Leadership lessons from Zelenskyy and Putin (Transcript)

WorkLife with Adam Grant
Leadership lessons from Zelenskyy and Putin Transcript
March 29, 2022

[00:00:00] Adam Grant:
Hey WorkLifers, it’s Adam Grant. Today’s episode is a rich and timely conversation about leadership. I want to thank our sponsors LinkedIn, Morgan Stanley, ServiceNow, and UKG for making it possible. Our focus today is on what the war in Ukraine reveals about leadership. Both the promsies and the pitfalls. IT involves two larger than life leaders, Putin and Zelynsky, who have chosen dramatically different approaches through this extreme situation. My guest, Michael McFaul, is uniquely qualified to weigh in. Mike is a political scientist at Stanford, where he directs the Center for International Studies. But he’s not just an academic. He’s served in important policy roles in the White House. Most notably as the U.S. Ambassador to Russia but also as the Special Assistant to President Obama on the National Security Council where he oversaw Russia and Eurasia.

[00:00:57] Michael McFaul:
I worked for Obama during the campaign. I was one of the first foreign policy advisors on his team. And during the transition there were several options in terms of who would land where and what job one might have. And one of the jobs I was being considered for was ambassador to Ukraine back in the fall of 2008. I actually wrote my first book on Ukraine in 2006, an edited volume. It involved lots of training programs, we have 300 alumns, from our training programs in Ukraine today. So just a little tidbit about, yes, I know Russia, but I also know a little something about Ukraine as well.

Adam Grant:
It's not every day that we get both a political scientist and an ambassador slash assistant to the president.

Michael McFaul:
I think that's an N of one, Adam. I think I'm the only political scientist who's ever been an ambassador to Russia. I could be wrong about that, but not many of them that's for sure.

Adam Grant:
Well, I originally thought we were going to need three different people for this conversation, and luckily they all live inside your brain so I'd love to hear a little bit about the context in which you first started evaluating Putin as a leader because I remember in the early days of you rising to prominence, a lot of people were saying, why does this guy keep telling us to worry about Putin? He doesn't know what he's talking about. And tragically you've been vindicated in a big way over the past month or two.

[00:02:13] Michael McFaul:
I first met Vladimir Putin in the spring of 1991. I was part of a delegation that went to St. Petersburg and Moscow to put on workshops about how to pass budgets in electoral systems. And at the time the mayor of Moscow was this incredibly charismatic democratically oriented Western guy. His name's Anatoliĭ Sobchak he's passed away since then, but his deputy for foreign affairs, was this guy, Vladimir Putin. And we knew that he worked for the KGB but we debated back then, is he here to spy on Sobchak or is he here to move with the winds? Right. ‘Cause in 1991, that's the year the Soviet Union collapsed, that's when the Soviet term “correlation of forces” seemed to be on the democratic side there.

And I want to be honest, when we were having this discussion and debate, it seemed to me that Vladimir Putin was an opportunist–just like a lot of other KGB people at the time. They saw the Soviet Union collapsing and they were jumping onto the democratic ship. And I tell you that because if you look at the first decade of his career in politics, he was not out there on the streets with the communists or the nationalists. He was an insider first working for Sobchak and then once Sobchak was voted out of office,h e was looking for a job. By the way, that's the way it's supposed to work, right. He was voted out of office. He looked for a new job. And he got a job working for Boris Yeltsin, the pro-democratic, anticommunist, anti-Soviet empire guy. And I emphasize that because now Putin wants everybody to believe that he's always been against the collapse of the Soviet Union but that's not what his career said. He was an insider, worked his way up. There was a financial collapse in August 1998 that wiped out the democratically oriented government that Yeltsin had in place and wiped out the career of the heir apparent at that time for Russia, Boris Nemtsov. Eventually Putin became prime minister and then January 1st, 2000, the first day of the millennium, was named acting president. And then the people ratified him becoming president a few months later. And that's, I think, is really important for a lot of revisionist history about Putin, because he was picked by Yeltsin. The people ratified them later. Nobody knew what he was about. He barely knew what he was about. He had a hard time explaining what his policies were when he was running for president.

