comes from a coalition of allies forcing Putin’s hand to stand down or from within the governmental org chart that is Communist Russia, we need leadership to prevail.
It is my prayer that the latter rises up and creates a more peaceful shut down of the invasion. And I hope it happens soon.