DAD.CEO had the immense pleasure to sit down for an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with the legendary Vitali Klitschko - Former Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, Mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine, and most importantly an incredible husband and father to 3 very aspiring and global thinking kids.
DAD.CEO: What is your favorite activity with your kids that would surprise us?
VK: My family is always looking to experience new emotions. A great example of this is our love for skydiving.
It all started when my son was quite young and I decided to take him skydiving from 4,000m. I have a friend who has more than 20,000 jumps and is a true professional. He made it clear to me that it’s completely safe and that I have nothing to fear. As he put it, the most dangerous part of skydiving is actually getting to the airport by car.
Naturally as expected, my wife was very against the idea as well as other close friends who would remind me: “Are you crazy to do that?!” We decided to do it anyway and then called her to let her know that we already did it! I would then give the phone to my oldest son who would go on to thank her with sweet words such as: “Mom, I’m so grateful for you and Dad for letting me experience such great emotions. I’m so happy! Thank you so much for allowing me to do this!” After such words, my wife was simply speechless and did not know what to say. After, the initial jumps, my family came around that it was not as risky as everyone imagined and the Klitschkos would take up skydiving including all my children.
Skydiving for me delivers such an unforgettable rush of emotions, adrenaline, and the feeling of living life to the fullest. I encourage everyone to try it at least once in their lives.
Vitali Klitschko greeting his daughter after her skydiving experience
DAD.CEO: What has boxing thought you that you believe has helped you in being a better leader and Father?
VK: To be a great boxer is a lot like a being a true leader. You need to take responsibility, not just for yourself in the ring, but for everyone that stands behind you outside of the ring, as it truly is a big team. Each of them is working hard in order to attain the best possible results. Your team consists of your coach, physiotherapist, lawyer, manager, sparring partners, nutritionists, etc. They are all your partners who work hand in hand with you including the entire arena and its organization, the fans, etc. As their leader, you are responsible for the final results. Everyone has invested not only money, but time, attention, energy, and in one moment, you are responsible for everything and you need to be a true visionary leader. They have to believe in you in order to invest so much time & energy. As a leader, you do not have the right to think only of yourself and you can never consider giving up. You owe it to them to deliver, to win, and to never give up no matter how massive the odds are stacked against you. In a sense, this is a lot like being a Father for your family.
But, in my opinion, being a leader and being a Father are in a sense two different activities. Because in the sense of family, attention is the main point and being the Father, you have the responsibility of trying to give everyone the right amount of attention that they deserve and need.
Being direct and honest, this is somewhat of a painful subject for myself as I feel and understand that I could be a better Father than I am mainly due that my time is very limited for my children and family - but my family understands this fact very clearly and accepts it based on my position as the Mayor of Kyiv. This is why every time I get the chance, I try to spend as much time as I can with my children. This time is incredibly special not only for them but more so for myself as their Father. We make it a point to arrange activities that we all can participate in such as skydiving, kitesurfing, scuba diving, etc. We always choose activities that we can do together and that can bring all of us some unique emotions as long as we do it together. This is what makes it even more special when these emotions are shared as a family. My goal is to spend as much time with them and make it more meaningful and fun while I try and discover the world with my children – being in the moment and sharing experiences together is what’s most important for me and them.
Whitewater Rafting in Austria Photo: Vitali Klitschko
Kitesurfing in Egypt Photo: Vitali Klitschko
Kitesurfing with his family in Egypt Photo: Vitali Klitschko
DAD.CEO: What traditions have you continued from your childhood to your children?
VK: Like all families, we have the tradition of spending important holidays together such birthdays, New Years', victories, etc. But we enjoy adding a new twist to them to make them more special, unique, and personal. For example, every New Year, 1 hour before we ring in the New Year and say goodbye to the old one, we all sit together and write our wishes without explaining it to no one. BUT! Right after the stroke of midnight, when the New Year is official, each person has to explain their wishes from the previous year and what was realized or not. It makes for some very interesting conversations, laughter, and most importantly the realization that time goes by faster than we want to accept and that we must do with all our power to ensure every minute will not go unwasted and to work on realizing our dreams and not simply wish for it!
DAD.CEO: The word NO is a powerful word in business, but how does it's meaning work with your children, or do you believe in the opposite in YES with them?
