When presidents play God, one is reminded of Martin Luther King’s words: “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

At his recent visit to Westminster Hall, London, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine purposefully addressed British members of parliament, not only to thank them for their ongoing support of Ukraine during the Russian invasion, but also to secure more support from them in defending the freedom of Ukraine and Europe itself. “I have come to stand before you on behalf of the brave,” he said. He was about to list precisely who those people are – soldiers, air force pilots, ordinary men and women who are fighting not just for their country but for the ideals they and many of the rest of us believe in. Of paramount importance in this battle for Zelensky is triumphing over evil – not just the illegal invasion of a sovereign territory, but more importantly the disregard for human life, the devious bombing of civilian targets and infrastructure, and the committing of thousands of war crimes against humanity. Zelensky noted that Putin’s impassionate and inhumane approach to winning the war threatened everyone’s security and the world order as we know it. This evil needs to be overcome.

As Tom Peck, from the Independent, notes insightfully: “It is not so hard for leaders to rise to the occasion, when terrible occasions also rise to meet them. In war, leaders have the rare luxury of their people actually wanting them to succeed. But even so, it was by no means certain that war would come to Ukraine on the watch of a leader of such guile, courage, and purpose.” Zelensky said profoundly: “Two years ago, I left this parliament, thanking you for the delicious English tea. Today I will leave parliament thanking all of you in advance for powerful English planes.” Zelensky presented the House with “one of our most successful pilot’s” helmets with the words “We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it” written on it.

Evil comes in many forms and all leaders need to serve their people well by fighting evil and reaching for truth. Unfortunately, many leaders of countries, many leaders of organisations, and many leaders of companies don’t have the backbone or integrity to stand up for what is right, to support their people fully and to carve a way forward for the benefit of all citizens, (or all employees). Selfishness, greed, a hunger for power, extortion, self-importance, evil intent – all these stand in the way of leaders focusing on strategies and solutions that grow communities, empower employees, and create opportunities for all members to contribute fully in the country’s or company’s future. As Zelensky called his fighter pilots “his kings”, so all people need to be valued, appreciated, and given opportunities.

The importance of the leader’s role in “wearing combat clothes” and “rallying the troops” to a higher vision and more noble goals can’t be understated – it sets the example, solidifies focus, harnesses positive energy, and produces outcomes of which everyone can be proud. It does, of course, require leadership credibility, character, and competence to be believable. A leader that lacks authenticity will not be trusted and subsequently have no followers unless they can deviously gain from the relationship. As John Maxwell notes about success for a leader of integrity: “Success is choosing to enter the arena of action, determined to give yourself to the cause that will better humanity and last for eternity.”

Martin Luther King’s “misguided men” lead to chaos, suffering, and pain. Honourable leadership, on the other hand, leads to inclusion, valuing of diversity, focus on the good, energy applied to worthy pursuits, participation, and meaningful contribution. Authentic leadership creates an environment of growth, innovation, and collaboration to reach higher ideals.


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