Finding leadership in the midst of a troubled world

If ever we needed to believe that our leaders have our backs, it is now.  The past few years have been unsettling for most of the world, for many, many reasons over which we have no control.  If your blood pressure has risen, it’s not surprising.  Let’s take a look.

Inflation has hit big-time for the first time in decades, as supply chains have been strained.  This is starting to have a significant impact on people and businesses right across the board.

Two years of the restrictions required to keep people (and healthcare systems) safe during a historic global pandemic have taken their toll on people’s patience, resources, and even friendships.

Disturbing levels of division, distrust, misinformation, and even hatred have changed the landscape in the United States, and now the 3 weeks of the “Freedom” Convoy occupation in Ottawa have forced Canadians to confront the hard reality that there is some of this percolating in Canada as well.

There’s no sign of stopping in the nearly 12 years of civil war in Syria, where the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has been relentless in continuing his brutal, inhumane crackdown on anti-government, pro-democracy dissent – on his own people, even if it means that there is no country left when he’s done.  After all, he does have Putin to support him, and his home of course has not been bombed.

The Americans and allies withdrew from Afghanistan after a 20-year occupation and in the process left millions of Afghans to a life of fear and starvation in their own country.

Climate change has advanced to such an extent already that violent and historic weather events, wildfires, and droughts are a matter of fact.  While al-Assad is overseeing the existential destruction of his own country, right around the world we are all witnessing the very possible existential destruction of our planet.  Our planet.

And now we are confronted by a monumentally cruel, unprovoked attack on an independent country by one of the world’s major powers – and a nuclear power to boot.  The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has horrified people right around the world.  It’s David vs Goliath, democracy vs dictatorship, and the unnerving reality of Russia advancing across one of Europe’s borders, yet again.

One might stop and ask whether our reaction to Russia’s attack on Ukraine is out of proportion with the world’s reaction to the horror of what’s still going on in Syria and in several other parts of the world.  In some ways, yes, but this particular invasion seems likely marks a change in the world order that has more or less been in place for the past 75 years, and specifically since the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years ago.  Russia’s president-for-life has told the world that it is acceptable for his country to take over another European country, an independent country with a democratically elected government.  And the reality is that several other European countries share borders with Russia.  What might Putin do next?

As frightening and heartbreaking as this invasion is, there have been some heartening responses from around the world; seismic policy changes have been made in a matter of days.  Perhaps these responses give a sense of what a new world order might be, one where countries really do come together to protect and support one another … and the planet.

  • Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy, in standing up to Putin’s travesty with defiance and courage, has gained the respect and admiration of people around the world. Let’s hope that all our leaders have noticed that these are the qualities that people admire and respond to.  It’s called leading by example.  And what an impressive example he is. [Image source: vox.com]ZelenskiyVOX
  • The realization that peace in Europe could no longer be taken for granted has motivated countries in Europe to shift important decades-long foreign policy in just days. Germany has dropped its post-WWII military-adverse foreign policy, realizing what is at stake, and is planning to significantly increase its military budget while supplying equipment to Ukraine.  Finland and Sweden are contemplating giving up their policy of neutrality and joining NATO.  Switzerland has dropped its decades-long policy of neutrality and has joined other European countries, the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. in applying strict financial sanctions on targeted Russians and Russian banks.
  • The UN has just voted on a (non-binding) resolution to strongly denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I think it’s important to note that out of 181 countries voting, an unprecedented 141 voted for the resolution.  35 countries abstained.  Only 5 countries voted against: Russia (!), Syria, North Korea, Belarus, and Eritrea.  Now there’s an “interesting” collection of countries! TT-5Votes
  • The so-called wealthy countries of the world have stepped up mightily to apply crippling sanctions on Russia, including closing airspace around the world to Russian air flights (military, commercial, private, and leased), closing ports to Russian ships, cutting off ability to access banks, etc. European countries have even agreed to close off their own access to Russian oil and gas, which they rely on.  The countries who have agreed to these measures understand that their own citizens will endure some suffering from these actions as well, and are willing to do so for the intended outcome of getting Putin to stop his deplorable actions.
  • Ukraine’s neighbouring countries (Poland, Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania) and their citizens have stepped up mightily to provide safe shelter for the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the military assaults. Ukrainians themselves have shown the world just how courageous citizens can be when faced with an attack on their homeland, even taking up arms.

A horrific and unprovoked incursion into Ukraine has led to the realization that countries and their leaders really can act in a coordinated fashion to fight the unjust and also to fight the threats to their futures.

And the leader who has captured the world’s admiration and the world’s heart is Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.  In checking to make sure I had the spelling of his name correct I came across something I did not know: the name of his political party is Servant of the People.  Now that’s my idea of the name of a Party I can get behind!  I had known that President Zelenskiy had been a comedian prior to becoming President, but I didn’t know of the specifics of his career.  It turns out that the new-in-2018 Servant of the People Party is named for the Ukrainian hit TV show of 2016, Servant of the People, in which, believe it or not, Zelenskiy played the President. [Image source: from TV show, deadline.com]

ZelenskiyTV

From deadline.com:

Produced by Zelensky’s Kvartal 95, Servant of the People ran for three seasons on 1+1 Media along with a feature film and all are available to license from Eccho Rights.

“The series is a comedy but also an important document of where Zelenskiy comes from,” said Eccho Managing Partner Nicola Söderlund.

“His fictional president is a normal man, who grows into his role as a heroic and adored leader. While the real world scenario facing Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian people is far more grim and appalling than the comedy of the series, there are obvious parallels with the real world situation.”

Fascinating. Dare we hope for a happy ending in the next episode? Very, very soon? If only!

