SINCE Russia launched a full-scale military invasion into Ukraine, a curious phenomenon has occurred. People have taken to social media to role-play as a sort of armchair general; as if they were assessing the tactics of a football match.

With bombast, bravado and an absence of nuance, they confidently suggest what world leaders should be doing. Perhaps in some cases they are right. In others, clearly they are not. Whatever the case, very few leaders have escaped their watchful eye.

I say all of this to emphasise the fact that leadership during a time of crisis is incredibly hard. Every decision you take is picked apart, and even the decisions you don’t make end up being the subject of intense analysis. It is hard for anyone to be near-unanimously viewed as a beacon of strength and hope. However, who would dispute that this has happened to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

This wasn’t inevitable. As an academic who specialises in researching leadership, I can’t begin to tell you how rare it is for a leader to become a global centre-point of inspiration. It is clear that this actor-turned-politician has been cast in the role of his life. What is less clear, in a world of online misinformation and spin, is how this has happened in the first place – but if we break down his leadership style, there are clear lessons to be learned.

Leadership – successful leadership – begins with a vision; creating a picture of what the future will be like. This generates motivation and builds confidence. President Zelenskyy’s vision for Ukraine pre- and post-war has endeared and grabbed the attention of his people. He believes in a Ukraine that is independent and self-sufficient. He pictures a country that can join the NATO alliance if they so desire and whose decision making is autonomous of Russia. This has been the major focus of the war and his people, and the world at large have bought into this vision.

Unlike Zelenskyy, many leaders today run in the sight of crisis and do not lead from the front. He is a role model and has led by example at the risk of his life. With the ammunition and fire power of Russia, Zelenskyy would have been forgiven if he had decided to flee, but he chose to stay and fight alongside his people. There has been several assassination attempts. Nevertheless, his courage has not faltered. In the midst of speculation about his whereabouts, he provides regular updates via social media; and is now widely admired for his famous words: “I need ammunition, and not a ride”.

This has encouraged Ukrainians to fight for, and with him. If our president can do it, then so can I.

Clearly, Zelenskyy is an astute communicator. His words are direct, emotional and are targeted at the right audience. Earlier this month, he made history by becoming the first foreign leader to address the House of Commons. What better way to help the British Parliament relate to you – to really feel what you are saying – than to quote Churchill?

“'We will not give up and we will not lose. We will fight to the end, at sea, in the air, we will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost. We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.”

Words of pure emotion. Carefully chosen words that are a perfect example of how Zelenskyy has built commitment and support from the international community. The standing ovation he received before and after his speech was well earned.

Effective leaders understand the feelings, motives, and emotions of others. Zelenskyy has been an empathetic and compassionate leader before and during the conflict. At his inaugural address in 2019, he said: “I don’t want you to hang my portraits in your offices. Because a president is not an icon, an idol or a portrait. Hang pictures of your children instead. And before you make any decision; look into their eyes”.

He was trying to show his human side to his people, and demonstrate that he was there for them. Over the past few weeks, they will have all seen that this was indeed true. In a world where actions speak louder than words, President Zelenskyy has been shouting. Whatever the outcome of this horrific war, Zelenskyy has etched his name in the sands of time. He will always be remembered as a true leader, a war hero and a benchmark for leaders elsewhere.

Dr Christian Harrison is a Reader in Leadership at the University of the West of Scotland