Jacinda Ardern Leadership Style & Principles
What is the leadership style of the famous Prime Minister of New-Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, and what about its core principles? How does she lead his country day in day out with authenticity and efficiency? How can we define her leadership style? What can we learn from her leadership principles?
As Jacinda Ardern continuously makes the headlines for being one of the best world leaders of our times, her strong set of leadership skills can be attributed to her success.
WarningMany leaders claim to talk the talk but don’t exactly walk the walk when it comes to soft skills, but Jacinda Ardern has proven time and time again that she is applying them in her daily life.
The key ingredient to her popularity and effectiveness is her powerful authenticity.
Her coolness under pressure, self-discipline and the decisiveness of her response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led some to call Jacinda Ardern the most effective national leader in the world.
Some have described Jacinda Ardern’s leadership as pitch perfect, but I believe the opposite to be true. She leads from the heart.
It’s that fact that she hasn’t been perfectly polished, cautiously scripted and calculated in her responses that has been her true strength. She is not some mythological creature, she is human, and she has lead with humanity and humbleness.
Regardless of whether you are a current leader within your business or an aspiring leader, we can all learn from Jacinda Ardern’s style of leadership.
As business leaders we are unlikely to ever confront the magnitude of the crisis that faced the New Zealand’s Prime Minister, however we lead our teams through growth, change and conflict every day. So what can we learn from Jacinda Ardern’s leadership style and actions, that would make us better leaders? Let’s find out!
She Follows Her Own Compass
To move your team through a crisis, staff need to have an expectation that you are moving towards something. Even in the face of adversity, people can move forward if they are provided with a call to action they can believe in.
Show staff where you are going and why. Help them to understand what their part is in helping you get there.
In amongst the grief and confusion, Jacinda Ardern has helped her people understand how they can be stronger and taken action to prevent this from happening again.
Success or failure in navigating extreme situations rests on the shoulders of leaders.
It hinges on their ability to effectively lead teams in getting them to choose to follow their leadership, despite it potentially demanding sudden, unprecedented and difficult changes to their daily lives.
Leaders take responsibility for their actions, for their team and business. This means celebrating the successes but also recognizing and acknowledging any mistakes, being able to take ownership in such a situation and be clear with communications and outcomes flowing on from this.
Jacinda Ardern always appears to be genuine and authentic.
Her rhetoric is different, but the really big difference is that she seems to actually mean everything she says. That authenticity is rare in leaders and that is why she has achieved her huge success.
Authentic leaders like Jacinda Ardern cultivate open and honest relationships through active self-disclosure.
WarningDropping one’s guard and letting people in isn’t always easy, especially in the workplace. Yet only when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in front of another person can they open up to us in return.
She Builds Trust & Respect
Trust is not something you gain overnight. It was Jacinda Ardern’s valued-based, humble and humanistic approach to leadership that saw her gain the trust of the nation. So much so that only two months after becoming the leader of her party, she became the country’s youngest female Prime Minister ever.
As a leader, being open and transparent to your teams helps them feel more informed about the situation at hand and also more reassured.
WarningIn a time of uncertainty, false information and rumors that spread within the workforce only further intensify the anxiety around the situation. Through transparent updates, you can ease these worries by instantly and consistently sharing information to staff relating business changes and more directly from the management team.
We’ve all seen it. In the absence of information, people create it, often in a way that is lacking in objectivity. Your control will be the voice they will look to and trust.
You don’t have to have all the answers right away, but providing information regularly, using real language will reduce the likelihood of rumours and provides a sense that trust. If your staff can understand what is going on, they feel safer and more in control.
Jacinda Ardern 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 Ardern has a winning formula for inspiring trust from which other political leaders could learn a great deal.
Jacinda Ardern has worked hard to deliver on her promises and kept true to her values. Nothing speaks more loudly than when a leader’s actions reflect their words.
WarningHow a message is delivered matters. Jacinda Ardern’s communication about the pandemic was clear, honest, and compassionate: It acknowledged the daily sacrifices to come and inspired people to forge ahead in bearing them together.
Leading with love and not hate has been a key message from Jacinda Ardern following the Christchurch shootings, her responses appropriately emotive and caring.
People have been led with hope amongst the sadness, with swift and decisive action from a confident and constructive leader whose affirmation and assured stance based on love, empathy and togetherness has inspired the world.
She Roots For Unity
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.
