NIEZGODA: Zelenskyy embodies true leadership

Ukrainian+President+Voldomyr+Zelenskyy+delivers+speech+to+Ukrainian+people.+Photo+via+Flickr+

Ukrainian President Voldomyr Zelenskyy delivers speech to Ukrainian people. Photo via Flickr

National leadership has lost its definition to years of political unrest in modern American society, but there is a chance that we can learn from Ukrainian President Voldomyr Zelenskyy what the true definition of leadership is in our world today.

We shouldn’t need a war to teach us what true leadership is, but unfortunately, that is what it has come to.

Former comedian Zelenskyy was elected to the Ukrainian presidency in 2019 due to his role in “Servant of the People,” a slapstick comedy about a history teacher who is then accidentally elected to the presidency. Zelenskyy stated in his campaign that he would end the conflict in Donbas and make peace with Russia. 

With no former political experience other than his role on television, Ukraine’s leader has proved to be an inspiring leader to Ukraine’s citizens who are in desperate need of hope.

The Russia-Ukraine war will be a defining moment in our history, seeing that Russian President Vladimir Putin has committed war atrocities against Ukrainians. 

Since invading, Russia has destroyed Ukrainian cities and attacked military and unarmed civilians, including children. Photos and videos depicting buildings in ruins, rubble covering streets and kindergarten classrooms destroyed show the state of Ukraine due to Russian military weapons. 

Although the death toll is hard to track right now, the Kyiv Independent reports 847 civilians killed, 64 of them children, as of March 19. The United Nations has stated that the actual numbers are likely to be much higher, as it is challenging to verify information in intense and hostile situations. 

The fight in Ukraine is regarding the neutrality of Ukraine since there has been discussion revolving around Ukraine joining NATO. This conflict has roots in the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s when Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.

In 2014, Russia, under the leadership of Putin, annexed Crimea from Ukraine beginning the modern-day conflicts. Fighting that still continues to this day broke out in Donbas.

In 2016 to 2017, Russian hackers launched exploitative cyberattacks on Ukraine which froze banks and the country’s electrical grid. 

The United States offered Zelenskyy to evacuate Ukraine and yet he stayed with the people of Ukraine, his people. In this video, he demonstrates that he is fighting on the streets and protecting their nation alongside each and every Ukrainian who believes in the freedom of their country. 

Leadership is a trait that not many possess, as it cannot be taught. A leader needs confidence, humility and courage. A leader must stand with their people, not above them. A leader must demonstrate care for those they are leading, not merely leading for prestige or praise. 

In the shadow of global leaders like Putin, United States President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Zelenskyy is the exemplar leader that we, as the people, should look for in a leader.

Courage.

In a March 2 address, Zelenskyy stands not behind the podium, but sits aside it and speaks to his people.

Without this physical barrier of the podium and the theoretical boundary of power, Zelenskyy stands as one with the people as they look to him for hope and guidance.

Humility.

Zelenskyy addressed Congress March 16 and delivered a remarkable speech, primarily urging the United States to order a no-fly zone over Ukraine. He urged Congress to remember the trauma their country went through during events such as Pearl Harbor and 9/11. He thanked the United States government for their help thus far but asked them to do more to help the citizens of Ukraine.

Zelenskyy asked one of the most influential world powers to do more. In helping Ukraine, he asked the United States to go against Russia, another world power with an arsenal of missiles that Putin has already threatened to use.

Confidence

The leadership Zelenskyy has displayed is awe-inspiring, but it should not have taken a war for people to realize what a country needs in a leader. Biden knows the gravity of this invasion, as he has called Putin a “war criminal.” A strong leader would take initiative, as Zelenskyy has, to fight for people who are being killed due to unethical Russian leadership. 

This story was written by Laura Niezgoda. She can be reached at laura.niezgoda@marquette.edu