The world is in an era of converging crises, from health and climate emergencies to social and economic inequality, violence, and international conflict. Leaders at all levels will face tests of character and resilience – defining moments that shape us as individuals and contribute to our shared global future.
Presented with these challenges, how do we draw inspiration and hope from exceptional leadership of the past and present? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is one such example. Through the ongoing war in Ukraine, President Zelenskyy emerged as a determined and charismatic leader, rallying Ukraine’s citizens and galvanizing the international community. As a paradigm of leader character, this example can guide individuals across all areas of leadership to step up, leverage their influence, and create positive change.
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This episode, created in collaboration with the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, was originally recorded as a special Global Ivey Day livestream event. Guest by Ivey Professor Gerard Seijts, this episode features guests: Daniel Bilak, Senior Counsel, Kinstellar; Major-General (Ret.) David Fraser, President, AEGIS Six Corporation; and Lenna Koszarny, HBA ’91, Founding Partner and CEO, Horizon Capital. Our panelists explored key leadership lessons from the crisis in Ukraine, discussed the ways leaders impact their communities, and found direct takeaways for all leaders across the public and private sectors.
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GERARD SEIJTS: Good morning and happy Global Ivey Day. Founded by the Ivey alumni network in 2010, Global Ivey Day is about reconnecting with friends, colleagues, classmates, and the Ivey community. We are grateful that you have joined us for today's event. My name is Gerard Seijts. I'm a professor of organizational behavior at the Ivey Business School and the executive director of the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership. The Institute has a close, warm relationship with Lviv Business School at Ukrainian Catholic University.
Over the years, through the efforts and support of Andriy Rozhdestvenskyy and Sophia Opatska, we have and will continue to collaborate on research, student programming, and outreach to advance our work on leadership and leader character. It has been a joy to work with the faculty and staff at Lviv Business School, and our collaboration has developed into a true friendship.
The invasion and ongoing attacks by Russian forces has created an overwhelming situation for so many in Ukraine and its surrounding countries. I often think about my friends in Ukraine and the millions of innocent women, men, and children as they face this war and fear for their lives. I promised my friends that I would share their story and my experience of the kindness, warmth, and generosity. I have done so and will continue to do so, and to pay tribute to the courage and resilience of the people of Ukraine as they face an ongoing assault from the Russian invaders.
The world is in an era of converging crises, from health and climate emergencies to social and economic inequality, the rise of populist authoritarian regimes, international conflict and violence, the lack of affordable education, food, and housing, and what appears to be a never-ending attack on women's dignity, humanity, and rights. People often say that the crisis is a defining test for leaders and their competences and character. It's just inevitable through the course of any of our leadership journeys that we will face with defining moments. And these moments shape us as individuals and, we hope, contribute in positive ways to our shared global future.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a compelling example. Throughout this war, Zelenskyy has been a determined and charismatic leader, rallying Ukraine citizens and galvanizing the international community. His now-famous response to officials of "I need ammunition, not a ride" when offered a chance to flee advancing Russian troops is now clearly serving as one of his defining leadership moments. It was then that he solidified to Ukrainian citizens and to the world that he is a leader who not only says the right thing, but actually does it.
Too often, we can find ourselves sidestepping the tough stuff or capitulating too rather than conquering our own fear. And whereas fear creates feelings of isolation, courage is contagious and lurks inside even the most timid of individuals, drawing out brave actions and behaviors that they might not have known was even inside them. So pardon my language-- when shit happens, will you and your courage be what lights do away and shines through to others?
As associate director of the institute, Kimberley Milani and I recently wrote in an op-ed for The Toronto Star-- and I quote-- whatever happens in Ukraine, Zelenskyy has already had a far-reaching impact on the rest of the world. We must not let that impact fade as we collectively face numerous other converging crises, ranging from the ongoing pandemic to climate change to social economic inequality. We must not waste this rare example of what good leadership looks like. Imagine how different our world could be if global leaders would step up the way Zelenskyy has. End of quote.
Of course, it is entirely possible that President Zelenskyy's improbable leadership has been a revelation unto himself. Perhaps he didn't realize the depths of his own character until it was critically called upon. Zelenskyy was a comedian and, ironically, to some in Ukraine, a joke of a politician before Russian troops invaded the country. There was very little in Zelenskyy's past to suggest he would be an admired and heroic real-time war president.
And that should be an important lesson for all of us. The most unlikely people arise in the most unlikely of moments when they are able to call upon and draw forth their strength of character. You could be one of them. And that is why defining moments are indeed a test-- a test of how we are going to show up in the most critical moments and reveal who, not what, we are.
I am joined this morning by three guests. And collectively, we will discuss the important moments in the development of their personal leadership, explore key leadership lessons from the crisis in Ukraine, consider the ways leaders impact their communities, and find direct takeaways for all leaders across the public and private sectors. It gives me great pleasure to welcome Dan Bilak. Dan is Canadian lawyer, former advisor to prime ministers of Ukraine, senior counsel at international law firm Kinstellar, and now member of the Kyiv Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Lenna Koszarny-- Lenna's HB of 1991, and she's the founding partner and CEO of Horizon Capital, the leading private equity in Ukraine. Under her leadership, Horizon Capital was honored as 2021 firm of the year for Central and Eastern Europe by Private Equity International.
