Lead by an example in war?

This image of Volodymyr Zelenskyy is moving around, and I am sure this is just an impromptu image, and he did not take part in the battle himself.

However, many on social media content around this discuss leadership and lead by an example principle of leadership and mentioning that he has taken up the guns and started taking part in the war, which can’t be true.

For me, leading by example was always confusing principal. Do you think he went on the ground zero and took up the gun?

Leading by example means that you set a standard and inspiration for your followers, so they also get motivated, and it does not mean you start becoming a part of the team and do their role.

In my view, leading by example is about doing your role with the best commitment and leading others to motivate, so they also put their best in their role. Leaders usually lead a group of people, and he needs to make sure that he is available for the followers and do not put their strategic position at risk.

Leaders may play the functional role of subordinates as a symbolic gesture or to train. This is quite prevalent in the military, where the commander may play an active role during exercise, but he would not be a soldier in real battle until the last point.


If leaders start playing the functional role of subordinate, it kills the leadership role and can cause chaos. Strategic planning and decision-making is the crucial role of any leader, and they should be focused on this and not try to play a part of a team.

In the agile framework, we have a leadership style called ‘servant’ leader in which leaders are part of a team, and it is not like a conventional industry where they call him ‘Sir,’ the servant leader is part of the team does a functional role, but they also make decision and strategy planning when they are playing the lead role. However, this is not possible in the war and other strategic tasks,

The best example we have is Krishna; we all know that he did not participate in the war; everyone knew that his essential role as a leader was different, and that was more crucial. He, of course, once gets angry with Arjun when he is not getting ready to Kill Bhisma and offers to play Arjun’s role to kill Bhisma, but that was a style to show the importance and gravity of the situation.

Krishana did play a team player role when he was young and killed Kans, but once he was a leader, he seldom played functional roles.

Rmanaya also describes the quality of a leader that his role is to plan and make a strategy.

कच्चिन्मुख्या महत्स्वेव मध्यमेषु च मध्यमा: ।
जघन्यास्तु जघन्येषु भृत्या: कर्मसु योजिता: ॥ २.१००.२६॥

I hope you have employed highly competent
servants for essential tasks, mediocre servants in
mediocre jobs and low people in inferior tasks.

The other good example is Chanakya, and he knew that he was an expert in strategic and diplomatic panning and could lead many leaders; he never tried to play the role of his followers.

Do we go to kids’ school and attend exams as a parent? No, our role is to guide and prepare them to do their best on their own, and that’s what leaders should be doing.

Lao Tzu in Tao Te Ching says

"When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will Disappear."

Even in modern times, a film director may be an actor in other movies, but when directing a movie, his importance is more about planning and not execution. Of course, he needs to ensure execution outcomes, but homework cannot start executing micro-tasks; it is not what is expected.

As a leader, the point is that you should be playing a role that is expected and not start executing microtasks. Your part is at the macro level, and you are supposed to guide a team.