Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern has come first on this year’s Fortune list of the World’s Greatest Leaders, she also figured in Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in 2020.
The Woman Post | Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra
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Her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was praised worldwide and it was a major reason behind her reelection in the 2020 parliamentary elections. However, it was just one of many acclaimed policies.
The country has around five million citizens and the decisions made so far to manage the pandemic have meant the death toll is one of the lowest with 26 deaths. Furthermore, she voluntarily took a 20% pay cut to ‘close the gap’ with those affected by the pandemic. According to women’s empowerment expert and author Suzanne Pool, she listens to expert advice and then acts on it quickly and effectively to keep her country safe.
Her handling of the Coronavirus depicted how she acknowledges where expert advice and support are required. “Listening attentively and then acting on that advice quickly and with commitment are the signs of a good leader. The actions are almost certainly not popular, they may not necessarily follow with the crowd either; these are characteristics of effective leadership,” expressed Pool.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, Ardern was recognized for her leadership with empathy. In 2017, when her mandate started she was the world’s youngest female head of the government. In 2018, she walked on Auckland Pride Parade, showcasing respect for diversity. In the same year, she became the second world leader to give birth while in office and she gave a speech at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit with her three-month-old daughter in her lap.
In 2019, she responded effectively and empathetically to the Christchurch mosque shootings. She accompanied the families of victims of the terrorist attack and passed a law banning semi-automatic weapons, collecting more than 62,000 banned weapons. Amongst other decisions that have made her the world’s best leader, her government banned single-use plastic bags, granted 10 days of extra paid leaves a year to domestic violence victims, and passed the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill.
On the 17th of October Ardern led the Labour Party to a historic victory in the 2020 general election. Labour gained the majority of 65 seats in Parliament. Her appreciation of diversity and sense of ruling for the people were clear on her Instagram post on the 20th of October, where she expressed “Our first caucus as a new team! An amazing crew of new MPs. Doctors, a midwife, teachers, people with a background in environmental law, pay equity, human rights, workers rights, nursing, and small business. A past cleaner and refugee, an ex-deputy mayor, people who live rurally, and people who live in cities, and they all have one thing in common - they are all Labour, and they’re all here to work for their communities.”
Analyzing her speech, Claire Collins, professor of leadership at Henley Business School said, watching her acceptance speech it was clear that she embraces leadership differently from most national and international leaders as she uses ‘we’ much more often than she uses ‘I’. “She talks about the people that she is lucky to work with and those she serves, thus embodying a more servant leadership style than the usual individualistic authoritarian leader. And she talks about a country for all its citizens, not just for certain groups whose support she courts.”
Finally, one of the biggest flags of her administration has been that she describes it as rooted in kindness. She believes that the world needs humble politicians instead of dominant uptight ones. Leaders that care about the people instead of focusing on power, and losing sight of how essential kindness is. Two famous quotes in which she has expressed this are: “If I could distill it down into one concept that is simple and it is this: Kindness.” And “kindness, and not being afraid to be kind, or to focus on, or be really driven by empathy”.