And retired Major General David Fraser-- David is one of Canada's most accomplished leaders in both the public and private sectors. He had an illustrious 30-year career in the Canadian Armed Forces. Most notably, he commanded the NATO coalition in Southern Afghanistan in 2006. Today, he's an entrepreneur, president of AEGIS Six Corporation, and sits on several boards. Also, David is a mentor to students at the Ivey Business School.
Lenna, Dan, and David-- welcome. So then, let's get right to it. You're Canadian born. You could easily have left Ukraine when the war was about to start and be living a happy, good life in Toronto. Instead, you stayed in Kyiv and now serve in the territorial defense forces protecting your country. You literally-- literally-- put your life and leadership on the line. Where did the deep commitment to Ukraine and Kyiv come from?
DAN BILAK: Well, thanks for having me, Gerard. Look, I've been here 30 years, so I'm not exactly an expat. As they say, I'm all in. My wife is Ukrainian. My younger children are Ukrainian. I made my decision a long time ago. And when the war broke out, it was a moral issue for me. Why should other people defend what I have and what I've built and what I've worked for? And so I, like many, many other people here-- we all do what we can. We all use whatever skills we have. And we make the contribution that we make in order to achieve victory.
It's actually probably much more goal-oriented than anything else I've ever done-- much simpler, to be honest with you. I sleep better at night now than I did in my civilian iteration, because you don't have as many things to worry about.
GERARD SEIJTS: Well, not many things to worry about-- Dan, I think there's lots to worry about.
DAN BILAK: Well, look, when you believe in something-- when you really, really believe in something at its core, and you share that belief and those values with the people around you, it builds a cohesive set of people. It builds a community both in the community in which I live, both in my law firm-- and you also have to lead by example. I mean, there's probably no more trite a line to describe leadership than that. But it's very, very true. You have a sense of obligation to the people that trust you and rely on you, whether it's your family, whether it's your community, whether it's the people in your office.
And my father taught me a long time ago, you're either part of the solution, or you're part of the problem. So when you see a problem, when you see an issue and you think you can do something about it, you owe it to yourself, and you owe it to all the other people that rely on you and look up to you to perform. I don't think it was anything hugely complicated. It wasn't anything I intellectualized. And as I said, I made my decision a long time ago that this was my home. This was where I was-- I've spent-- like Lenna, we've spent the better part of 30 years trying to build a country from scratch. And who the hell are these orcs to take it away from us? I mean, there's just no way.
GERARD SEIJTS: OK, well that's a nice segue way then to the next question. And let me talk a little bit about-- or try to talk about your leadership and development. What were the important moments in the development of your personal leadership? What were some of the defining moments that helped you to cultivate leader character within your own life, and importantly, that prepared you for your current challenge?
DAN BILAK: Well, I think values is a big part of it. It's the values that I grew up with in my family. It's the values that you hone as a professional. It's the values that further develop in a country in which you're constantly tested by the vulnerabilities and the challenges of the environment. I used to go back to Toronto to my friends on Bay Street, and I used to think to myself, how can these people live like this? I mean, just cars and private schools and everything else. And then I realized I was the weirdo. I was the outlier. And that just wasn't who I was. But yet, I was also formed and influenced and shaped by all of that.
And you bring those values, you bring those principles, you bring your skill set to a place that doesn't really know how to measure them, and that's a huge challenge, because you don't have a measuring stick. You don't know what you're going to be measured by. And you don't really measure yourself by external data or external views of people. You measure yourself by the challenges and the objectives that you set for yourself.
And as a lawyer, I've been a deal maker. And you always set-- I ask my clients, what's your objective? And you start with where you want to get to, and you work backwards. OK, so what are all the things that has to happen in order to do that? You've got to take responsibility for your decisions, and you take responsibility for your actions. And I was always taught since I was a kid that you always finish what you start. And you don't give up until it's done.
You know what? I was a managing partner of another international law firm during the Maidan Revolution in 2014. And as I was joking with you before we started, I must have missed the course on war-time and conflict management at law firms, because nothing prepares you for the kind of decisions you have to make. But you have to motivate your team. You've got to pull together in helping others who may not have the same frame of reference. And that's, I think, one of the advantages that people from the West have when they come here is to try to put people together almost in a project management type of an operation to achieve the goals together.
You have to be flexible. You have to adapt very, very quickly, as we were talking before we started. When the first rockets and bombs started to go off on February 24, it freaks you out, because there's nothing in your life that prepares you for that. And I don't think we're programmed as human beings to be able to comprehend it. But after a while, you understand. And when I was out on patrol with my unit, especially in the middle of the night when it's a complete blackout, you can distinguish between which rockets are coming in, which ones are going out. And as I said, we had people who had had military experience that could tell you-- we were taking bets on whether these were Grad rockets, Iskanders, or something else.
But you don't make light of it. You're always living with vulnerability. And that really makes you focused. I get the sense sometimes, when I go back to Canada or when I'm in Europe for sure, that democracies have become complacent, and that freedom is something and liberty is something that we take for granted, and that it's somehow owed to us. There's an entitlement to have this. It's not the case. Freedom's not free. It comes at a huge cost. And if you're not prepared to defend it, then somebody's going to take it away from you.
