Is the Art of War About Leadership?

Is the Art of War About Leadership?

Leading During the Crisis in Ukraine and D+67 SITREP (#212)

U.S. Marine Corps M777 towed 155 mm howitzers are staged on the flight line prior to being loaded onto a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at March Air Reserve Base, California, April 22, 2022. The howitzers are part of the United States’ efforts alongside allies and partners to identify and provide Ukraine with additional capabilities. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Fraley)

Today, May 3, 2022, is D+67 in the Russian Invasion of the Ukraine. This blog post discusses President Zelenzkyy’s leadership in crisis and continues the Battle Damage Assessment update of Phase II of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.

Leadership in Crisis

Crises arise all the time for political, business, and military leaders. Think of all the ones you have led your team through in the last several years:

  • Covid ✅
  • Hybrid work ✅
  • Gas Prices Hike ✅
  • Inflation ✅

Leading your team through a crisis is a fundamental skill for any leader. You already have some skills, but how could you lead your team better during a future crisis?

President Zelenskyy

Vladimir Zelenskyy is a 44-year old Ukrainian politician who is serving as the sixth and current president of Ukraine. Zelenskyy is a former actor and comedian, who grew up in Kryvyi Rih, a major city of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in central Ukraine. He obtained a degree in law from the Kyiv National Economic University. He then pursued career in comedy and created the production company Kvartal 95, which produced films, cartoons, and TV shows. In a case of entertainment foreshadowing reality, Zelenskyy played the role of the Ukrainian President in a very popular TV series Servant of the People from 2015 to 2019.

He announced his candidacy for president on December 31, 2018 and ran on a platform of being anti-establishment and anti-corruption. He won the 2019 Ukrainian Presidential election with 73.23 per cent of the vote. As president, Zelenskyy has been a proponent of e-government and of unity between the Ukrainian- and Russian-speaking parts of the country’s population. He relies heavily on social media, especially Instagram, to communicate with the Ukrainian people.

Zelenskyy is married to Olena Kiyashko. They have two daughters, Oleksandra and Sasha, and a son, Kyrylo.

Leading in Crisis

In the time leading up to and since the Russian Invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Zelenskyy has led a masterclass in leading during crisis. The five skills that all great leaders exhibit in crisis are: competence; calm, cool, collected; lead by example; share the risks; and communications.

The epitome of a war time leader leading in crisis is Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the Battle of Britain. However, Zelenskyy isn’t far behind:

  • Competence — Zelenskyy has overseen the extremely successful defense on Ukraine from the Russian invaders. He has been able to mobilize the international community to help by enacting sanctions against Russia and provided weapons and intelligence sharing to Ukraine.
  • Calm, cool, collected — President Zelenskyy has remained calm, cool, and collected in public while facing overwhelming odds in the early days of the invasion. One of his phrases he repeated often in social media is “You can try to kill us all, but we’re going to fight. We’re not backing down. We’re not going anywhere.”
  • Lead by example — When the United States offered to evacuate Ukraine President Zelensky to safety, he now famously said, “I need ammunition, not a ride.” He led by example through his willingness to stay in Kyiv alongside his people. He also frequently walked the streets during the siege. He led by example.
  • Share the risks — Zelenskyy has visited the front lines, brought himself and international media to witness the atrocities in Bucha, and visited wounded troops in the hospital. He stayed in Kyiv during Phase I of the invasion, even during Russian artillery, missile, and aircraft strikes against the city.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate — President Zelenskyy has done an phenomenal job communicating to his people and Western powers. He relies on social media and uses simple messages to get his point across.
Zelenskyy’s leadership in crisis has been a combat multiplier for Ukraine.
President Zelenskyy visiting Bucha after the Russian withdrawal
Current Situation — Big Picture

Here is Jomini of the West’s (Twitter @JominiW) latest map of the current situation (April 30, 2022). As he states, “The past 48hrs has seen Russian forces continue their integrated offensive along the Siverskyi Donets Line & Severodonetsk Salient. Ukrainian forces have executed several successful counterattacks around Kharkiv.”

