When Jacinda Ardern found out that New Zealand was Covid-19-free, she did a little dance. New Zealand’s Prime Minister has been widely praised for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and although there is still plenty of work to be done, the leader deserved her moment of joy.
While most world leaders have approached Covid-19 with bluster and ruinously slow decision making, Ardern has acted decisively, and with kindness. Rather than following a strategy of containment, Ardern pledged to eliminate Covid-19 in New Zealand. And her radical policies won immediate support.
This support is a result of her empathy-driven politics. Ardern frequently addresses her ‘team of five million’ on Facebook via live video. In her most popular Facebook video, Ardern appeared before the camera in a faded sweatshirt, just moments after putting her daughter to bed. Her realness is striking, and her rhetorical blending is seamless: epidemiology brightened with kindness.
Her relatability has caused her trust rating to rocket. Kiwis have forged a shared understanding with their leader, who took a 20% wage cut as a mark of solidarity with the country’s workforce.
Through clear communication and swift action, Ardern has promoted a culture of collective responsibility in New Zealand. Authenticity runs through her approach to leadership and this is what has enabled the country’s stringent lockdown to work effectively.
Ardern’s response to the Christchurch terrorist attacks in 2019 form part of the reason for her success in creating this moral collectivism in New Zealand. After the attacks, Ardern did not evoke the usual ‘us-against-them’ attitude. Instead, she pulled people together.
During the pandemic, she has treated the people of New Zealand as if they are her teammates. Her regular video updates are like weekly team meetings.
Criticism has been levelled at Ardern for her stringent enforcement of lockdown measures and the potential economic fallout that could plague the country. But this criticism hasn’t gone unanswered. Agility is important to the 39-year-old and she knows that adaptable policymaking will be crucial.
This agility has been shown throughout her career. A quick listener, Ardern isn’t afraid to consult others and she searches for information in unlikely places.Embed from Getty Images
As humans, we often rely on our past experiences to solve problems. This is normal, but sometimes unhelpful. We narrow our perspective and ignore innovative solutions. Ardern speaks to children to find out what they think needs changing.
Children are open-minded and have an ability to look beyond themselves. They imagine the solutions that we may never have considered. Mondrem’s FOREST approach uses the Mindplay Model to unlock this childlike open mindedness. It’s a way of imagining the unimaginable.
Ardern promotes kindness in the workplace. She doesn’t believe in the aggressive brand of politics that has been practised by many of her predecessors. Unlike most, Ardern doesn’t believe assertiveness and kindness or strength and empathy are mutually exclusive. She stresses that most of the big challenges that leaders face require kindness.
We’ll be sharing more stories of inspiring leaders in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out on the blog.