When faced with such an atrocity, 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.
Support for such an authentic leadership approach isn’t unanimous.
WarningBut recent research reveals the power of authenticity to unite people behind a collective cause. Relationships built on mutual trust and shared values are the key.
One of the effective ways Jacinda Ardern has been communicating with the country is through tools that are accessible to everyone: Facebook Live chats. With 60% of New Zealand’s population being active Facebook users, this is clearly a familiar platform that citizens are already using in their day to day life and would feel familiar to them.
Demonstrating unity as a leader is an effective way to connect with people as it shows you truly care for their well-being while inspiring them to think of others.
Jacinda Ardern displayed her deep levels of solidarity by wearing a hijab when she offered her heartfelt condolences to the people affected by the shootings tragedy. She later addressed parliament with the Arabic greeting, “As-Salaam Alaikum” and spoke of her desire for peace and unity when she said, “New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.”
Watching her acceptance speech, it is clear that she embraces leadership differently from most of her international counterparts. 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
She Makes Decisions Fast
In crisis—and she’s dealt with many— Jacinda Ardern has shown that she has the ability to act quickly and robustly. Jacinda Ardern has many attributes of an agile leader that have proven successful in her first term and defined her character.
Leaders who look like they are in control and make people feel safe while at the same time coming across as relatable and personable appeal to followers and voters.
Jacinda Ardern 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.
The ability to be agile in difficult situations is what makes a leader stand out from the rest.
Most recently, Jacinda Ardern proved her agility once again when New Zealand reported four new cases after being free from the virus for 101 days. She swiftly placed Auckland on a second lockdown and made face masks mandatory on all public transport across the country to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
Compared to other world leaders, Jacinda Ardern placed public health above economic and political gain, even delaying the country’s general election by a month to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
Purpose driven communication involves creating a clear link to an organizational goal, making clear the benefit of achieving of it, and the reasoning behind it.
Throughout media briefings, Jacinda Ardern continuously reiterates how any steps they’re taking is with intent to eliminate the virus from New Zealand, firmly establishing a purpose.
Jacinda Ardern introduced strict social restrictions very early in the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, and since then has effectively implemented measures to test, trace, and isolate those who are showing signs of the virus.
WarningBut what truly stands out is how she is communicating with her country—particularly using emotion to connect and resonate with the people. In turn, she has received 80% public approval, according to a survey conducted by New Zealand market research agency Colmar Brunton, showing the country’s high level of trust and confidence in her.
She Leads With Empathy
As a leader it is sometimes hard to care. People let us down. It’s easier to make the hard decisions if we don’t care too much about the people who are impacted.
Demonstrating empathy as a leader is an effective way to connect with people as it shows you truly care for their well-being while inspiring them to think of others.
WarningHow can we ask people to trust and follow us, if we don’t demonstrate that we care about them? When a volcano eruption devastated White Island, killing 27, Jacinda Ardern was giving a compassionate speech that also addressed the country on the situation, resources, and plans.
Unfortunately society still considers outward displays of emotion and empathy as a female trait and not something we should do if we want to be seen as a strong leadership. In the past critics have told Jacinda Ardern that her openness and empathy make her a weaker leader. I would defy anyone who now does not see Jacinda Ardern as a powerful world leader, regardless of her gender.
Jacinda Ardern’s leadership style has been described as empathic while remaining clear and concise with what she wants to address.
She has been seen hosting her Facebook Live chats in casual home attire, minimal makeup, and speaking in casual, digestible language — though being sure to stay on topic and remain informative. This has helped her be much more approachable and relatable to New Zealanders, equalizing them all in the conversation as she stands with them during a time of crisis.
In the same way, Meaning-making involves making it clear to every individual in an audience what your message means for them. They link how that person’s direct actions have an influence on the purpose.
By using the phrase “stay home to save lives” she simultaneously derives the meaning in the practical things she is asking of New Zealanders, and the purpose of why they’re doing it.
She Embraces Diversity
The fact that Jacinda Ardern embraces diversity is key. She has more gay and gender-neutral people in her parliament than anywhere else in the world, which speaks volumes.
Two weeks after Labour’s landslide election win, Jacinda Ardern announced a ministry that is more diverse than any seen before in New Zealand.
WarningOf those inside cabinet, 40% are women, 25% are Māori (two in five of those are women), 15% are Pasifika (two in three are women), and 15% are LGBT — one of whom is Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.