And I think that this current war that we're in really, really has shaped the nation and its focus in that regard.
GERARD SEIJTS: Outstanding. Dan, as you know, at the Ivey School, we often talk about the three C's of leadership. That's the competencies, the character of which you spoke to. But I also think you talked about the commitment, the hard work of leadership and fighting for freedom. And I think that's such an important illustration.
Lenna, welcome. It's good to see you. Lenna, you put together a newsletter. And in one of the newsletters-- I think you sent this last week-- I read the following. And I realize the data might now be old. So here, I quote-- entire cities, towns, and villages have been destroyed, including hundreds of schools, 535 kindergartens, 231 health care facilities, tens of thousands of residential buildings, 11 airports, some 300 bridges, 24,000 kilometers of roads, 173 enterprises and factories, 16 shopping malls, over 130 cultural and 95 religious institutions, and more. How do you personally cope with the violence, the unimaginable destruction, and casualties, Lenna?
LENNA KOSZARNY: Gerard, first, thank you so much for inviting me for your introduction. Thanks also to the Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership. We've seen each other before in Ukraine House Davos, and I very much enjoyed your panels. And this is wonderful for me to be here today as an HBA for whom that foundation means so much and really set me on the course, two years later, to move to Ukraine and to spend the last 29 years of my career and my life committed to the country.
So when you ask how I personally cope, I've always believed that worry is a waste of emotional reserve-- that fear is a waste of emotional reserve-- that when I understand the breadth of what is happening in Ukraine, it merely means that I need to work harder. I need to work faster. I need to be firing on all cylinders. And I believe everybody feels that way. There is no time to be heartbroken. There is no time to be crying. There is no time to be-- when people's lives are on the line, then you have to move, and you have to make judgment calls. You have to rely on your inner strength, your resilience, your reserves.
And it is the big time. It is the big time. So I can say that for us-- I mean, we are a private equity firm. We have the privilege of investing alongside visionary entrepreneurs. We provide growth capital. Of course, nothing in the world of finance prepares you for something like this. I mean, of course everyone has business continuity plans. Everyone has those, and we had those. And we also made sure that we had a full plan and rooms booked in Western Ukraine for all of our people. We had moved most of them by February 24.
But that morning, I was in DC. I was in DC meeting with one of our largest investors about the new fund that we were signing March 31. And very quickly, that DC hotel room became command center. And very quickly, the decision was made within hours that it wasn't good enough for our people to be sitting in Western Ukraine-- that every square inch of Ukraine was under fire. And that was something that was the judgment call that had to be made.
And if you go back to your 11 leadership qualities-- at the bottom, underpinning everything, of course, is integrity, is humanity. I very much cared about every single one of our people. And our people-- when I think of our family, Horizon Capital, it's 39 people. It's the 11 people at the US government fund, and it's 26,591 people who work in our portfolio companies-- in the companies in which we've invested over $1 billion. So for me, I felt tremendous responsibility.
I can't look at violence, destruction, et cetera. I need to be firing on all cylinders. And first and foremost, I had to do all that I could for the safety and security of people-- of their families, of their children. And getting those people out within 24 to 48 hours was extremely difficult. We ended up moving over 150 women and children out of the country. We got so good at it, even embassies asked us if we could help, because you're moving people into safe houses. You're moving people. You're getting special forces to pluck them out of Zaporizhzhia. I mean, it is something that-- nothing prepares you for that.
Major General, I feel like-- we talk about taking the boardroom into the battlefield. I mean, this is like, we've now reversed it. So look. How do I personally cope? I'm strong. I'm resilient. I'm inspired by the Ukrainian people. You have to do what you need to do and what needs to be done at that moment. You cannot have the luxury of wallowing in tears or wallowing in some kind of limbo state. You need to be in action. You need to make it happen.
And going back to one of the things that Dan said-- I mean, I've always said start with the end in mind. If my vision is to move these people out of Ukraine, or my vision is to xyz, then you work back from there. And that's what we did.
One point that I do want to make that I think is extremely important-- when you said that courage is contagious. The courage that President Zelenskyy demonstrated was contagious for the Ukrainian people. The courage of everyday Ukrainians is inspiring for the entire world. I have been in Ukraine for 29 years. Finally, the world is seeing the Ukrainians that I've seen for the last 30 years for decades.
This is Ukraine. This is the real Ukraine. This is what I fell in love with in 1993 when I came with my grandmother for three weeks-- the determination, the drive, the freedom-- the DNA of Ukrainians that is so self-effacing and humble yet so courageous and bold. And I think Ukrainians have inspired the world. The president has become, to some extent, a global world leader, if not the leader of the free world to some extent. He is speaking in a way that resonates with people, speaking from a point of principle, of truth, of humbleness that really has, I think, touched and inspired the world.
I've had the pleasure of meeting President Zelenskyy over 15 times. I remember, as a election observer-- I've always been an election observer since 2004. And I remember sitting in the polling station after 8 o'clock when they lock the doors and you've got to wait for the vote count. And this is the runoff between President Poroshenko and President Zelenskyy. And I remember reading the platforms. They have these pages of what their platform is.
