Jacinda Ardern with husband Clarke and baby Neve.
At just 40, Jacinda Ardern is one of the youngest leaders in the world and New Zealand's youngest prime minister in more than a century. She is also only the second female world leader to ever give birth while in office. Equally impressive has been her approach in successfully dealing with issues ranging from Covid 19 to domestic terrorism using a perfect combination of toughness, kindness, science & facts, communication and consensus, which has given her a resounding mandate in the recent election.
New Zealand, under the leadership of Jacinda Ardern, stands almost alone as having all but eradicated community transmission of Covid 19. While the coronavirus rages in the US and Europe, New Zealand has become something of a parallel universe where lockdowns, masks and social distancing are no longer necessary.
From the onset of the pandemic, Ardern's actions were swift, decisive and compassionate. She took the whole country with her without the bickering and partisanship found in other democratic countries. "We must go hard and we must go early," was her message. When New Zealand had only 100 confirmed cases and no deaths, it closed its borders to foreign travelers and made people coming home quarantine for 14 days.
Then 10 days later, it introduced full lockdown measures, which were strict by international standards. Only grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals and gas stations could stay open, vehicle travel was restricted, and social interaction was limited to within households. Shortly before the strict lockdown, the government sent emergency text messages to residents. "This is a message for all of New Zealand. We are depending on you," it read. "Where you stay tonight is where you must stay from now on ... it is likely [the strictest] measures will stay in place for a number of weeks."
As the situation progressed, Ardern was clear about the approach she wanted to take in the COVID-19 fight. "We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved: elimination of the virus," she told the nation.
Then the country ramped up its testing capacity with the result that it had one of the highest testing rates per capita in the world. The lockdown combined with testing meant that carriers of the virus were easily identified and isolated, and contact tracers were able to work effectively and efficiently.
New Zealand's government was following the best guidelines for dealing with a new virus. "The cornerstone of a pandemic response for every country must be to find, test, isolate, and care for every case, and to trace and quarantine every contact," according to health experts. To date, New Zealand has had fewer deaths and infections per capita and the economy has been able to get back to normal much earlier.
Back in 2019, Jacinda's Ardern's response to the Christchurch mosque attack was equally admired by the world as it had felt honest and sincere. Compassionate but composed, from the first few hours she sought to place herself on the side of the victims and their families. Wearing a hijab as a sign of respect may seem a simple gesture, but it resonated with the relatives and friends still lost in grief.
So too were phrases she deliberately used after the attack - "we are one, they are us" - which were then written on countless cards and posters alongside all the bouquets of flowers delivered at the attack site.
Surely, Jacinda Ardern proves strong leadership goes hand in hand with consensus, kindness and compassion, supported with an effective communications strategy. Being tough and strong is just one side of the leadership coin whether you are leading a country, a team or a business.