From Warzones to Workstations. 3 Crucial Lessons from the War in Ukraine and the Insights They Provide in Leading Hybrid Teams

The war in Ukraine can teach us a lot about working from home. Now, there’s a statement that may get me a bit of flak, especially from my ex-military colleagues. Bear with me though.

Although not comparable to the magnitude of war, there are parallels between the comparative success of each side and the pressing challenge of transitioning leaders and organisations to hybrid work models.

Many organisations are still struggling to balance the risks and rewards of hybrid teams, and those who fail to do so may lose top talent in a highly competitive market, stifle innovation and foster poor management practices. Conversely, those who successfully navigate this transition will gain a significant competitive advantage. It is important to note that I am not equating the challenges of remote work with the experiences of frontline soldiers in Ukraine, who face constant danger, injury, and hardship, along with the anguish of knowing their loved ones are imperilled throughout the country. Any attempt to do so would be entirely inappropriate.

So, here’s how I see it. At the outset of the conflict, Ukrainian forces faced a daunting task in trying to stop the much larger Russian army. However, by adopting an intent-based leadership approach, they were able to leverage the skills and expertise of every member of the organisation towards a shared goal. This approach, which focuses on empowering individuals to take ownership of their work and collaborate with others, has proven highly effective in navigating complex, rapidly changing situations. “Ukrainian forces have the freedom to adapt and achieve the goals according to their understanding of the situation”, says Mykhailo Samus, Director of the New Geopolitics Research network, who spent 12 years in the Ukrainian armed forces.

In contrast, the Russian approach relies heavily on control and supervision, which stifles initiative and slows decision-making. This was illustrated when the Russian forces repeatedly took the same approach to cross the Siverskyi Donets River, despite clear evidence it wasn’t a great idea, losing about 80 tanks and 400 personnel in the process. This highlights the importance of creating a culture of trust and empowerment within organisations, which allows individuals to bring their unique capabilities to bear in service of a shared mission.

So, what can businesses learn from this experience? Here are three key areas of focus that can help organisations thrive in a hybrid working environment:

1.      Motivation: While few businesses will ever face as compelling a motivator as the Ukrainian forces do, it’s crucial to clearly articulate a vision and mission that teams can get behind. This requires more than just a few posters or a town hall with the CEO – it means creating a culture that truly connects with employees and inspires them to do their best work.

2.      Clarity of Purpose: Just as Ukrainian soldiers understood their role in the mission to repel the Russian Army, employees need a clear view of their role within the organisation and how their work contributes to the overall mission. This requires a framework that empowers individuals to make decisions and take ownership of their work, while also providing guidance and support when needed.

3.      Communication: Great communication has been a critical component of the Ukrainian forces’ success, allowing soldiers to stay informed of progress toward the mission and adapt their plans accordingly. Businesses can likewise benefit from clear, open communication that builds trust and allows individuals to work together effectively, regardless of where they are located.

In summary, an intent-based leadership approach can enable organisations to navigate complex, rapidly changing situations and succeed against overwhelming odds. By adopting this style of leadership, and by focusing on motivation, clarity of purpose, and communication, businesses can create a culture of trust and empowerment that allows individuals to thrive in a hybrid working environment.

nXus People can help your leaders and organisations be effective in the new hybrid environment. 

Get in touch to discuss how we can help you and your team.