Communication Lessons from Zelenskyy: Be Agile, Direct and Inclusive

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy speaks at podium

In a video speech at the opening of the Cannes Film Festival in May, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy quoted a classic American movie: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”

The quote from Apocalypse Now grabbed the audience’s attention and made headlines. “Yes, it started in Ukraine in the morning,” Zelenskyy continued, tying cinema and the devastating Russian invasion of his country that began Feb. 24.

“Will the movie be silent, or will it speak?” he asked, urging filmmakers to spread support for Ukraine. “We must finally win this battle…. So that every voice is on the side of freedom.”

For Zelenskyy, the stakes could not be higher. Ukrainians are fighting for their lives and the right to exist as a nation. Most leaders of nations–and corporations–will never face a challenge so vast.

Still, there’s much communicators can learn from the 44-year-old Ukrainian, who is an exceptionally strong and authentic communicator.

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