The world needs more leaders like Jacinda Ardern

Her win is a victory for competence over populism, and it inspires renewed hope at a time of crisis

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime minister, waves as she arrives at an election night event at Auckland Town Hall in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. Ardern swept to an emphatic victory in New Zealand’s general election and said she would use her mandate to rebuild an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic and tackle social inequality. Photographer: Mark Coote/Bloomberg
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Last weekend, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a landslide victory in her country’s general elections. At a time when politics have become increasingly polarised, and populism continues to rise, Mrs Ardern has led by example. She has declined to indulge in divisive rhetoric and delivered on most of her promises. Her tenure at the helm of New Zealand’s politics has been a refreshing model for many around the world, demonstrating leadership centred on empathy and effectiveness.

Ms Ardern has overcome many challenges since she first took office in 2017. Only 37 years old when she was elected Prime Minister, she swiftly became a stateswoman capable of keeping her country united and strong even as New Zealand faced multiple crises over the years.

She shielded Kiwis from the worst ravages of the coronavirus pandemic by implementing a strict lockdown early on to spot Covid-19 clusters and isolate new cases of the virus. As a result, New Zealand has recorded a remarkably low number of infections, and only 25 deaths. Earlier this month, the country declared that community transmission of the coronavirus had been eliminated for a second time. No new cases have emerged in more than a month.

Last year, the New Zealand town of Christchurch made international headlines when a white supremacist opened fire in a mosque during prayer time, killing 51 Muslim worshippers. Ms Ardern displayed empathy and compassion, while taking swift and decisive action. These signature traits have since been recognised as her greatest strengths. Wearing a veil and modest clothing, she comforted and hugged the families of the victims and welcomed people to her country independent of their religious beliefs. Since that moment, she has used tolerance and humanity to bring people together. She has united a nation traumatised by a hateful, violent crime, and defended diversity when it came under attack. At the same time, she ensured that her government took swift action for stricter gun control rules.

Last December, a volcano erupted at White Island, a remote island off the coast of New Zealand, killing 21 people and leaving dozens more covered in burns. Ms Ardern consoled the people who were affected by the disaster and stood by Kiwis at a difficult time.

Jacinda Ardern's win is a victory for competence over populism, and it inspires renewed hope at a time of crisis.

In the long term, she won people’s confidence by doing her job efficiently and with compassion, coming close to securing an absolute majority for her party, which won a little more than 49 per cent of the vote.

Beyond the shores of her country, Ms 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, and its most popular premier, she also proved that women are just as capable of leading a nation as men, shattering age-old stereotypes. Her win is a victory for competence over populism, and it inspires renewed hope at a time of crisis.