Jacinda Ardern: Leading by Example

As the first nation in the three-part series investigating successful leaders and Coronavirus strategies; we look into the example set by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The unforeseen, rapid development and spread of Covid-19, or Coronavirus, from December 2019 brought the world to a dramatic halt. The World Health Organisation declared the situation a pandemic on 11 March 2020 and the worsening global state has become a true test of leadership.

Who would step up, create order amongst the confusion of their citizens and inspire confidence and hope for the future? The pandemic triggered varying responses, while some world leaders initially brushed off the gravity of this virus, others quickly took control and imposed strict regulation to minimise the virus’ spread and organise testing.

One such leader is Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, whose swift response to early reports of the virus has frequently been lauded as a success story of clear leadership and strategy.

Unlike her Western counterparts, Ardern reacted as soon as increased cases of Coronavirus were reported back in January. A ban of entry was imposed on any foreigner entering from or via China from the 3 February, along with a two week quarantine on any New Zealander returning from China.

The following month brought Ardern’s strictest measures, on the 16 March anyone entering the country was expected to quarantine for two weeks. This measure was implemented significantly earlier than many European countries with the United Kingdom only setting this rule in motion on the 8 June.

A few days later, the borders to New Zealand were closed off and a complete, national lockdown was enforced on the 25 March. The country’s rigorous strategy has clearly curbed the virus with New Zealand reporting no virus cases for 102 days from the 8 June.

However, Ardern’s personal leadership qualities cannot be understated. Ardern has guided her citizens tactfully, using Facebook as a platform to upload videos, or ‘check-ins’, straight from her sofa, answering questions and advising New Zealanders with a personal touch.

It is clear that Ardern’s effective communication and successful strategy hasn’t gone amiss among her citizens. Public ratings indicate that Ardern’s Labour party is well in the lead in popularity polls compared with the opposition, New Zealand National Party.

Yet, what can other less successful countries learn from Jacinda Ardern’s methods?

Primarily, it’s to act fast and act harsh, short term restrictions can certainly lead to long-term control of the virus. It is this strategy that has also led to successful control in Taiwan, Vietnam and Iceland.

Secondly, it is important that leaders humanise themselves, that they close the gap between themselves and their citizens and create a channel of two-way communication. In this way, they will inspire trust and co-operation and increase the likelihood of public compliance.

As many countries still struggle to cope with new waves of Coronavirus infections, it is important they look to successful countries like New Zealand, not only as an example but also for hope of a future free from this virus.

For an example of one of Jacinda Arderns ‘check-ins’ see here.