Jacinda Ardern shows us what is possible when a political leader is brave and open-minded and generous.
Watching Jacinda Ardern act with integrity and authenticity and compassion has been powerful to behold not just because it’s what her nation so desperately needs, but because it proves to us that there is another option. There is another way to lead.
If you cannot justify a decision when challenged, then perhaps you should think again. Challenge comes from diversity. The problem with most leaders is they select people like themselves, with similar blind spots, and hence they remain unchallenged, after all they have become successful so surely those around them need their same qualities to succeed as a leader?
To win and succeed you need diversity and inclusivity.
Seeking opinion and perspective, talking things through, because we are all different, this allows us to arrive at a decision that we can fully justify. As a business leader, it is really important to have a diverse team around you to challenge you.
Do you want to be a leader that looks back in time and say that you were on the wrong side of the argument when the world was crying out for a solution?
WarningSurround yourself with a diverse team, one that covers all the bases in terms of knowledge, intelligence, background and beliefs. One that will challenge you into making better decisions, one that will enable you to cover all the consequences of any decision and one which will enable you to have thought through every scenario.
She Knows Herself
From afar, Jacinda Ardern appears aware of her strengths, but also in acknowledgment of her weaknesses. No-one had any idea how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic but she acted decisively and seems to have done well in keeping New Zealand relatively COVID free.
Before we can lead others, we must first lead ourselves. Great leaders manifest the Ancient Greek maxim to know thyself.
They know what truly matters to them, and their own strengths and weaknesses. Our values are often hidden assumptions; revealing them requires an active and honest process of personal reflection.
Authentic leaders are aware of their own biases and strive to see things from multiple viewpoints.
WarningWe cannot know all sides to an issue and must work to understand and respect others’ perspectives before forming opinions or making decisions. Acting in the best interests of the collective requires a lucid and compassionate understanding of how our actions affect other people.
Human-first leadership is knowing that you’re not always right, and having the humility and courage to hear what’s being said. You can’t possibly have all the answers or have all the right insights, and it’s through hearing what others are saying that you flesh out your understanding and might just get a wholly fresh idea.
Women, especially women in leadership roles, appear to be more risk-averse than men. That’s why they make better decisions.
The research on that is far from settled, but society certainly thinks that women are more risk-averse, and so female leaders find it easier to champion and communicate cautious policies. Being macho is a liability.
If you’re in a leadership position and find yourself trying hard to be seen as a leader, you’re doing it wrong.
But when you see Jacinda Ardern in action, it’s almost effortless. She smiles and laughs easily. She talks frankly and openly. She knows who she is, and doesn’t need to pretend to be anything or anyone else.
Jacinda Ardern’s unprecedented popularity mirrors her results. When we see such an authentic leadership, we know instinctively that we prefer it.
Is Jacinda Ardern a perfect leader? No. Her time in office has seen missteps and errors in judgement like the rest of us. No leader is perfect, that is part of being human.
What Jacinda Ardern has done is guided her country and her people through its worst crisis, in a way that is compassionate, inclusive and healing. And in doing so, she has showed the rest of us how to do the same.
Jacinda Ardern’s effective leadership illustrates how leaders are most likely to engage and motivate people to a shared goal by engaging purpose-driven, meaning-making and empathetic messaging.
WarningWe will undoubtedly face significant challenges as leaders. However, the learnings we can take from Jacinda Ardern’s masterclass suggests a framework for us to lead our own boats through crisis.
Jacinda Ardern’s authentic and empathetic leadership style is rightly lauded, but the strength of character she shows by revealing weakness, and taking decisive action, is what sets her apart from the rest.
What’s apparent in the outpouring of love and support that Jacinda Ardern has received from around the world, is that our understanding of what makes a powerful and effective leader is changing.
Beyond the shores of her country, Jacinda Ardern has inspired people around the world to believe in a style of leadership that relies on efficiency, measured action and kindness to uplift nations.
As New Zealand’s third female prime minister, she also proved that women are just as capable of leading a nation as men, shattering age-old stereotypes.
Authentic leaders like Jacinda Ardern have the courage to stand up and act on their values, rather than bending to social norms. Doing what you feel is right is rarely easy, especially when lives are on the line, but that’s when it matters the most. Share your thoughts in the comments section below if you appreciated this article!