New Zealander Jacinda Ardern quits. Is there a lesson here for others? : NPR
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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that she would step down as leader of the country in February has shocked many of her constituents and leaders around the world.
“I’m leaving because such a privileged role comes with responsibilities,” Ardern, 42, said in his announcement Thursday local time. “The responsibility of knowing when you are the right person to lead and when you are not. I know what this job requires. And I know I don’t have enough resources left to do justice. it’s that simple.”
Jennifer Lees-Marshment, an associate professor of politics and international relations at the University of Auckland, told NPR she was surprised by Ardern’s sudden resignation.
“I didn’t expect this to happen because politicians are rarely so strategic and selfless,” she said.
It’s particularly hard to imagine a politician resigning in the United States, as Ardern did: probably re-elected and still respected around the world, according to Joshua Kurlantzick, senior researcher for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.
There’s something other world leaders should take from this moment of graceful retreat while keeping their reputations largely intact, experts tell NPR.
“If Ardern steps down before being pushed by colleagues or loses an election, leaders in other countries may wonder if they should leave as well,” Lees-Marshment said. “Most leaders are under siege due to the long-term impact of the pandemic and associated lockdowns, as well as the cost of living crisis. Historically, leaders have waited to be pushed.”
Ardern’s departure helps keep Labor afloat
At the age of 37, Ardern became the youngest female leader in the world in 2017. As a liberal politician known for her attitude and compassion, she was often quoted as a counterpart to more extreme politicians such as former US President Donald Trump and Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro.
Ardern is highly regarded worldwide. Nationally, however, she and her PvdA have suffered reputational damage in recent months. His ability to win in the next election — and that of his party — was strong, but not guaranteed, Lees-Marshment said.
Ardern was also under extra pressure as a relatively young leader.
“The pressure on prime ministers is always high, but in this age of social media, clickbait and 24/7 media cycles, Jacinda has faced a level of hatred and vitriol that in my experience is unprecedented in our country,” Helen Clark, said. the former Prime Minister of New Zealand.
By resigning, Ardern gives his party a chance to succeed, according to Lees-Marshment.
“Ardern’s resignation is not due to scandal, but there is no doubt that his personal brand is tainted,” she said. “Labor connected their brand to the leader, so it really was a brand of leadership, which was beneficial in 2017 when Ardern was a new leader and approachable, reassuring and ambitious.”
It worked again in 2020, when Ardern’s brand as prime minister was tied to his aggressive and effective crisis management of the COVID pandemic, Lees-Marshment said.
Ultimately, his decision to close New Zealand’s borders during the pandemic drew criticism in his country.
Voters have also become frustrated with the lack of “transformational change” on housing and climate change in particular that was promised in 2017, Lees-Marshment said.
Ardern has become “an electoral liability for 2023”.
Ardern’s departure is an important reminder for politicians
Some world leaders were struck by Ardern’s farewell speech, saying she had reshaped the way politicians could lead. late on the right note.
World Trade Organization Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said Ardern had set a good example for others to follow.
“Women know when to step down…their ego is lower”, Okonjo-Iweala told Bloomberg News. Ardern “set a good example” by resigning after giving his best, she added.
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tweeted: “Jacinda Ardern rewrote the rules of how world leaders should look and act, and made New Zealand’s global citizens love them more.”
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This moment can be an important reminder for many politicians of why they are in office, says Tammy Vigil, senior associate dean and associate professor of media science at Boston University.
“We don’t talk about the leadership element of public service as much as we should,” she said. “At the moment we have a lot of party fights and politicians are becoming partisan fighters instead of civil servants.”
The recent dispute over the role of Speaker of the United States House is a perfect example, Vigil noted.
Politicians are constantly pressured to raise money or think about the next election. That is not always conducive to good leadership, she says.
“The real purpose of being a politician is to lead and to govern, and to do good to others. I think this reminder was needed,” Vigil said.
Despite his earlier drop in the polls, Ardern is likely to have a very positive legacy, Lees-Marshment said.
“This includes showing how to integrate modern values into a strong leadership style, including: relatability, friendliness and community,” she said.
Part of that legacy stems from Ardern’s ability to demonstrate “feminine leadership competencies” by normalizing her roles as a mother and politician while skillfully handling multiple crises, she said.
It could give room for discussions about mental health in politics
Every pundit who spoke to NPR was struck by Ardern’s choice to mention that she no longer had the energy to take on another term. It could be a good start for other politicians to recognize how busy workplaces are on their personal lives and mental health, they said.
The support Ardern has received from other leaders can help drive this change. After Ardern made his announcement, This was tweeted by Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib“It takes courage and wisdom to make such a decision. You have shown us that leadership can be human above all else.”
In many workplaces, “the idea has emerged that mental health is a value. That’s not really the case in politics,” Kurlantzick said.
“There’s this kind of idea that politicians should keep striving as long as they can,” he said. It is possible that Ardern’s departure “will be a factor that will make other politicians question whether it has an impact on their mental health”.
Some people presented Ardern’s firing as a good time to make that conversation mainstream, Vigil said. But there will be critics who paint it as a moment of weakness, showing how hard it is to have that conversation in politics.
“We should be able to have these conversations about mental health, on all fronts, in all professions, but I think it’s challenging, especially for women, to be able to make those kinds of statements,” he said. she declared. “Women have struggled for so long to prove they can somehow run alongside men in politics. But I think it will be a while before we see this kind of conversation spread when it comes to politics.”
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