And what President Zelenskyy wrote was a vision statement. He wrote the vision that he has for Ukraine. I'd never seen since 2004 anyone write a vision statement. I mean, he wrote things that when you look back-- and I pulled out the vision statement from April 2019-- his first line was, I will tell you about the Ukraine of my dreams-- a Ukraine where fireworks at weddings and at birthday parties are the only shootings-- a Ukraine where you can open a business in one hour, get a passport in 15 minutes, and vote in elections on the internet, where there is no ad work in Poland, and in Poland, there are ads-- work in Ukraine. Et cetera, et cetera.
When I met him after the inauguration on his first day in office, I had the vision statement. I had a copy of it. And I asked him, who wrote this? President Zelenskyy, who wrote this? He said, I wrote this. And this is where the world has underestimated him, because they look at him as a comic. He is a survivor. His family survived World War II. His great grandfather was the only one of four boys to survive. He has inner strength and a resilience and a resolve. And he has seen Ukraine in his mind, and he's working towards that.
So I think he has certainly inspired everyone in Ukraine. He's inspired the world. It was all there if folks took the time to read it before he was even elected. Leadership is about character, about that person. And when he was put to the test, he delivered. And he continues to deliver. And I hope that all of us can do the same.
GERARD SEIJTS: Stunning. Thank you, Lenna, for that very inspiring answer. David-- David, what has been a defining moment in your military career that deeply shaped your persona and your philosophy towards leadership? And David, if you can, tell us a little bit about the situation. What exactly happened? What was the outcome? And then most importantly, what was the profound lesson embedded in that experience that helped shape you as a person and as a leader?
DAVID FRASER: Well, Gerard-- ladies and gentlemen, it's great to be with you today. I'm hugely humbled by the two speakers, Lenna and Dan-- what you've said. And Dan, thank you for everything you're doing by putting everything on the line. So thank you, Lenna, and thank you for what you're doing.
Listen, I sit before you a veteran of three wars-- of Sarajevo, the second Gulf War, and Afghanistan. And I do so-- and I'm also a person that hates war. I hate it with my soul and my passion. But those three wars shaped me as a person and shaped me as a leader. And we are all shaped by our experiences. And we all would like to think we like to pick what the crises we want, but in reality, you don't have a choice of what crisis you have and what's going to challenge you as a leader or as a person. It just happens.
So let me just tell you about what I learned from Sarajevo, where I was working for the French army as a executive assistant, a chef de cabinet, for two French generals-- a legionnaire and the 11th parachute division commander who were wearing blue berets in the middle of a civil war. And I watched leadership under fire for 13 months. And what I learned from them is what a leader meant.
And I came up, essentially, with-- Ivey talks about the three C's. Well, I have CCR. And I don't mean that great Canadian band, Creedence Clearwater Revival. I love listening to them. But what I do mean is about courage, communications, and resilience. And that's a theme here. And what I saw in Sarajevo was the courage of my French generals to make the hard decisions in a timely fashion to fulfill the mission and balance between mission and people. And some days, you were mission-oriented, and some days you were people-oriented. But they also have the resilience to do this.
And it really shaped me to be a leader later on when in the second Gulf War, I was there. But more importantly, I want to focus on when I became the leader in the southern coalition in Afghanistan. I was leading nine nations-- 20,000 people. And as a leader, I fell back on to-- and here is the punch line. It's not a movie. There is no ominous music that's going to tell you that Iskander missile is coming in. It just-- bang-- and it happened. And you don't stand up and lean into it. Ladies and gentlemen, you fall back on what you know and what you have experienced in life.
So that is the first takeaway for me is I fell back on what I saw and learned in Sarajevo. I fell back on what those great leaders in combat taught me about how they manage a crisis. And so when I was in Afghanistan, it was leaning back on to that experience. And here's the second rule that you can't change-- and rule number one is to be a great leader, you have to kill your own people. To be a military leader, you must kill people-- your people.
Number two is you can't change that rule. People die. And that's what Zelenskyy is and is so characteristically brilliant at. He's making the hard decisions-- knows he has to kill his own citizens to save his country. And he has not wavered from that. So the courage I look at is-- as a junior leader, it's physical courage, as a senior leader, it's the moral courage to say and do the right thing-- to not stand up there and just say empty words, but actually say that he needs those resources-- to sacrifices people to save his country. That is courage, ladies and gentlemen, and he has not wavered one bit.
He has the ability to communicate in a way to answer two questions-- what you're doing for the old farts like me, and why you're doing it for the young people. By answering those questions, he is getting the commitment of those people to put their lives into jeopardy to save their country and defeat that oppressor called Russia. And his ability to communicate and to do that-- and on the third point, the resilience piece to do it every day now since this war had started. That is the epitome of what leadership-- and that's what I did in Sarajevo. That's what I did in the second Gulf War. That's what I did in Afghanistan.