But early in that period. I wrote my first piece about Vladimir Putin when he was still president elect, in the Washington post March 2000 when I said this guy, maybe he's pro market. And he was for a time, by the way. Maybe he might cooperate with us. And he did for a time, by the way. Those things are things that changed later. But right from the get go, he was anti-democratic. And I wrote this piece called “Indifferent to Democracy” where I said, Russians should worry about him first and foremost, but then we in the west and at the time president Clinton should worry about him because I saw some dangerous signs of the way he was moving his country domestically. And you're right, tragically those turned out to be true.

Adam Grant:
You've written a lot and you've tweeted a lot, too, about Putin's grave miscalculation in expecting to win this war much like Crimea happened. And it seems now we're in a situation that in my world, we would call escalation of commitment to a losing course of action where he's made this decision, it did not go as he hoped or planned, and instead of cutting his losses, he now has to amplify his investment, and not just to recoup some costs, but especially to protect ego and image. Is that a fair summary of where Putin is right now? And what does that miss?

[00:05:56] Michael McFaul:
One of the things that happens when dictators are in power for 20 years is they lose touch with their societies, they don't listen to their advisors, they think they know everything, and therefore they miscalculate. And even when I was ambassador–that was eight years ago already–we were writing lots of cables back to Washington saying “Putin is out of touch. He lives out in this compound, outside of town. He rarely came in, you know, in meetings that I would attend when he would meet with Obama or Biden or Secretary Kerry, it was clear. He didn't listen to his advisors at all. And then I would say one other thing, a historical thing. It reminds me of Brezhnev in this sense that this is his fifth war. The last four he won, Chechnya 1999, Georgia, 2008, Ukraine 2014, Syria 2015. And they were much smaller wars, right? Much smaller foes, but he was on a run and then he overreached. That's exactly what Brezhnev did in the seventies.
Then communist regimes took over in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia then Angola, Mozambique, then Nicaragua. It looked like history was moving on their side. And then Brezhnev–had been in power for a long time–overreached, went into Afghanistan and we now know that that was the beginning of the end of the Soviet union. That was one of the factors that helped to unravel that. So I see a lot of parallels here I think Putin misjudged the Ukrainians, he misjudged the west and I think he even misjudged his own people.

[00:07:29] Michael McFaul:
I'm on the sanctions list. I haven't been there since 2014, but I'm in touch with lots of Russians and Moscow elite societies are in complete shock of what happened. They didn't expect Putin to invade. They didn't expect the sanctions to happen, and they're completely worried about their kids. Everybody's worried about what happens to their families. And Putin knows that, and he has done that before. He just recently gave Alexei Navalny, the leading opposition figure, he just gave him nine more years in jail. He said, the thing that drove him nuts was when Putin put his brother in jail for three years and it was on some trumped up charge of course. And he knew that that was the way to get Navalny. And it did. And that was a demonstration effect for everybody else. You know, you mess with Putin. It's not just you that he can go after, he can go after your family as well.

Adam Grant:
Yeah, that's, a terrifying situation to be in on so many levels. In organizational psychology, we love to talk about the leader attribution error and say, look, leaders are given too much blame for the failures of large organizations. They're given too much credit for the success. And this almost seems like the reverse of that, where we underestimated the importance of leadership. I imagine you've run the counterfactual countless times. If Nemtsov rather than Putin had been elevated to the entire world might look different right now. Can you talk a little bit about that?

[00:08:53] Michael McFaul:
It's a fundamental question and I have thought and written about that counterfactual. And I want to just underscore it's a giant debate among Russia watchers. There are those that believe that individuals and ideas and regimes matter, and I'm in that camp. And then there's another camp that says, no, it's just about the structure of the international system, the balance of power and culture and history and Putin just reflects those tendencies. He's not an agent. He's not autonomous from them. I say of course, structures and agents both matter. This notion that one factor is the thing that drives history–that's what you get rewarded for, tragically, in political science. And you even get rewarded by the way for being wrong. Just as long as everybody keeps citing you, of course, history is more complicated than that. But this is a pretty perfect experiment if you will, because this choice was by Yeltsin. He was not constrained, in my view, he could have named Boris Nemtsov, to be the next president and we know the differences between Nemtsov and Putin. Nemtsov was fundamentally a liberal Democrat. He was one of the great leaders of the 1990s. PhD in physics, this super, charismatic, smart, engaging guy. There's no doubt in my mind, he would've won in 2000 and there's no doubt in my mind cause I knew Boris, until he was assassinated in 2015, what his views about democracy internally were and what his views about Russia's relationship with the west was. Boris, his argument was basically, I want Russia to be a great country, I love my country and I think we would be great if we were democratic and free and therefore a leader in Europe. He had this idea that Germany and Russia would be the two great democracies and economic powerhouses in Europe. That would be the trajectory he would have taken his country.

