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Leadership is Earned Not Given

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Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern who has served since 2017 as the 40th prime minister of New Zealand and as leader of the Labor Party. She was first elected to the House of Representatives as a list MP in 2008 and has been the member of Parliament for Mount Albert since March 2017. She became the world’s youngest female head of government at age 37. Arden was born in Hamilton, grew up in Morrinsville and Murupara, where she attended a state school. After graduating from the University of Waikato in 2001, Ardern began her career working as a researcher in the office of Prime Minister Helen Clark and later worked in London, within the Cabinet Office.  Within a short period, she became one of the noted and respected leaders in the world and now she is in her second term as the Prime Minister of New Zealand which she won in a landslide.

Ardern describes herself as a social democrat and a progressive who is ready to serve the world. Besides the fact she’s clearly exceptionally skilled at multitasking, smart and hardworking it is worth to know for all, how she became such a successful leader in the world. 

The following thoughts (reasons) from the brains of a whole range of industry professionals, including a human rights activist, a professor, a CEO and several leadership authors and experts, would help you to understand how she succeeded as a leader.

1. Ardern roots for solidarity

The best example comes from Ardern’s actions in the Christchurch shootings. According to human rights activist Philip Baldwin, “There are many factors which demonstrate that Jacinda Ardern is a great leader, but from a human rights perspective it was her masterful handling of the Christchurch shootings which really stood out. Worldwide – from Brazil, India, Turkey, the US and the UK – we have seen the rise of nationalism and populism. Nationalist and populist rhetoric generally comes at the expense of minorities and those already disenfranchised, whether on the grounds of gender, faith, race, caste or sexuality, in these countries.”

“When faced with a white supremacist attack on New Zealand’s Muslim community, Jacinda Ardern preached social cohesion and solidarity. Following Jacinda Ardern’s lead, the people of New Zealand stood side by side with the victims of the atrocity. Demonstrating decisiveness, empathy and understanding Jacinda Ardern initiated a healing process following the shootings. She managed to bring New Zealand together at what could have been a hugely divisive moment for the country,”

2. Ardern responds to challenging world events effectively

Arden has shown here quick and effective responses at the right place. According to Claire Collins, professor of leadership at Henley Business School, “Jacinda Ardern has been New Zealand’s leader through an earthquake, terrorist attack and Covid and has come through shining, where other leaders are criticized and tarnished. Countries with female leaders have demonstrated a more effective response to COVID-19. So, she is in that group.”

3. Ardern focuses on ‘We’ not ‘I’

Leaders, quite rightly, are the heroes of the followers. They make us go where we would never go otherwise.  According to Collins, professor of leadership, “Ardern 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’.

4. Ardern appears to be genuine

A true leader has a deep understanding of his values, ambitions and objectives, and projects his true self for all to see. This self-consciousness helps leaders lead with confidence and share their passion and commitment. This authenticity helps create trust with others. It’s also critical to ensuring collaboration. According to Collins, the rhetoric is different, but the major difference I see in her is that she seems to mean everything she says. This authenticity is rare among national leaders and that is why, in my opinion, it has achieved this tremendous success.

5. Ardern is a PR center.

Public relations is the practice of managing and distributing information about an individual or organization to the public in order to influence public perception. That is critical to politics. According to Emily Garnham, founder of PR firm Tartle Media, “The fact Arden studied PR alongside politics at university. This means she’ll be acutely aware that every word is under scrutiny. However, it’s very hard to fake the tenets she does her job , which are authentic, empathy and kindness”.

6. Ardern’s approach is modern

Jacinda Ardern is such a breath of fresh air. She is more dynamic, sincere, and modern in her political behavior and approach. Garnham says “Ardern takes a thoroughly modern approach to leadership in a world where her peers still tout the old. These old habits include showing strength, never admitting mistakes, and, if backed into a corner, distracting the press with another story.”

7. Ardern is aware of her strengths, but also acknowledges her weaknesses

According to Suzanne Pool, women’s empowerment expert and the author of “Discipline”,  “From afar, Jacinda Arden appears aware of her strengths, but also in acknowledgment of her weaknesses. No-one had any idea how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. She took the advice of the epidemiologists quickly. Then, she acted decisively and seems to have done well in keeping New Zealand relatively COVID free,”

8. Ardern listens to expert advice, and acts

Suzanne furthers shares that “Acknowledging where expert advice and support is 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 – and what make Jacinda stand out. Jacinda sought knowledge from those more knowledgeable on the subject than she was. Then, she acted quickly to protect and keep her country safe. Much respect for her”.

9. Ardern acts quickly

According to Pranav Bhanot, political advisor and author of Get Me Elected. Practical Strategies, Tips and Tactics For Election Success,  “In crisis—and she’s dealt with many—Arden has shown that she has the ability to act quickly and robustly. She acts with compassion but also strength to counteract the threats New Zealand faces. Further, she maintains full control of managing the crisis, rather than delegating it to members of her team”.

10.  Ardern appears warm and down to earth

Pranav further states that “At the same time as managing any major issues, Jacinda’s managed to maintain a warm, down-to-earth and human approach to her leadership, which has clearly resonated well”.  “Leaders who look like they are in control and make electors feel safe while at the same time coming across as relatable and personable appeal to voters. Arden has struck the right balance. This has resulted in her re-election with a sweeping majority. Few global politicians have been able to strike this balance in recent years”.

11. Ardern’s created a relationship of trust

According to Dr. John Blakey, author of The Trusted Executive, global CEO coach and founder of The Trusted Executive Foundation, “In the world of politics, Jacinda Ardern is the leader who is walking the talk when it comes to relying upon the power of trust, rather than trusting in power,”

“Jacinda epitomizes the Nine Habits of Trust model. In particular, she role-models the habits of being kind, humble and consistent. She keeps herself on the same level as those she leads. She makes consistent decisions based on a clear set of values. Jacinda has a winning formula for inspiring trust from which other political leaders could learn a great deal.”

12. Ardern embraces diversity

THE CEO and the founder of   UK-based yoga franchise YogaBellies, Cheryl MacDonald says “The fact that she embraces diversity is key. She has more gay and gender-neutral people in her parliament than anywhere else in the world, which speaks volumes.”

13. Ardern is an inspiration!

Cheryl further states that “As a female leader myself, Jacinda has all the characteristics that I hope to embody in leading YogaBellies. She’s competent, while also showing a human side. She’s proving that caring about and supporting people shouldn’t hold you back, rather, empower you. I think she’s shaping the future of leadership both in politics and in business. I wish that we all had a Jacinda to lead us,”

14. Ardern is agile

According to Nicky Little, director at leadership, talent, and engagement consultancy in Cirrus, “Jacinda Ardern has many attributes of an agile leader that have proven successful in her first term and defined her character. In recent and more disruptive times, leaders must use disruptive thinking. We need to let go of much that was precious in the old world if we want to embrace the new,”

“An example of this earlier this year was Jacinda’s decision host a press conference aimed specifically at children, saying the young need extra help understanding the global coronavirus pandemic. Leaders have a fundamental role to play in understanding and creating an environment where individuals can break free from old assumptions and rethink how best to meet future challenges.”

Ardern is a role model for the modern world. A nation with leaders like Jacinda Ardern will advance to success and prosperity, bring peace and harmony to the people, to the animal as well as to the environment.

Dewondara Arachchi
Dewondara Arachchi
Social and Political Analyser, Writer

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