And let me just tell you what the cost is. Nothing compared to what Ukrainians are going through. I lost 35 Canadians during my tour. I lost 79 coalition soldiers during my tour. And those numbers I will live for the rest of my life. But the men and women who I served as their leader expect of me to make those hard decisions in a timely way to mitigate and minimize the death and destruction to our own people. And Zelenskyy is doing it every day. Every Ukrainian leader is doing it every day. And that's why they have gone from the defense to the counter offense to now the offense.
And so I would say here's the other punch line. NATO has been reactive for 50 years. And so was Ukraine. But Ukraine is now anticipating and going on the offense to fight for their democracy. And I think the West needs to go from reacting to anticipating. And how do you figure out if you're winning or losing? Ask yourself this question, which is the question I have always asked my intelligence and my team-- who is responding to whom?
In the private sector, if you are responding to your competition, you are losing. But if your competition is responding to you, you are winning. Add more resources to it. In war, if the enemy is responding to you, you are winning. So ladies and gentlemen, what are the Russians doing today? They are responding to Ukraine. They're on the defense now, where Ukraine has gone from the defense to the offense.
The other thing I would say is the West is now in support of Ukraine. So Ukraine went from nobody to a somebody today where they are now controlling the conversation and the West is supporting them. That's leadership, that's effective leadership, and that's about maintaining the selections of the aim, mission, and keeping the initiative where people are responding to you. That's what I learned in my three wars. That's what I'm taking away from Ukraine. Gerard, back to you.
GERARD SEIJTS: All right, so David, that was an insightful answer-- some really tough words around having the moral courage to make difficult decisions. It's about sacrifice. It's about death. So here's my next question for you, David. As you said, as all the panelists said, war is always a test of our character, and I would say in particular, our humanity-- feelings like empathy and compassion. And so the brutality of war, as we all witnessed in Bucha, Mariupol, Kharkiv, and too many other cities in Ukraine, can make us very cynical and desensitize our feelings. So David, how, as a leader, did you retain your humanity?
DAVID FRASER: Because you can never lower yourself to what the enemy is doing. What distinguishes us between us and the Taliban, between us and al-Qaeda, between us and the Russians is the rule of law. So Dan, I had lawyers telling me what my rule of law were, and I understood the rule of law. And that made the difference that we call it-- I learned this from Michael Rose. It's called the Mogadishu Line. Every time you cross the line and you lower yourself to the other side, one day you wake up, and you have no idea where you are.
The rule of law and the society that we live in has rules and regulations so that we don't lose our humanity. You don't lower yourself. You don't take start treating the enemy like a subhuman. You treat everybody equally. And by doing that and never lowering yourself, that's how you maintain your humanity.
The other way of doing it is-- well, back to the rule number one. I agonized every time I made a decision about sending somebody outside the water, because I knew I was putting them in danger, and I was going to kill somebody. First of all, my people, and secondly is the enemy. I have no fight with the enemy. It's a political discussion. But every time I did that, I had to agonize over that. And that allowed me to keep my humanity. When I found people that were quickly doing that and weren't agonizing, I got rid of them, because they became murderers. And that's not that's not who we are as a society.
GERARD SEIJTS: Thank you. Dan, back to you. Dan, you were interviewed for The Global Mail a few weeks ago. And you stated the following-- and this is a quote-- Zelenskyy had never been tested in a serious situation before. And because of his background, no one was sure how he would behave. End of quote. Now, many people would agree that President Zelenskyy has shown himself to be a leader Ukraine needs at this crucial moment in its history, even if it surprises many of the Ukrainians who voted for him.
And so, Dan, Lenna very passionately gave her perspective around President Zelenskyy. Let me ask you the same question. In your eyes, what makes him so unique, what makes him so powerful in the eyes of so many people.
DAN BILAK: I want to extrapolate because this is not just about President Zelensky, who has clearly shown his leadership and the ability to rally the country around him. But this is really about the Ukrainian people. Yesterday, the Ukrainian people got a Distinguished Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council, accepted by the president on their behalf. There's a famous Cossack hetman of Ukraine, Ivan Mazepa, who said that your weapon is cold reason, nerves of steel, and a fiery heart. And I think that that is probably as apt a description as I can think of to describe the Ukrainian people as a whole.
Zelensky-- his brilliance has been in communicating very, very clearly that we will resist, we will fight, and we will win. And he lets everybody else just get on with it. He doesn't interfere with his generals. He doesn't tell them what to do. He's not running this campaign.
And one of the reasons that we are going to win this war is that the president of Russia is running that campaign. So the General Zaluzhnyi and his staff are showing great leadership and communicating that. Defense minister Oleksii Reznikov is showing great leadership in doing what he's doing. Foreign Minister Kuleba in what he's doing. Vice prime minister Vereshchuk in terms of organizing evacuations. Everybody's doing what they're doing.
Now that's at the government level. We have something that could have been a big problem in Ukraine. Ukrainians don't like government, and Ukrainians don't like to be told what to do. And Ukrainians are fantastic at self-organizing. And that's exactly what has happened in this war.
This is total resistance. And it's total resistance, again, against an enemy who was out to annihilate and exterminate an entire nation. To them, there is no Ukraine and there are no Ukrainians. There's no falling back. There's no way to negotiate unless you have total victory.