And with respect to Ukraine by the way, even back in the first revolution, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it's called the Orange Revolution in 2004, Boris Nemtsov was one of the very brave Russian leaders that celebrated the Orange Revolution. He went there and said, congratulations, for your democracy. Snd later in life, when he moved into opposition, Nemtsov, and, you know, lots of mysteries about who killed them and whatnot, but, but definitely, somebody thought they were doing a favor to the regime when they killed him.

But Nemtsov always said this one thing, he said, the best way to undermine the Putin mythology about Russian culture is for Ukrainian democracy to succeed. Because remember Putin is always telling his people “We're different. We're not like the west.” I was in a meeting with him one time with the vice president, vice president Biden in March of 2011 and he literally said that at him, he took his finger and he went down his face like this and he said, “you know, you guys make this mistake. You look at us and you see our white skin and you think, we think like you do, but we don't. We're different.” And that's his argument back home. And that's his justification for autocracy and dictatorship. And now war. And Nemtsov was always, “if Ukrainians can make democracy succeed, that's the best way to undermine that argument because Putin, on the other hand, tries to convince the world that Ukrainians are no different than Russians.” So if the cultures are the same and one is democratic and one's autocratic, that was the best way to undermine Putin in Nemtsov’s view.

[00:12:21] Adam Grant:
I think you just gave me a new perspective for understanding why this war in Ukraine is so important to Putin, so many of the analyses I've read as an outsider, say, this is senseless. He's risking his legacy. He's risking Russia. He's potentially risking his life, and facing the ire of most of the world. But if Ukrainian democracy succeeding is a fundamental threat to his leadership, then he has to take action. Is that what you're suggesting?

[00:12:46] Michael McFaul:
Yes, but let me add some caveats. ‘Cause it's complicated. Ukraine had its Orange Revolution in 2004. But then it had another revolution, the Revolution of Dignity is what they call it. It started in 2013. When then-Ukrainian president Yanukovych refused to sign an accession agreement with the European Union under a lot of pressure from Putin and also $15 billion promised to him from Putin I was ambassador at the time I was tracking it. We were arguing with the Russian government about it. And so one was this piece: I'm not going to lose Ukraine to Europe, to the European Union and he put big money on the table and he made it crystal clear to Yanukovych you can't go there.
And the next day, this guy, I know him, his name was Mustafa Nayyem, he was this investigative journalist at the time. And he said, this is an outrage.

And if people agree with me on my Facebook page, we'll go to the Maidan, we'll go to the big square and protest. And they did. Hundreds of thousands of people, again, out there for several weeks, this time tragically punctuated with the loss of life, when Yanukovych police guys shot at them. It ended with Yanukovych fleeing and going to Russia in February of 2014. And that was when Putin first intervened in Ukraine. That's when he annexed Crimea and started to support these separatists groups in Eastern Ukraine as a strategy to undermine the Revolution of Dignity. And he has been obsessed with that ever since. Using all kinds of means money, propaganda, war, cyber attacks, through this whole eight years. I think centrally it is because Ukrainian democracy is a threat to his regime. And, we Americans, we sometimes like to have it both ways, right? We, we want to say, oh, we're just for rules of the game and order. We're not really supporting, you know, ideas against you. But the truth of the matter is we are a threat to Putin. Just existing as a democracy let alone, giving support to democratic, countries in democratic transition like Ukraine. He is paranoid about the west. He's paranoid about democracy. And he thinks that we are out to undermine regimes like his own. And, and I want to be clear. Part of that is right. Part of it is that we have undermined autocratic regimes before, Serbia 2000 Milošević. And when you try to explain what we're not doing that in your country that's an argument I had to try to make, and we weren't by the way, but if you're Putin, it looks like it's all part of some grand design,to roll back regimes we don't like, including his, and to support regimes that are against him as you know, he perceives, president Zelenskyy and the democratic regime of Ukraine.

