Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern, the 40th and current Prime Minister of New Zealand is synonymous with what leadership should be.
Why do I say that?
Well let me break it down.
The first thing is she’s not driven by convention: One of the things she initially dealt with was her perceived lack of experience. Opponents thought that because of her age, she wouldn’t be able to handle being a leader but that’s not what happened. Two months after Jacinda Ardern became the youngest-ever leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party, she became the country’s youngest Prime Minister in 150 years, and its youngest female Prime Minister ever. The whole thing was known as Jacindamania.
Another example of her not being driven by convention is how she became the first leader of a country in nearly 30 years to give birth while in office. This sparked dialogue about whether prospective female employees should inform employers about plans to have children. Some reporters were more forceful than others when asking these questions and shall we say, sexist?!
Yea... sexist that works.
Anyway, here’s her response to a reporter that was being persistent about this question after apparently not being satisfied with her first answer.
“I decided to talk about it, it was my choice…, but for other women it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. It is the woman’s decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities.”
Being a leader often means that you’ll defy convention. It requires bravery to go against the status quo and stand firm in your beliefs. You’ll almost certainly face opposition but don’t lose yourself in the process of trying to become more appealing.
Number 2. She’s a champion for inclusion and values: In one of the most heinous terrorist attacks in recent times, a white supremacist orchestrated a series of attacks that took the lives of 50 people and injured 50 others in Christchurch New Zealand. It was a low for us as a world and it highlighted how dangerous ideologies can lead to divisiveness and hate.
It was also the moment Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ascended from New Zealand’s Prime Minister to Global Leader. First of all, she called the Christchurch anti-immigrant attack what it was, “a terrorist attack.” Believe it or not, not many leaders are willing to call terrorists, terrorists.
Second of all, she chose that moment to remind the world and New Zealand that it was a time to unite and not be divisive. Her rallying cry for New Zealand and the world was “they are us” referring to the victims.
She reminded us of the power we have when we come together. While addressing the country, she said of New Zealand, “we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things—because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it.”
In a moment that was incredibly difficult and still is for many families, she stood in solidarity.
Another gesture of her championing inclusion was when she chose to wear a headscarf while visiting the families of those affected by the attacks. She didn’t have to but she did so as a sign of respect. She continued this trend as she addressed her parliament in the Arabic greeting. As-Salaam Alaikum".
Last but not least, as she addressed the crowd in Hagley Park post Christchurch. You’ll notice that she wears a Maori cloak, opens up the speech in the Maori language and continues in English while having an interpreter sign the message in New Zealand sign language.
New Zealand sign language.
The three official languages of New Zealand.
No one was left alone.
Some of you might not think that this level of cultural sensitivity matters but they do. They show that you’re more than words. They humanize people and let people feel seen, heard and understood. They prevent an ethnocentric way of looking at things or evaluating other peoples and cultures according to the standards of one's own culture.
You can tell a lot about people based on how they respond to situations. Some people shrink away and some people step up. Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern stepped up and reminded us that each of us can do so too!
She reminded us of our humanity and the importance of living our values.
We are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other. We never have been," she said, "but we can be the nation that discovers the cure".
~ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
A true leader is not driven by convention and is a champion for inclusion and values.
Till next time, use your difference to make a difference.