This is Leadership

Published on March 1, 2022

Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Volume 3, Issue 14

I usually send out a curated list of articles and podcasts as soon as I have about ten to twelve that are worthy of sharing. I have a number of links to share, but not only am I having trouble concentrating but most of the links (actually, all of them) seem trivial compared to the events taking place in Ukraine.

As I’m sure is the case for many of you, the war between Russia and Ukraine has taken up most of my mental bandwidth over the past week and has made following financial markets and other subjects seem trivial in comparison. So, today I’m sharing a video that many of you have probably already seen along with a quote that I think perfectly captures the spirit of Volodymyr Zelensky’s actions over the past week. 

On February 25, the President of Ukraine made a video to prove to the world that his government remained intact and was staying in Kyiv as the Russian offensive began:

When I saw this video, as well other accounts of the defense of Kyiv, I was reminded of this quote by Nassim Nicholas Taleb that I read several years ago:

“So, the whole idea of honor is you don’t do it for any incentive, and that’s fundamental to humans. If you don’t have humans like that, you won’t have the world. You’re helping others not because you’re going to be paid back, but you’re helping others to help others because they’re a part of you.

You see, this modernity brought this artificial boundary between humans. Like, you think your death is the end of the world. No, your death is not the end of the world. The death of you plus whatever family members you have plus descendants if you have plus your pets plus humanity plus your tribe plus humanity plus, of course, the environment, planet Earth, other living organisms on planet Earth … This is the worst case scenario, not just your death. So, if you look at it with a death perspective, then you have an obligation to protect these things outside of you that have longer life expectancy than you, and that’s my idea of scaling and scalability of skin in the game.”

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb

What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you? 

It is understandable that the gut response many would have to this question is their own premature death. But even a few moments of reflection demonstrates that this cannot possibly be the case since there are many scenarios in which you will die prematurely along with other horrible consequences.

How can one’s premature death be the worst possible outcome if it is a subset of even worse outcomes? Or if you avoid death but live to see all that you hold dear perish?

Clearly, the top politicians in Ukraine understand what skin in the game, honor and leadership looks like. Without Volodymyr Zelensky’s courageous leadership, the ordinary citizens of Ukraine who are taking up arms to defend their country might have made very different choices. 

Leadership matters.

There are limits to what the United States can do to assist Ukraine without entering the war directly, a step that would invite armed conflict with a dictator who has 6,257 nuclear warheads at his disposal. 

What exactly should we do?

I don’t know.

I have no special expertise or background in geopolitics, military strategy, or intelligence and therefore offer no recommendations other than that we should provide as much moral support as possible, implement as many sections as possible, and provide as much aid as possible to the people of Ukraine while stopping short of directly entering into a shooting war with a nuclear armed power.

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This is Leadership
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