VK: Like in business at my work, I am not afraid to use the word NO as well in my home. With my boys, I feel it helps to give them a certain form of structure that not everything in life is YES and that you have to be able to handle being denied and how to overcome this. But I have to say that it’s truly difficult to say NO to my daughter! She knows exactly the right words such as “I love you so much. I miss you so much and please Dad”, etc. It’s so difficult to say NO to her. But these are not manipulation tactics or mind games from her as she says it very openly and honestly from the heart. After such words, it’s very difficult to say NO to her.
DAD.CEO: How do you deal with the pressures of work at home? Do you have advice on how to manage the pressures of work so that it does not affect your personal life with your family/kids?
VK: It’s sometimes difficult to balance. My wife has to remind me that I am a husband and a father and that I am at home and no longer at the office. But, I am human and it’s easier said than done. No one is perfect and sometimes the pressure finds a way to follow me. All I can do is to try and manage it as best I can so that my family is not affected. I try instead to focus on their positive energy and to let that melt away the pressures of work.
Vitali Klitschko appreciating the positive energy his family brings to his life
DAD.CEO: You have championed Kyiv as being a great city to live and invest in – What benefits would a DAD CEO have by coming to Kyiv to invest, work, and live with his family?
VK: There are many rational reasons to pick Kyiv as your next investment and place to call your home with your family. As humans, we all depend and feed on emotions to help us get from one day to the next and to look forward and hope for a better future for our children and business. As the Director/CEO of Kyiv, if you have a business idea, I highly recommend coming to Kyiv to discover the city first hand. Bring your family and make an excursion, wander around and experience the atmosphere of this great city. I guarantee you will receive emotions which I am quite confident will be very positive. You will realize what an incredible city and country we have and how many opportunities there are for launching or expanding your business. When it comes to family and business reasons - everything will fall into place where the rational meets with the emotional – because when the 2 mix and life is balanced, there are no limits to what you can achieve in Kyiv, Ukraine! Maybe that is why last year, 60% of investments in Ukraine were developed in Kyiv, because everyone who comes to Kyiv, simply loves it.
Mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine, Vitali Klitschko invites you to come and discover his great city!
DAD.CEO: Are you teaching your kids about business and money management?
VK: My oldest son is 19 now and studying Business Management at a university in Great Britain. Therefore he is on his way to a global understanding of business and money management.
I am teaching my daughter who is 16 and my youngest son who is 14 to understand that from nothing comes nothing. Everything in this world has a price and you must pay attention when it comes to money when it is tied to the quality of your work and the level of service you deliver. I teach them to be considerate and to pay close attention to the interests and needs of others. Most importantly, you have to pay special attention to being open and tolerant of the world around you when it comes to reaching your goals and ambitions.
DAD.CEO: Having such a busy schedule, how do you handle not missing important events with your kids and family?
VK: My wife is the CEO of our family! A good example of this is at the start of each school year, she sets up a calendar which clearly indicates all the dates for school events, vacations, school breaks, important events, etc. and then proceeds to tell me to put them all into my schedule for the entire year so that I will not double-book myself into other meetings or trips on those dates. She ensures that my schedule has its priorities in place so that I don’t miss any important school and family events.
She is the family time-manager and I am certainly aware that business meetings can always be rescheduled, but special events in my kid's life cannot be repeated.
Vitali Klitschko with his wife Natalia while on vacation in Israel
DAD.CEO: What would be your top 3 tips for being a successful DAD.CEO/Leader?
VK: My 1st tip - Everything you do in life, you need to truly believe in it and it should be done from the heart all the way. No half measures. If you are going to do it, then do it as best as possible. 2nd - If you love your job, you will be successful and 3rd - Give your children love and you will receive back great emotions multiple times over from them.
Bicyling with his kids Photo Credit: Vitali Klitschko
Discovering the ancient tunnels of the Lavra Monastery in Kyiv, Ukraine Photo Credit: Vitali Klitschko
DAD.CEO: Do your kids have an idea as to what they want to do as a career?
VK: My daughter is vegan and decided that she wants to save the world. I often receive information and debriefings from her about saving animals, climate change, etc. I love that she has a kind heart and wants to put it to good use to help others.
DAD.CEO: Can you give us your top advice on how a father can help his children create strong habits for a good healthy body & mind so they can succeed better in life
VK: Healthy body = Healthy mind, healthy spirit, and clear life focus.
When I graduated from university, my first job was being a teacher and I quickly realized how truly important a good education is.