And so, to a very large extent, we have seen what this war and this style of leadership exhibited by the president and the government as a whole has played to the strengths of the Ukrainian people. They self-organize. You had a battle very, very early on in Mykolaiv's Oblast, just North of Mykolaiv, at a town called Voznesens'k. And had the Russians taken Voznesens'k, the war could have had a very, very different-- be in a very different place than it is today because it's North of Mykolaiv.
Mykolaiv they couldn't take. It was too heavily fortified. Had they taken Voznesens'k, they had a clear road to Odessa. And they would have captured the Southern nuclear reactor, giving them three nuclear reactors with which to hold the country and the world hostage. This is a terrorist state we're dealing with. We're not dealing with a political conflict here. This is a terrorist organization.
And that battle of Voznesens'k was won by a combination of special forces, regular army, territorial defense forces, and Ukraine's secret weapon-- pissed off grandmothers. You do not piss off your grandmother. And not only were they cooking and preparing food for our forces, they were also preparing Molotov cocktails. And they were going out and they were throwing them under tanks. And this was all being coordinated by the special forces.
And our territorial defense forces are people like me. I've never owned a gun before this. I never had an automatic weapon. I had no military training. I would have been completely useless to Major General Fraser in almost any capacity. Maybe as a lawyer, I could have helped a little bit. But this is on the job training. And I saw it with my own battalion.
The special forces we had in Brovary, which is North of where I am, they had very heavy artillery duels. And the special forces came down to the battalion commander, and we set up a program where they would take volunteers, guys like me, up to the front to experience what it was to fight. Also, to see, is somebody actually prepared to kill somebody? Are they going to freeze up?
And they had a second line of defense posture there. 90% of those guys said they would go back and couldn't wait to get back. But they felt the bombs. They felt the heat of battle. And you know what? It really comes down to, if I could summarize really what the secret weapon is here in Ukraine as a leadership principle, it's having the courage of your convictions to do the right thing, and then getting on with doing it. What Lenna talked about.
So Zelensky has able to channel all of that into letting Ukrainians be Ukrainians, getting on with it, having a very well-trained army trained by NATO, trained by Canadians, and, to a very large extent, by the Brits and the Americans, and have proven-- and they have internalized-- the army has internalized those leadership lessons. One of the reasons we're winning is that our guys are nimble, they're tactical, they're mobile, they take sergeants and lieutenants take decisions on the ground, whereas we've killed 8 to 10 generals.
Who kills 8 to 10 generals on the other side in two months? That's absurd. But because when they lose their commanding officer, they don't know what to do. And the generals come down. They have to take a look, and we take them out. I also think there is a very important aspect to this and reason why President Zelensky looks so good is that I think the West has lost the plot, at least up until this point in time.
There's a dearth of leadership. Everybody, as general Fraser was saying, was reacting. Everybody bought into the Russian myth. Even the Russians bought into the Russian myth that they knew how to fight and that they wanted a fight, which they don't and they can't. And, all of a sudden, people started to see that myth being burst.
And my biggest fear in the first month and a half, basically, the first month of this war, was that we were going to get thrown under a bus. I didn't trust NATO. I trusted the president. I trusted the army. I trusted my battalion, my community, and these angry grandmothers. I didn't trust NATO. And I thought these guys are going to sit back and they're going to fight Putin down to the last Ukrainian and then and then cut a deal.
It sickened me as somebody who grew up with the values and principles that we always fight for freedom, we always defend freedom, we promote liberty. And I think that this has been a real lesson for the West to stand up, grow a pair, and fight for what you believe in and have the courage of your own convictions. I was doing interviews where I talked about the fact that if you don't have moral clarity around this very clear good and evil battle going on, then you carry a moral culpability for the outcome and the deaths of Ukrainians. Every day of dithering is on the hands of NATO members.
And as a result of the fact that now they're in it to win it, there was a tipping point. Having said that, the Brits have been stalwart right from the beginning. And I think they dragged a lot of people behind them. The Americans, as always, as Churchill said, end up doing the right thing after they've exhausted all the other possibilities. And now the sluice gates have opened. We're getting the equipment we need. And we're going to take it to them.
So the Americans are now in it to win it. And that, for us, is huge because our guys will learn how to use these weapons. They're learning it. They're going to use them. General Zaluzhnyi said, no more Soviet weapons. We're now going to use NATO.
It will be absurd-- it will be an absurd result of this war if Ukraine does not become a NATO member. As a result of Ukrainians fighting and dying, Sweden and Finland are going to be welcomed with open arms into NATO. You explain that one to me. I get it why they should. But Ukraine's not ready? I don't think so. And, in fact, we're going to end up training NATO soldiers on how to use NATO weapons after all of this is said and done.
LENNA KOSZARNY: Dan, can I add something because what we've seen is we've seen all the masks come off. I'm happy that President Zelensky is no longer wearing suits. He is being himself. He's being his authentic, true self and showing his leadership qualities in the way that are unique to him.
He stopped reading from teleprompters. Why he's inspired the world is that he's being himself. He's wearing what he should be wearing, not all choked up with a tie at his neck. And he is responding to questions directly without any notes or without someone telling him what to say. He's being his authentic, true self and people are resonating with this.
