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| 1 minute read

Putin's Frosty Reception is a Lesson for Corporate Leaders

Without in any way trying to compare the devastation of war to the ups and downs of business life, the frosty welcome that Putin received upon invading Ukraine provides some pointed lessons in leadership that are applicable to corporate America.  

  • Putin surrounded himself by "yes-men," which is apparently why he was surprised at the force of resistance to his invasion: no one dared to tell him of the possible pitfalls. Diversity of thought can avoid embarrassing and damaging media coverage, such as when Burberry had to apologize for a sweatshirt with a noose around the neckline that no one thought was problematic until after it had already been debuted at London Fashion Week. 

Lesson #1: Lack of diversity at any level of the business is literally a financial and public relations disaster waiting to happen. Eliminating affinity bias should start at the hiring stage.

  • Many Russians have fled their homeland since the invasion. It is widely reported that there is now a brain-drain in Russia, one that started years ago when academics already started to see the writing on the wall, but which has accelerated at warp speed since the invasion of Ukraine.  

Lesson #2: When employees perceive the workplace as hostile, they will leave for better pastures. Leaders should be willing to receive honest feedback or risk losing valued talent.

  • Leaving aside the brutality of Putin's draconian measures to stifle dissent in Russia, the clampdown itself is a shocking waste of time, energy, and money: imagine what technologies, inventions, discoveries, or creations could have come to life if those resources had instead been spent on educational and entrepreneurial support for the Russian citizenry over the past twenty years.

Lesson #3: Leaders should be careful not to spend more energy on trying to control their employees than encouraging creativity and ideas

While there is obviously a need and place for corporate policies, companies are made up of people. And people tend to act in fairly predictable ways when pushed, whether inside the boardroom or on the battlefield.

"Opinions about leadership and accountability in I&D accounted for the highest number of mentions and were strongly negative. On average, across industries, 51 percent of the total mentions related to leadership, and 56 percent of those were negative." - McKinsey & Company


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