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35 Responses to Finding leadership in the midst of a troubled world

  1. I am hoping and praying this doesn’t lead to World War Three.

  2. Diane Taylor says:

    Servant of the People – how perfect is that. Someone once said the voice is the servant of the soul, and Zelensky is that, too. I read somewhere that Putin wants a regime change in Kyiv. I just hope beyond hope that Zelensky and his wife (an architect and mother of two) survive. Thank you for all this background, good to have it all together.

  3. Lavinia Ross says:

    Thank you, Jane, for researching and posting this article. We are living in “interesting times” now.

  4. An excellent, insightful post, Jane. I’ve been jotting down thoughts along these lines this week and am pleased you did the heavy lifting already! Honoured to reblog it. One additional thing: Zelenskiy was also trained to be a lawyer, I understand.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much, Cynthia. Yes, according to his bio he studied law but never practiced, deciding acting was more to his liking. It’s his strength of character that really shines.

  5. Reblogged this on Cynthia Reyes and commented:
    Jane has stated the situation our world finds itself in clearly and well, and so I am reblogging it here. Thanks, Jane.

  6. heimdalco says:

    This post brought your readers face-to-face with the nightmares we are facing as a planet today … those related to unhinged people & those related to the climate challenges facing us globally. The POSITIVE thing that stood out for me while reading this is President Zelensky. He has shown himself to be proud, courageous, brave, devoted to his country & his people, & the BEST example we have of a leader. Out of all that is sad, frightening & deplorable these days, even in his terrible situation currently, he gives us hope. As long as there are still people like Zelensky, there is hope for us all & hope for our planet. He is my hero …

  7. Jean says:

    I dunno..maybe we just haven’t thought this through…we might already be in WW III right now at the start.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh, I think people have thought that through, all right. That’s exactly what makes this egregious invasion potentially existential. That’s why NATO and the US will not agree to a no-fly zone. It’s a delicate balance to strongly support Ukraine but avoid an all-out war with Russia. These are very dangerous days.

  8. Yes, let us dare hope for a happy ending to this episode. Very thoughtful piece. The 2020s sure have started out with quite a bite. Sigh.

  9. The world seems to havebeen experiencing major shifts over the past 3 years. Let’s hope that some good will come of it, and we’ll all be wiser, stronger, and more tolerant of one another.

  10. boblorentson says:

    Excellent breakdown of the moment. And that stuff about Zelenskiy is just wild. All I knew was that he was a comedian, and the leader I think we all wish for.

  11. But of course! He exemplifies servant leadership, doesn’t he?
    When Russia first invaded, I was saying to a friend that I wished all conflicts could be settled with a dance-off instead of war (or a drag competition – could you imagine Putin lip-syncing for his life on RuPaul’s Drag Race? 😁). Well, colour me surprised a few days later when I saw memes circulating of the Ukrainian president on the Ukraine version of Dancing with the Stars. He could definitely kick Putin’s ass on the dance floor.

    Deb

    • Jane Fritz says:

      All that ability to entertain and now he’s showing the world – his audience – what courage and leadership is all about. The world can’t let him or his nation down.

  12. Wynne Leon says:

    I love how you walked us through the troubled world, countered it with some of the promising responses that have been taken to the invasion of Ukraine and then posed this question about the Servant of the People, “Dare we hope for a happy ending in the next episode?”

    In doing so, you laid the ground work for a little hope! Beautiful post, Jane!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Many thanks, Wynne. Right now even a little hope seems beyond reach. But we have to nurture that little spark, on behalf of Ukrainians fighting for their right to exist and for people around the world cheering them on, who respect the sovereignty of nations.

  13. It’s a wonder any of us can keep our heads up. I’m originally from Ontario, Canada but we’ve lived in California most of my life. My father was British, my father-in-law hailed from Italy and my mother-in-law was Argentinian. We’re our own melting pot, and feel connected as such to the world at large. I’m so impressed with Zelensky’s leadership. I’m equally impressed and humbled by both Ukrainians and Russians taking a stand. I secretly wish that many of the Russian conscripts would simply step out of those tanks and join forces with this sovereign nation. I’m so weary.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I so agree with you about being impressed by the courage of so many Russians protesting despite knowing they’ll be arrested. This can’t be east for many of those Russian soldiers. Let’s hope your wish comes true!

  14. Like you, I knew about Z’s TV and comedic career without knowing the details i.e. name of the fictional now real party and then this, the voice of Paddington. There is so much to admire in him and his people; if I were one who prayed, I would be praying for them…

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Exactly. It’s hard to know what more we can do besides making donations. But I am pleased to see Canada and all the other countries continuing to ramp up their strong support in tangible ways. These are uncharted waters harking back to pre-WWII.

  15. BernieLynne says:

    Well written and researched. Yes indeed it is scary times all around the world. And so much is out of our control. We must hold tightly onto hope and help spread the light. It’s interesting about the different response to Syria and Ukraine but as you point out the conflict has very different connotations.

  16. Pingback: Finding leadership in the midst of a troubled world — Robby Robin’s Journey – Musings and Wonderings

  17. Thanks Jane for another well researched article.

  18. debscarey says:

    He is also the (dubbed) voice of Paddington in the films – certainly in Ukrainian, but possibly also in Russian. I see tweets all over the place saying “men, your women have all fallen for him” only for the men to reply “we have too”. His story is extraordinary, and all we can do is hold our collective breaths and hope for a positive outcome.

    I didn’t realise that was the name of his show – and of his party – but I absolutely love it. He is making leaders all over the world look really really bad. Even if the worst comes to pass, I hope this signals a change in who the population of many countries (mine especially) changes who they pick to lead them.

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