People-oriented leadership during crisis: Insights from Olexandr Kamishyn, CEO of Ukrainian railway company

So, I continue a week of lessons from the Ukrainian war. Once Oliver and I talked about how effective the Ukrainian government is in infrastructure management during such a terrible period. You could see it from the previous post about Ukrenergo. However, Oliver also emphasized exceptional leadership and Kamishyn Olexandr as the most vivid example. I would like to familiarize you with this outstanding person that operates a company responsible for human lives and supplies transportation during the war.

Olexandr Kamishyn

Olexandr Kamishyn is a 38-old Ukrainian entrepreneur with CEO of Ukrzalisnytsia, a Ukrainian public railway company, since 2021. He was co-founder of several Ukrainian startups, but Latifundist Media, a media group, focuses on agricultural topics. Here, Olexandr demonstrated a productive horizontal leadership style, erasing hierarchy and applying game style to the employees’ performance. People within the organization called the company Latifundia and gave each other surnames from Lord of The Rings. Kamishyn, in this game, is Gandalf. They conducted work meetings in McDonald’s because the startup did not have the resources to rent the office. Hence, Olexandr has been developing his unique approach to managing large companies from scratch, and this knowledge definitely impacted his further career.

What about Ukrzaliznytsia? How did the investor and entrepreneur appear to manage a governmental company? Before 2021, the Ukrainian railway company was in crisis. Trains were in an awful state, the website was outdated, and people raged and were dissatisfied with services. Ukrainian government realized the need for an advanced young person that could reform the company and bring it closer to European standards. Ex-partner of Kamishyn, Mykola Nesterenko, claimed that Olexandr is the perfect candidate for this position since he is very thoughtful about the country’s future because his children have to live in it.

Kamishyn started his career in Ukrzaliznytsia in March 2021, when he fulfilled the CEO’s responsibilities for a short period. Before that, he sold his shares of private companies to become governor. Expectations for a young CEO were high. Infrastructure Minister of Ukraine, Olexandr Kubrakov, set a core goal for Kamishyn: to increase freight transportation prices and attract foreign investors. Olexandr completed the first aim after six days of being CEO. Overall, his performance before the war was positive, with a beneficial influence on Ukrainian economics due to his correct financial strategy.

Train Kyiv-Boryspil

However, I think the russian invasion revealed if companies had appropriate leadership, and Ukrzaliznytsia had one of the best leaders in the country. Kamishyn demonstrated his values and savvy during the crisis as the company immediately started to evacuate refugees from the affected areas. Their performance peaked when they transported over 200 thousand people in one day. Kamishyn, in one of his interviews, confessed that crisis plans developed earlier appeared to be ineffective, so they had to redo everything. From Olexandr’s words, it was challenging work, which also required heroism. For example, some people just had to fix railways during shelling. Moreover, Ukrzaliznytsia under Kamishyn continued to advance when the situation relatively stabilized. Recently, they enhanced hygiene standards and introduced new bathroom items to improve clients’ experiences. So, Kamishyn showed human-oriented leadership and steadfast devotion to his company with a national European-oriented focus.

To sum up, Olexandr Kamishyn impresses me as an individual who, despite experience lack and war, manages the company exemplarily. I am even embarrassed that I was not familiar with his performance until Oliver showed what a talented person the Ukrainian nation has. Kamishyn teaches us about being human at first – caring for emotions and considering their needs. He vividly demonstrates people’s efforts when building something for themselves and their children.

Iryna Nykoriak

Published 09.09.2022


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