[00:15:35] Adam Grant:
There's a long history in psychology of trying to analyze the motives of leaders from a distance and code their speeches to try to figure out what drives them, what do they want? And the classic framework is to break down and power achievement and affiliation.

Michael McFaul:

Adam Grant:
And when I look at Putin, as somebody who is uninformed about this, I say, yeah, it'd be easy on its face to say, well, he rose up by being very achievement oriented but what dominates his leadership as president, um, seems to be high power, low affiliation. He wants influence and control and he doesn't seem to care that much about being liked or having tight relationships. And the standard, if that's true, and I want to ask you if that's true, but if it is true, the standard consequences of high power, low affiliation are you seek war, not peace because power is a zero sum game. It does not matter how rich you are. It does not matter how much success you achieve. It doesn't matter even how popular you are in your country. If there is another country out there that's more powerful than you, then they are a fundamental threat to your status. And I I'd love to get your reactions to that perspective and that analysis.

[00:16:40] Michael McFaul:
It's interesting. I should read more about that. We all should read more about that in thinking about Putin these days. Um, I think I generally agree. So power and not worrying about what other people think about them. And remember power first and foremost at home, you know, the first decade of Putin's rule was consolidating the Putin autocracy at home. The next decade has been about projecting abroad. And there are two different projects there and I want to desegregate them. One is something more abstract, which is you know, Putin does have a set of ideas about the world. He has an ideology in my view, even though we spent too much time arguing about the definition of ideology and you know, to simplify it it's a kind of conservative, populist, nationalist, anti multi-lateral view. And the enemy, most certainly as you just described is the United States and liberal ideas and the decadent west. And those ideas, and that power is threatening, you know, conservative–he would call it Orthodox Christian–values at home. That's the way he talks. Uh, and his job is first to defend the Russian nation against those ideals, against those Western decadent ideas, which he thinks is designed to destroy mother Russia.

But then he went on the offensive. Uh, about a decade ago, he started investing in things like Russia Today and Sputnik and NGOs that had relationships with like-minded NGOs in Europe and in the United States, leaned heavily on the Orthodox church to find like-minded, you know, religious organizations including here in the, in the United States and I would say, you know, over time he was achieving some successes, this Viktor Orbán, the leader of Hungary, closer ideologically to Putin versus Biden, I would say at least until this war, he was definitely closer to Putin uh, in terms of his worldview. And Salvini in Italy and Le Pen and France, and Farage in the UK, and Donald Trump, president Trump in our country, you know, ideologically, there was an affinity between all those people. So that was one that was a group he was cultivating in a kind of, you know, he always thought of himself as the great man and the great anchor of this. But there was something where he wanted their appreciation and he saw this fight, not between countries or between states, but within states. Right. Um, that ideological thing.

The second piece is about the Slavic nation as defined by him. And there is this old traditions where, you know, people have talked about are Ukrainians separate from Russians or not and that's a tradition in Russia, by the way, Imperial Russia. It was called the Russian empire for a reason, by the way, because they colonized other places. But he has always wanted to be the–you know, he thinks of himself in historical terms–as one of the great expanders of the, and unifiers of, the Slavic people. And that is part of his agenda inside Ukraine today. But you also said something really important that I want to make sure we don't lose.
There's a lot of analysis, commentary in the west about, you know, how rich Putin is and even when I worked for president Obama, I remember we were walking around the Kremlin one day and he asked me the same question. He cared about two questions about Putin: how popular he was and how rich he was.
I remember we'd always kind of chat about those things. And at one point I explained to him, Mr. President, you're putting down and you're overlaying your Western analytic framework on the way Russia runs. You know, we were out at some in September 2013, we're out at these brilliant castles, mansions on the, you know, on the outskirts of St. Petersburg. Well, they were owned by the government. But Putin controlled them. He could go there anytime he wanted to. He could go, he can go to any castle anywhere that he wants in Russia, anytime he wants, he can use anybody's yacht, uh, anytime, any place he wants, if they're a Russian citizen. So, you know, the definition of property rights, uh, you know, it's a, it's a different definition. And therefore, I think we've, we've obsessed too much about how much he has in a bank account. Those are not the things that motivate Putin, these, these larger things I think are what really motivate him.

[00:21:10] Adam Grant:
Yeah. It almost sounds like wealth is a means to the end of power, as opposed to an end in and of itself.

