As a keynote speaker and motivational speaker working with businesses and teams throughout the world, I’m very privileged to get to hear great leaders speak and share their wisdom. At most conferences I attend, I listen more than I speak and take a great deal of notes. It is often stated that leadership is not merely a position of privilege. Leadership for me is a distinct ability to impact society with positive actions. All leaders are tested at times of crisis. There has been no greater test than the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected us.
Jacinta Ardern shines not just for her direct, clear and calm leadership but for her empathy and visible strength. Her calmness and respect shines in every interaction with the press and the public. However, her leadership style is not just pleasant but if you look at the real-time numbers of the infection rate in New Zealand and the death rates, her leadership style has clearly impacted impractical real terms.
In any crisis, people quickly forget any prejudices they might have regarding her age or her gender. What simply matters is that the country is in crisis. Faced with a challenge, a leader needs to step forward and lead. This she has done to great acclaim, and rightly so. It is very obvious that she has an educational and academic background in communications but it is also evident that she is a very personable and well-rounded individual. She has conducted formal press conferences where she’s respectful, polite to the journalists but equally so we’ve seen her at home with her family struggling with the mayhem that Covid brought to our families.
I’ve watched press conferences by Jacinta Ardern with great interest, her communication style is reassuring and direct at times. She’s clinical and deals with statistics and numbers but what is rare to hear is a world leader advise people to simply be kind to each other. I think we can never underestimate the trickle-down effect of great leaders. Their value systems and beliefs can rapidly become the norm for the millions of citizens who see them speak regularly on social media or mainstream media. What an amazing responsibility and privilege to have this transformative power over society.
Great leaders make great decisions.
The decisions that the New Zealand Prime Minister took were decisive. As early as February she banned all visitors from China coming to the country and rapidly closed the borders to international visitors. While many world leaders looked for photo opportunities and mechanisms to gradually introduce steps to fight COVID-19, the New Zealand Prime Minister took the bull by the horns at the earliest possible moment.
I think also one of her greatest talents has been to inspire team New Zealand. While we’re all familiar with the winning mindset that has allowed the All Blacks to become the dominant force in world rugby, I think the same mindset is apparent in the multiple state agencies that her leadership has inspired to work to their maximum potential.
All leaders are human!
I’m sure the New Zealand Prime Minister has moments with her partner and her family. They are filled with doubt, tears, and fear anxiety like all of us. However, this frailty is never visible to the public or to the people that she leads. I think that she exhibits a unique combination of empathy, intelligence and strength. How could you not be impressed by someone who became their country’s youngest Prime Minister at 38 years of age. Who chose to bring her young child to the United Nations. When faced with the hatred of terrorism, responded with calmness, kindness and strength that unified her country. Post COVID-19, I’m sure New Zealand like many countries will face new challenges but I’m sure a country that can produce leadership of this quality will shine through the darkness. Each occasion I have heard the New Zealand Prime Minister speak, I am reminded of my favorite all-time book Legacy by the great James Kerr. This book looks at 15 learnings that business people and leaders can take from the New Zealand rugby team.
The actions, mindset and belief of this team has allowed them to be the greatest rugby team of all time. While it is certain we will not see Jacinda Arden on the field of rugby for New Zealand, she clearly has the same mindset and attributes as those world leaders in sport. In his book, Kerr states, one of the key attributes that the All Blacks possess is responsibility. The winning all black player is not a follower, he’s a leader. He creates structure, purpose, belonging and takes personal responsibility for his action. He creates ownership and accountability which in turn develops trust. This evaluation of responsibility and its importance for winning teams is clearly manifested in this bright young Prime Minister.
An interesting concept is writing the idea that we should plant trees that we will never see for future generations. Jacinda Arden clearly understands the need to be a good ancestor for the generations of future New Zealanders who will be grateful for the foundations that she put in place. Each all black who accepts the Jersey is reminded that they must return it in better condition than they got it. It is abundantly apparent that this Prime Minister will pass on Her Jersey in a dramatically improved condition. Despite the challenges that she faced.
If you would like to hear more from Enda on leadership, resilience and overcoming challenges why not book him for your conference as a keynote speaker. www.endaodoherty.ie