Beyond the Build


Leadership Lessons from the War in Ukraine

Like many, I have spent some time following the war and tragedy in Ukraine. When I heard about a seminar comparing the leaders of both countries led by industrial psychologist and friend Duncan Hulsey, I was curious to hear his thoughts.

It’s interesting to note that even though Russia seems to have superior resources, for the most part they have not been successful in the war thus far. According to Hulsey, a portion of this phenomenon might be attributed to the starkly different leadership styles of Putin and Zelenskyy.

Putin’s leadership style can be categorized by over-confidence, closed-mindedness and a culture of fear. I was shocked to learn that Putin does not use the internet at all, favoring written correspondence, which means he’s receiving highly filtered information. Decisions are only being made at the highest level, and the rest of the military and country are expected to follow blindly, not understanding the “why” behind their cause. He’s surrounded himself with “yes men.”

Conversely, Zelenskyy is a former comedian and actor who has embraced social media. He’s expressed humility and thankfulness and made some tough calls. He’s also proven himself to be a delegator, and is making his name as a master communicator. His connection to his countrymen and candor seem to have given him an edge.

Walking away from the seminar, I had these three takeaways to work on in our own companies.

  1. Be open-minded. Engage in healthy debate and make empathy part of who you are.
  2. Explain the why behind an action or decision. Slow down and give people a compelling reason.
  3. Delegate. Ask people for help, and give it in return. Let people work outside their comfort zone.

Many thanks to our friends at BMSS for hosting this conversation.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.