Current Situation — Donetsk Oblast, April 30, 2022

Here is Jomini of the West’s (Twitter @JominiW) map of the current situation in Donetsk (April 30, 2022). Moreover, as he states, “Russian forces maintain a steady yet grinding pace in gaining ground against Ukrainian forces along the Siverskyi Donets Line. If steady success can be maintained, Russian troops may be able to achieve a breakthrough in the coming weeks.”

Russian BDA (As of May 2, 2022 at 15:00 EDT the Oryx Website (Only captures losses from April 9 onwards))

Tracking the Russian BDA in Phase II (the battle in eastern Ukraine) is a combination of art and science. From April 9, 2022, I believe that Russian forces have lost in Phase II:

  • 124 Losses (48 ⬆️) out of an estimated 675x T-72/80/90s Tanks — 18.4% Losses (Neutralized)
    • Average of 5.1x tanks damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day of Phase II
  • 177 Losses (53 ⬆️ )out of an estimated 2,227x BMPs/BTRs/BMDs (Armored Personnel Carriers) — 5.5% Losses (Suppressed)
    • Average of 7.4x BMPs/BTRs damaged, destroyed, abandoned and captured per day of Phase II
  • 20 Losses (7 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 282x BAT-2s and 188x IMR-2s (Engineer Vehicles) — 5.9% Losses (Suppressed)
  • 28 Losses (9 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 405x 152 mm 2S19 Msta and 405x BM-21 122mm MLRS (Field Artillery) — 3.5% Losses (Suppressed)
  • 6 Losses (4 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 202x Pantsir-S1 (SAMs) — 3% Losses (Suppressed)
  • 51 MT-LB Losses (2 ⬆️) out of an estimated 472x MT-LB ACRV (Command and Control) — 10.8% Losses (Neutralized)
There have not been regular updates or reports on casualties. Until there are updated reports, I will continue to provide this for some perspective:

Yesterday, April 25, 2022 the UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stated that “over 15,000 Russian soldiers were killed in Ukraine.”

In addition, there may be another 30,000 Russian soldiers wounded, captured, or missing. Casualties are all soldiers killed, wounded, captured, or missing. With an estimated 190,000 Russian soldiers participating in the invasion — this would represent 23.6% casualties (which, by the way, is in line with the total amount of key ground vehicles lost by the Russian Army).

Ukrainian BDA (As of May 2, 2022 at 1500 EDT the Oryx Website)

I did not reset the Ukrainian data. I believe these numbers are low since the Russian forces are not using social media and it makes it difficult for the Oryx team to crowd source the data. However, it is a good start point. So far, according to Oryx, Ukrainian forces have lost:

  • 145 Losses (6 ⬆️ ) out of an estimated 630x T-64/80s Tanks — 22.1% Losses (Neutralized)
  • 221 Losses (20 ⬆️) out of an estimated 2,215x BMPs/BTRs/BMDs (Armored Personnel Carriers) — 9.1% Losses (Suppressed)
  • 69 Losses (2 ⬆️) out of an estimated 306x 152 mm 2S19 Msta and 306x BM-21 122mm MLRS (Field Artillery) — 10.9% Losses (Neutralized)
  • 15 MT-LB Losses (No Change) out of an estimated 476x MT-LB ACRV (Command and Control) — 3.1% Losses (Suppressed)

Once again, there have not been regular updates or reports on casualties. Until there are updated reports, I will continue to provide this for some perspective:

President Zelenskyy said during an April 15, 2022 interview with CNN that over 2,750 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed (US estimates were 3,000) and over 10,000 wounded. This number does not include civilian casualties.

Is the Art of War About Leadership? Conclusion

Use your President Zelenskyy’s example of leading during the crisis in Ukraine to go on the offensive and lead your team better during a future crisis.

Is the Art of War About Leadership? Written by David Fivecoat

Managing Partner of The Five Coat Consulting Group & Former US Army Paratrooper

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Is the Art of War About Leadership?