Education and dedication are the key components for a life that will determine your future activities and will help you greatly in finding the best and smartest solutions to life’s challenges. That’s why education is the key in life. It’s one of the main reasons I work together with my brother Wladimir Klitschko at the Klitschko Foundation which aims to deliver and teach this message to help children in need. www.klitschkofoundation.org/en/
Vitali Klitschko with his brother Wladimir Klitschko in Kyiv, Ukraine
As the Mayor of Kyiv, we have made it a priority to allocate a large part of the city budget which consists of 1/3 of the total funds to being targeted toward education. Education in my opinion is and should be the main investment in a person’s future.
With a solid education, discipline, structure, and having priorities in place with clear goals, you can achieve any dream that you set your heart to. It’s especially important when it comes to sports where you need to have the discipline to make a structure and to be systematic and focused for a long and consistent period of time. From this, I am sure you will receive positive results.
DAD.CEO: Any last tips, advice, words of wisdom, etc.?
VK: I have a true story that I enjoy telling all young people so that it can somehow motivate them to reach for a goal or a dream and make it come true.
When I was younger, professional boxing was forbidden in the Soviet Union at that time. We had heard about the name of Muhammad Ali, but no one had seen his fights. Perestroika came and we finally got to see a professional fight. The first fight I ever saw on television was in 1986, and it was Mike Tyson winning his first title fight. I had recently started studying boxing and I was so excited after his win that I told my friends who saw this fight with me that one day I would beat Mike Tyson and I would take away his belt and become the World Boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World! Of course, everyone was making jokes and smiling at me because I was a very tall and skinny kid at the time, and Tyson looked like a killing machine. No one believed in me, but fast forward 15 years, I invited the same friends who had watched Mike Tyson win the world title to meet me for a special surprise. I brought a bag to our meeting and from it, I took out the exact same belt that Mike Tyson held 15 years earlier. The same belt that Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, etc. had worn. Now it was my belt and Vitali Klitschko would forever be a part of this exclusive club! I was the undisputed Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World. I put this belt on the table and asked my friends if they remembered my promise, I had made 15 years earlier?! My friends said they never expected that the tall skinny boy from our school would one day become the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World. It was simply too big of a dream to believe that it could one day become a reality for them.
The main ideas I try to deliver to everyone which are very important in my opinion are:
1. Without dreams, life has no meaning.
2. To simply live, is not enough – It’s very important to work hard in order to implement your dreams and achieve something meaningful so you can bring more purpose, satisfaction, and positive impact not only to your life but to your family and all the people who you care for.
3. Sometimes you will need weeks, months, and even years – but if you want it very much and work equally harder with discipline and a vision for a long time, any dream will eventually come true in some form.
My core message to young people:
“Have a dream, work hard and as my favorite saying goes ‘Nothing is Impossible!”
About Vitali Klitschko
Mayor of Kyiv
Head of Kyiv City State Administration
Born on July 19, 1971, in Bilovodske, Kyrgyzstan, into a family of an Air Force pilot and a teacher.
Holds a university degree in physical education from Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskyi State University (graduated in 1995). In 2011 graduated with a master's in social development management from the National Academy of Public Administration of Ukraine. In 2000 earned a Ph.D. in sports science.
Boxed professionally from 1996 to 2013. Six-time world champion in kickboxing, 3-time boxing champion of Ukraine. Won the super heavyweight championship at the first World Military Games.WBO and WBA Intercontinental champion, 2-time European champion, WBO, WBC, and Ring Magazine Heavyweight world champion.WBC Eternal World Heavyweight Champion. Finally retired from boxing in 2013.
In 2003 together with his brother Wladimir founded a charitable «Klitschko Brothers Foundation», which works to support youth sports, education, and healthcare.
Following the Kyiv mayoral race in 2006 chaired the faction at the Kyiv city council.
In 2010 was elected as Chair of the UDAR Party (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform).
In the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary elections, UDAR won 40 seats and formed a parliamentary faction. Klitschko started his term as MP.
During the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 became one of the country’s most visible political figures and one of the leaders of the protest movement in Kyiv’s Maidan.
In June 2014, after the Kyiv City Council and Mayor snap elections, was sworn in as a mayor of Kyiv.
In autumn 2015, he was re-elected as the Kyiv mayor with a 5-year term ahead.
Holds an honorary title «Hero of Ukraine».
Vitali is married and has 3 children aged 14, 16, and 19 years old.