Mar 15, 2022 - World

Axios Finish Line: Be like Zelensky

What leadership looks like: A Ukrainian at a refugee shelter in Hungary listens to Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

One of our favorite mantras at Axios (pardon the language): When shit happens, shine.

Why it matters: The idea is simple. Anyone can be — or do — good when it's easy. Real character is carved in terrible or tumultuous times.

Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky is showing in real time how to dig deep into places you didn’t know existed to find a better, more courageous version of yourself:

  1. Seize the moment. There's that memorable line in "Miracle," the movie about the 1980 U.S. hockey team upsetting, ironically, the Russians: "Great moments are born from great opportunity." Zelensky has risen to the moment as an eloquent wartime leader. All of us confront lesser moments.
  2. Take risks. Zelensky could flee or hide, but instead he has plunged fully into leading his people. Too often we duck from the tough stuff or hide in our own fears. But courage is contagious — and lurks inside even the most timid.
  3. Watch your words. Words stick. Words move people. Think hard about how to explain to others what needs to be done. Do it with grace but directness. There's a reason this tight Zelensky statement echoed worldwide: "I need ammunition, not a ride."
  4. Ya never know. Zelensky was a reality TV star — a joke of a politician to many before Vladimir Putin invaded. There was little in Zelensky's past to suggest heroism. That's the great lesson of my life: The most unlikely people rise in the most unlikely of moments. You could be one of them.
  5. Get the big things right. Before this crisis, there were real questions about Zelensky’s preparedness and judgment. We all carry baggage. But nailing the moments that matter most is a worthy legacy.

A quote with pop... Zelensky, in an interview with Jonathan Swan for "Axios on HBO," in Kyiv in January 2021: "I really want the people of the United States of America to understand that Ukraine is having a difficult time, to understand that Ukraine is strong."

  • "I know Ukraine is changing every day. And frankly, if we did not spend so much time and money on the war in the East, Ukraine would make big leaps forward."

🏁 Editor's note: This article was first written for Axios Finish Line, which is part of the Axios Daily Essentials newsletter package.

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