Michael McFaul:

Adam Grant:
So I want to talk more about Putin and the conflict that obviously the world is in the midst of right now. But I want to contrast a little bit with Volodymyr Zelenskyy who you've also observed both from a distance and up close he's a becoming an international hero. How do you explain that? What do you think people are responding to?

[00:21:40] Michael McFaul:
Well, first, a couple of things about his background. Remember he is also a fairly accidental president. He was a very famous television personality for many years, very famous in Russia, too.

There was in the run-up to the 2019 election, if you looked at opinion polls in Ukraine, a giant demand for an outsider candidate, somebody to shake it up, that might sound familiar. He ran and it was a landslide for an opposition figure, and in the parliament as well, they were fed up with their corrupt politicians, tied to oligarchs and he rode that wave. And initially I think there's another important part to understanding Putin-Zelenskyy personal dynamics.

Initially he ran as a guy that said I can cut a deal with Putin. Remember Zelenskyy is from the Eastern part of Ukraine, his first language is Russian. He learned Ukrainian as a second language. He's Jewish. He's from this small industrial, rough and tough old town. He's not from the elites. Right. Where he grew up as closer to culturally and historically to Russia, then, then somebody born in Lviv, in the Western part of Ukraine. And because of that background, because he thought he understood the Russian mentality, he thought he could cut it a deal with them.

And he tried in the beginning and they screwed around with him and then he pivoted hard against them and he said, okay, these guys are not serious and that moment I think is when Putin finally decided he's going to do something against him. But you know, right before this war, it's important to understand, he was supported, but his opinion polls were falling.

There were lots of critics about how he was handling the Russian threats and the negotiations with us. And he said some tough things against Biden, when he visited the president. And that's the context for when the war started, and then he just, you know, as he told me, I just, I was on a zoom call with them last week, I mentioned earlier we have 300 alums from my Institute, we've been training Ukrainians since 2005. So I talked to them very frequently and I got on the Skype called to talk to Sergei as I do. He works for his Zelenskyy, I hit the Skype button right where you're sitting, he was sitting, it wasn't by accident. So I clicked on the Skype button and I'm usually talking to Sergei and there was a Zelenskyy, but this is, this is part of their, how smart they are. He knew that four hours later, I was speaking to 200 members of Congress, that speaker Pelosi was hosting me in Philadelphia, by the way. They knew that, you think that was just a coincidence that Zelenskyy wanted to give me his perspective four hours before performing in front of them? And he said, Mike, great to see you again. He said, you look just like you did in California. And I said, President Zelenskyy you don't because he's got that scraggly beard but you know, from that conversation, and talking to his people he's understood the role he has to play. This is the fight for the future of his country. He's ready to die. He's already made those calculations in his head. I would never be that brave.I have met heroic figures in my lifetime before, and there's this moment when the clarity of purpose just kind of crystallizes and they know that this is the fight– you're either gonna win or you're going to die, but you know that this is why you were brought to this planet. I think he really sincerely believes that, and that gives him a confidence that is rare and it makes him inspirational for Ukrainians. I have at least a dozen of our former colleagues who are now walking around in military fatigues. These are not people that were trained to do this, but they are inspired by their leader. I do think he's quite an extraordinary figure.

[00:25:26] Adam Grant:
There are all these articles trying to analyze, well, what is it about Zelenskyy that people are responding to, internally and externally. And the two most common themes that stand out for me have been charisma and courage. There was one article that stood out to me that said, “he's a lion who found his roar.” And I looked at that and I said, yeah, but no, because I think what he really is is a lion who's protecting his pride. But when we analyze the dynamics that allows somebody to become truly admired as a leader, what seems to matter a lot that nobody talks about is prototypicality, which is, do you exemplify the values that are most central to the identity of the group? And I think what I've seen in Zelenskyy is, Ukrainians are fighters, right? They've been freedom fighters for decades, actually, probably for centuries. And when Zelenskyy said, you know, I, I don't need a ride. I need anti-tank ammo that was him saying, I am willing to make a sacrifice for my people and I am a fighter too. And I guess where, where I landed after observing this was to say, look, his charisma attracts attention, no question. Courage earns him admiration. But what really inspires loyalty is his commitment to the group. We've got people who follow this, man who's willing to fight for them. We have people who are sacrificing for a leader who is serving them. And I'd love to get your reaction to that of, you know, charisma versus courage versus servant leadership. And, and how important are those different elements in the reactions that people are having inside Ukraine and beyond?