I want to go back to what Dan said about the people of Ukraine. We have our leader, President Zelensky. But the people throughout the Ukraine, they have changed the tide of this war. Because Russian-speaking Ukrainians live in Eastern Ukraine, everyone thought that they would collaborate, they would hand over those territories.
We have 22,000 cities, towns, and villages in Ukraine. 38 mayors or heads of city councils actually did the wrong thing. 38. The calculus was so wrong about what mattered to Ukrainians.
One thing that I think is very important because we're focused on Ukraine so much. But if I'm watching this and I'm thinking, I've been watching almost 80 days of this war, why should I care about it anymore? What's happening here is we're defining what the future world looks like. We're defining future global world order. We're defining what it means to be a country without nuclear weapons.
And I personally don't want to see a war. I don't want to see a world where my children, instead of thinking about climate change and all the problems of humanity, are spending Saturdays and Sundays learning how to shoot and learning how to defend themselves because any country that doesn't have nuclear weapons is a target for anybody who wants that country. That's what this is about. This is one man's war that's wreaking havoc on global the world order, on food security.
There'll be an extra 20 million people who die of famine this year because the 104 ships, 90 million tons cannot get out of Ukrainian ports. It's an energy security. One man's war is wreaking havoc on logistics, on food security, on energy security, on global markets. I believe the world can't stand for that. We can't have one person holding the world hostage in this way and affecting people across the planet.
There has to be new security systems. There has to be new safeguards. Leaders have to step up so this truly never happens again.
GERARD SEIJTS: So, Lenna, we talked about it, one man. We talked about President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people for just a few minutes, I want to talk about you because we are running out of time here. So Dan talked about initiative and self-organized. So here's my question for you.
Leaders have the ability to help those around them, right? To see a better future and inspire them to take steps in that direction. So, Lenna, how will you leverage your skills and responsibility of leadership to help others to get through this incredibly tough time? What's your recipe? What's your superpower when it comes to navigating your colleagues and your fellow countrymen and women through this very challenging time?
LENNA KOSZARNY: First and foremost, Gerard, I take my position in Ukrainian society very seriously. So I wear many hats. I'm chair of American Chamber of Commerce, which unites 600 companies that have invested $50 billion. We're running the largest private equity firm in the country. I'm on the board of Ukrainian World Congress, which unites 20 million Ukrainians worldwide.
So I understand first and foremost that people do look towards me for inspiration, for leadership. And it matters what you do. These words about you can build your reputation over decades and then ruin it in five minutes. When you stand for me, integrity, it's not something that's fungible. It's not something that comes and goes. It's a rock upon which we stand.
Principles matter. What you're doing matters. I expect that others will see what I'm doing, and they will be inspired by it. And I hope that that is the case, whether it's the folks at Horizon or at our portfolio companies, or in general Ukrainian society. What I do is I stay firm to the vision, which, for me, is very important.
It's always important to look towards the future. It's always important even to get yourself through this. I look at Ukraine and I see what Ukraine will be. It's like the way that Michelangelo looked at the piece of marble before he carved David. I look at Ukraine, and I see a great nation, a country that can feed the world. I see talented people. I see the smartest programmers and the smartest young professionals and folks for whom freedom is in their DNA. I see a country that truly has absolutely everything to offer and should be one of the top great countries in the world.
And I start with that and I never lose sight of that vision. I communicated at all times. And from where we are to there is further now. It's further now if you look at 30% of economic infrastructure, 45% of GDP hit. We had our record highest $200 billion in nominal GDP. Such promise. All of these great construction projects. New bridges that had been opened, new roads that had been-- the infrastructure had just been rebuilt. OK, that's fine.
If we have our people and the human capital, the human talent, the brave Ukrainians, they will take this Ukraine, and they will make a Ukraine that is absolutely unbelievable in the future. And I believe in that. I communicate that. So, for me, what I'm always doing is keeping focused on the big vision, aligning others towards it, working back from there, and saying, OK, if we want to help Ukraine attract abundance, if we want to help Ukraine renew its economic prosperity and we're standing here now, what do we need to do to get there?
And I communicate that, whether I'm speaking to the prime minister, or the ministers, or employees, or fellow business leaders, et cetera. I communicate it all the time let's not get discouraged by where we stand. Let's remember what our vision is. Move towards it.
One of the philosophies that I always have is leave no stone unturned. Leave no stone unturned. If there is an issue, you don't get discouraged. You don't try one thing and it doesn't work. If I really, truly want to realize this vision, I'm going to leave no stone unturned. I'm going to keep on going and not stop until I have literally turned over every stone.
The philosophies at Horizon-- we have three. One team, one dream, which is look after your team, your people, your pack. Focus is power. You can't do more than two or three things at once. You have to focus in order to realize your vision. And, of course, leave no stone unturned.
I try to live that and communicate that at every level. It really touches me deeply when in any conversation I'm having, especially now, we can wallow in all the negativity. And we know what's happening.
But if we talk about what kind of future we want to build for our children, what kind of world do we want to live in? Do we want to live in a world where everyone has nuclear weapons and everything's militarized? I don't think so.
If we can get everybody around the table at a high level and say, what needs to happen so that we can all live safe and secure? That's something all of us have a duty to do and to be part of that conversation.
