Even citizens who aren’t public servants have quite a few to learn from her.
Thousands of people are gushing over New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, specifically for her outstanding (and very effective!) efforts to contain and eradicate COVID-19 cases in the country.
Even in our own backyard where people have been speaking out against our government’s “slow and irrational” solutions to combat the spread of the pandemic, citizens have been looking to Jacinda Ardern for inspiration and deep inside, a hope that there truly exists an ideal person fit to lead a nation.
Mapapa sana all nalang talaga sa NZ 👏👏 https://t.co/jvTnVNr5JF
— Kurb_bohn (@Kurbohn1) June 8, 2020
— JM Reyes ✈ (@jmreyes816) June 10, 2020
If it’s the first time you’re hearing her name then you might be questioning who Jacinda Ardern is and what she has accomplished to be spoken so highly of for someone halfway across the globe.
Since being elected in March of 2017, people have noted that the NZ Labour Party Leader has gone through more crises than most world leaders do in their first 3 years in office.
Having to lead the country through a deadly volcanic eruption, a major terrorist attack, and now a pandemic, people would understand or almost expect a leader to make mistakes or unsuccessfully solve them. Jacinda in this case has proved herself to be more than just an ordinary leader for not only handling all of these sudden crises with dignity and empathy but with flying colors, all while rearing her first newborn.
Among all of those struggles, the COVID-19 pandemic is the only one that is a shared struggle among all nations but how has Jacinda’s leadership come on top? How exactly could she have done it? What qualities might she possess that we should look for in future leaders as responsible voters?
Senior Lecturer for Management and Leadership, Suze Wilson, has given us three reasons why Jacinda Ardern’s response to the global pandemic is truly a masterclass of sorts for leadership in times of crisis
Exemplary Communication Skills
American professors Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield’s research on effective leadership communication proposes a model that highlights three key communication skills every leader needs “direction-giving”, “meaning-making” and “empathy”.
These are the three key components of an issue that leaders must address to motivate members or citizens to contribute their best.
While it does not obviously spell out in any leadership job description, being a public motivator is a must for leaders so it’s saddening to see how often this vital skill is overlooked. Most public service leaders tend to overuse “direction-giving” while giving poor attention to the other components.
Taking a look at Ardern’s public address on the COVID-19 pandemic or even her public address on the mosque terrorist attacks in Christchurch, you’ll find that she utilizes all three components.
By stating that people must “stay home to save lives” she not only gives direction but offers meaning and purpose to the task at hand.
Going on to relate to the struggles of social distancing and not being able to hold funerals for those who have passed away from the virus, she offers empathy.
Allowing for the address to be conducted live also imbibes all three components as opposed to having the citizens watch a pre-recorded statement.
Transparency in the time of uncertainty
Prof. Wilson also notes the strong reflection of leadership scholar Professor Ronald Heifetz’s model of a vital characteristic of an exceptional leader which is to lead people through change.
In leading people through change, a leader must always pay attention to the grievances of the people and frame and address those issues requiring attention.
Wilson believes that Jacinda’s call to make transparent the four-level alert framework early on to the public before the full lockdown was announced, is highly note-worthy especially in contrast with sometimes confusing messages from other world leaders’ address.
Persuasion for the collective good
The research of UK Professor Keith Grint’s work sheds light on the importance of being a persuasive leader which is evident in Arden’s leadership approach.
According to Grint, “leadership involves persuading the collective to take responsibility for collective problems.” If you’ll observe Jacinda’s many efforts from constant live public briefings be it official or through social media, you’ll find that much of it is geared towards this persuasive approach. This is evident in the fact that a recent poll shows an overwhelming majority of 80% support the government’s response to the pandemic.
People have been saying the pandemic is bringing out the worst and the best of humans. It’s clear as day that Jacinda Ardern and her remarkable efforts toward containing, flattening the curve, then subsequently chopping up the curve and grinding it until the numbers have been crushed to 0 (among other achievements which you can check out below) has definitely proved that she’s the cream of every kind of crop.
At this very moment, inspired as you are by Jacinda and her meritorious ways, you might realize that having a leader such as Jacinda is quite a ways away, almost dream-like, for a Filipino citizen, but you forget that she wasn’t always a prime minister from the get-go.
She might have started just like you. A young citizen with big dreams for his/her country. As youth comes, we will, later on, grow to become the nation leaders for the future that we build and maybe Jacinda Ardern has paved the way for us to learn what it truly means to lead. For now, that is the hope we can hold on to.
What did you think about Prime Minister Jacinda’s efforts and leadership?
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