[00:26:53] Michael McFaul:
I think that's a really perceptive observation. Understanding the history and the cultural identity of being fighters. And that goes back literally hundreds of years. You're right about that, Adam, that is part of Ukrainian folklore and history and he understands the fighter mentality, and the second thing I would say about Zelenskyy, I had a back and forth with one of his colleagues, they're all living in a bunker,they sleep for four hours maximum a day. They don't see the sun. They have no fresh food. They're constantly worried about dying. Putin was clear as day when he announced his objectives in this war. And one of them was what he called de-nazification, which means regime change, which means killing Zelenskyy. So that's the pressure under which they're living, and constantly feeling like the west is not doing enough, and we're all United on the sidelines, but they're the ones fighting Russia. Right? I mean, think about it, NATO was constructed to fight Russia and the Soviet Union to deter them. And here they are, alone, doing the job of NATO, that's their perspective.

And we were gaming it out with one of his advisors. And I was like, well, you know, is it, is it better for him to be alive in Lviv or alive in Kraków, Poland? Or dead in Kyiv, just a bit, put it very bluntly. And we went back and forth, you know, gamed out the plus minus of those all. And then my Ukrainian colleague who works for him said, but Mike, this is all completely academic,cause he's not going anywhere. He's made that decision and that inspires his people. There's just nothing like that conviction that I am not leaving. “ya ne ydu” that he said, “I'm here.” Things could change. I don't know what will happen, in the course of this war. But right now he's made that commitment and there's no doubt that it's inspiring his people. And I think inspiring people around the world.

[00:28:49] Adam Grant:
It does make me wonder at this stage, if the weaker army fighting for something actually has a chance against the stronger army fighting for nothing.

Michael McFaul:
Well, we know in history it sometimes can happen. We can count up the number of tanks and missiles, and we can look at budgets, GDP per capita, and those are things that we can measure quantitatively. It’s very hard to measure will, will to fight. And there's just no question that when you listen to Ukrainians, they have the will to fight, that this war is completely unjust, that Putin has chosen to just slaughter civilians and the way he does has only further convinced people to keep fighting. And in the cities that are under siege, especially Mariupol', people will not leave. They're gonna fight to the end. And, you have the flip side, the Russian soldiers, I’ve watched many of these clips of these captured Russian soldiers. I think they're probably violating Geneva conventions, by the way, I don't think they're supposed to do that. I'm not a lawyer. But I've watched them nonetheless. And these young boys, they're 18 year olds old, they have no idea why they're there.

[00:29:56] Adam Grant:
Just zooming out a little bit from the war. The commentary I've seen, sort of on and off for the past few weeks has been, “Great that Americans are concerned about something that's happening abroad, but why are we only worrying about war crimes against white people? Where was the outrage around Syria or Afghanistan, for example.” I'm so torn when I see that, because on the one hand, yes, we should care in all cases. On the other hand, I don't think this is just because Ukrainians are white. I think that Putin is a threat to democracy and Western life in a way that events in Syria and Afghanistan did not seem to be. And would love to hear you react to the, I guess the two sides of that.

[00:30:38] Michael McFaul:
Yeah, it's a very serious question. And I've seen that commentary as well. I don't think you can–you can't play the what-about-ism game as a response for doing nothing. We should do something about Ukraine and something about Syria. Not, not, well, you didn't do it there, so you shouldn't do anything about Ukraine. That's the way I would frame it. But I think the thing you just said Adam is also true. We as an Alliance and we, as the United States, we're not threatened, uh, by the outcome of the civil war in Syria, tragically, that, you know, that that is a fact, um, we are threatened by this war. I mean, in Putin's just so everybody is crystal clear. Putin thinks that he is fighting the United States of America in Ukraine. It just happens to be the place that we're fighting in Ukraine. And by the way, we like to do a nice little song and dance here that we're not involved in this war, but if you're Vladimir Putin, when we're sending billions of weapons to Ukraine, you can, well rest assured from his framework, we are part of this war.