GERARD SEIJTS: So that actually brings me to the next question. And this one is for you, David, because we've been talking about the vision. We've heard about the resistance. We heard about the weapons. We have the smart tactics morale. And, also, I think it was Dan, or maybe it was Len, who talked about the boardroom in a battlefield.
So here's my question, David. And, David, really just short answer because I have a final question for all three of you. David, what are the lessons for people in business. That might be people in the highest echelons and organizations, the C-suite. It could be board chairs.
If we think about this morale, right? What are the lessons for leaders in the public, private, not for profit sectors, actually, to create that same morale in their organizations.
DAVID FRASER: OK, so listen. For four business leaders, the big moral question-- and this is the courage question. Business created the problems of Ukraine that where we are today. By going into Russia, they created oligarchs, and they actually made Putin rich beyond his wildest dreams. It actually sowed the seeds to where we are today.
So business leaders need to have the moral courage whether or not they're doing the right thing is actually profits versus the ethical thing to do. Go on to that is the next question is, what are we going to do vis-a-vis China? And that is a question that, for business leaders, there are going to be some hard decisions there because we are dependent on China economically.
And so I think the leadership challenge that we have today, it's that courage thing that Zelensky is demonstrating is understanding the crowd and understanding human geography. And no disrespect, but Putin is not an anomaly. He's going to be repeated time and time again. That's just history.
A couple other things. Let's not count out Russia. They are going to double, triple, quadruple down on this thing for the long term. The other thing I would say, without the United States, Ukraine would not be alive today. Economically, Ukraine is alive today because the United States. And on balance, President Biden has demonstrated outstanding leadership in managing, containing a war within the confines of Ukraine, and not having six million refugees around the world where it could have been 60 million. This is, again, a demonstration of leadership at an institutional level. And we can learn something from that.
GERARD SEIJTS: All right, so final question for all three of you. What have we not addressed during our conversation? What is the last leadership related lesson or insight you would like to share with the audience, of course, those whose ambition it is to lead people and communities to a better world? What is it that you want Canadians to know about your situation, that of your fellow citizens? Or what can or should Canada learn from Ukraine? So, Dan, if you can start with you, then we go to Lenna, and for General Fraser to bring it to a close.
DAN BILAK: Like Lenna, one of the reasons I stayed behind was because I felt it was important for Ukrainians to see that there's some crazy Canadian that's prepared to stay behind with them when everybody else left. And aside from the fact that I felt I had something to contribute. But more than inspiring them, I've been really inspired by them.
I had a young lady from our office who was in-- I had to extract three people from very difficult situations, or try to. She was stuck in Cjermojov Oblast behind enemy lines. Two villages beside her were completely wiped out. And I was texting her every day to just to keep her morale up. And she says, hey, there's a column here of tanks and armored personnel carriers.
I said, Alana, get off this line. It's open line. But I took that information. I gave it to my friends in the general staff, and they came out and they took out the tanks. And that was heroic. That was extraordinarily brave for a mother of two children, a father, a mother, and a sister.
So the message is coming back to have the courage of your own convictions to do the right things. Don't be afraid. This is really important for Canadians and for the West. If you feel it's right, you have to stick up. You have to confront aggressors. You have to confront evil.
Edmund Burke said that the only thing that for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Thankfully, the West seems to have found its mojo, and they are doing the right thing. We still have to win this war. And I will quote again Hetsman Mazepa that this will get us through. You put your faith in the sword, and the sword in the enemy.
GERARD SEIJTS: Thank you. Lenna.
LENNA KOSZARNY: Well, for everyone on this podcast, what's important is, first of all, that you feel grateful and blessed for the wonderful life that you lead. Be grateful for your health, for your families, for a peaceful sky above your heads.
Do not think of this as this is a Ukraine problem. Do not feel sorry for Ukrainians and say, I'm sorry for what's happening in your country. This is a problem that concerns every single one of us. This is about one man wreaking havoc on global world order. And this should concern everyone.
Everyone should do one thing every day that moves things in the right direction. If we do that, then this will eventually end. That means do humanitarian. Only $50 million worth of all the billions that has been raised for Ukraine has actually made it into Ukraine. Think about the dollar that you give and whether it's going into Ukraine.
Think about the services that you buy. Can you buy Ukrainian from a IT company that's got employees in Ukraine? Can you use a lawyer, an ad agency? Can you write to your government official? Do something every day, and all of us will move this in the right direction.
GERARD SEIJTS: Thank you, Lenna. General Fraser.
DAVID FRASER: Canada is blessed with resources that the rest of the world needs, including rare minerals. Canada is a laggard in the world in a leadership point of view, and we have become way too reticent. And we need to become more proactive in our leadership. And no answer is not good enough anymore.
We need to be not reacting, but we need to be anticipating for the North to help Ukraine. And we are certainly not punching to our weight class.
GERARD SEIJTS: Thank you, General Fraser. So, Lenna, Dan, and David, it was truly a pleasure to have you with us this morning, this afternoon. And I want to thank you for a thoughtful, impactful conversation. I wish we had more time. You certainly gave us much to reflect and act on. And we wish you and all your loved ones well. Slava Ukraini. May freedom and democracy prevail.
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