I'm a hundred percent convinced of that. Putin can't occupy this country forever. He doesn't have the military, he doesn't have the ideas, but that could be a long, horrible process that I don't want to see happen. But let's just say that happens for a while. We are going to spend billions of dollars, in a very volatile situation with our NATO allies on the front lines, wondering are we credible or not? And that will be a direct possibility of us going to war with Russia. Conversely, if Zelenskyy wins, if the Ukrainian military wins and fights Putin to a stalemate, what better way to reassure our NATO allies. But it also has positive outcomes with respect to, you know, our friends and foes in the Middle East and our friends and foes in Asia. So I think that the stakes here are just that high. I think a win is a giant win in all those places. And a loss has big negative consequences in all those places as well.

[00:32:39] Adam Grant:
What can I do as a citizen? I've been asking that personally, I know a lot of people who have been struggling with that, it's, you know, for those who have the means, it's easy to give money for relief. I've started wondering what else we can do. I think about my, my role as a social scientist,are there things I know about motivating people to change their minds and their behaviors–How do you think about, the information landscape of about what the average person with a platform can do?

Michael McFaul:
Yeah, that's a great question. You asked about individuals, but let me start with the Biden administration. I do think they've done a great job of reassuring our allies, putting in place sanctions–sweeping historic sanctions against the Russian economy– and providing military assistance.And in all three of those fronts, my plea to them is you got to do more.You got to do more sanctions. you gotta ratchet up sanctions every single week the war goes on. You gotta give more military assistance and more reassurance. The one place I think they have not done as well is on the information piece. I just think we've gotten out of the habit of thinking about how to support content across borders. Putin has been thinking about this for a long time. He's shut down the opposition television and radio. He's blocking Facebook and Twitter right now. Although not that, effectively, it turns out because they're not as good at this as the Chinese are. What we call our surrogate media Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty. They're doing well, but on shoestring budgets. And I just think that's a fight that we got to get better at. I think that there's probably a lot, the Ukrainian military could, use your guidance on I'll connect you with the right people, uh, after our conversation here, because they are thinking about these things and they're thinking about messaging and, you know, there's a lot of creative ways you can do messaging to soldiers these days.

I think for individuals, one is to give, and it doesn't matter how much you give. It matters to Ukrainians. One should never underestimate the power of you celebrating their heroic feats including president Zelenskyy himself. I know for a fact that when he sees those messages, it gives him strength. And what they're worried most of all is that we settle into some conflict and we forget, and we get back to our old problems and we take our eyes off the ball. And that's exactly what Putin's waiting for.

I got in a lot of trouble, Adam, criticizing some of my Russian friends that, oh, you know I said, you know, no more standing on the sidelines folks. And yeah, I know it's dangerous, but there's just no more excuses. This is a black and white moment. It doesn't mean everybody has to do the same things. And I perfectly understand that it's easy for me to say that, sitting in Palo Alto, versus, caring about my family in Moscow or Novosibirsk, but it means that everybody has to do something, to signal that they know the difference between right and wrong, and to support those that are fighting the fight against evil. That's literally what they're doing today.

Adam Grant:
WorkLife is hosted by me, Adam Grant and produced by TED with Transmitter media. This episode was produced by Cosmic Standard. Our team includes Colin Helms, Gretta Cohn, Dan O’Donnell, Constanza Gallardo, JoAnn DeLuna, Eliza Smith, Jacob Winik, Hannah Kingsley-Ma, Aja Simpson, Samiah Adams, Michelle Quint, Banban Cheng and Anna Phelan. Our show is mixed by Rick Kwan. Original music by Hansdale Hsu and Allison Leyton-Brown. A big round of applause and appreciation to Grace Rubenstein, fact-checking. Special thanks to our sponsors LinkedIn, Morgan Stanley, ServiceNow, and UKG. And further research gratitude to David Winter on power achievement and affiliation motives, D. van Knippenberg and Michael Hogg on prototypicality and Barry Staw on escalation of commitment.

I think the way that you own your mistakes is, it's just something that makes me respect you more because I know that the next, the next time that you say something, I can trust you to be more concerned with getting it right than denying that you got it wrong.

Michael McFaul:
Well, that's very kind of you to say. Probably part of it is ‘cause I make a lot of mistakes. I don't know.

Adam Grant:
Sadly, that does not seem to be a cure.

Michael McFaul:
Well, that's true.