New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has suggested during a Facebook live that companies should consider a four-day-working week that could boost domestic tourism during the lockdown. This radical approach to tackling the economic crisis will only make Ardern more popular both in and outside of her turf. The statement may hit a raw nerve among Indians who are still reeling from Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy’s suggestion earlier this month, that we need to work a minimum of 60 hours per week to beat the economic slowdown brought on by the pandemic. Be it the swift and almost surgical handling of coronavirus crisis in the country, or the empathy that showed in the face of Christchurch massacre just last year, or balancing leadership with pregnancy and motherhood, this 39-year-old has worked hard to gain the backing of New Zealanders and those beyond. How many times have you looked at Jacinda on screen and just sighed deeply, wishing that your country was led by a dynamic young leader, who was bold, yet compassionate and had much clarity about what the populace needed in times of disaster or otherwise?
One of my favourite Ardern stories from her handling of the coronavirus crisis is when she declared Easter Bunny and tooth fairies as essential workers during a Facebook live.
On Tuesday, it was reported that New Zealand had recorded no positive cases of coronavirus for two days straight. In May itself, the country has registered only 19 new cases of COVID-19, with the total tally of confirmed cases standing at 1, 153 and 21 deaths so far. But to contain the spread of the pandemic, Ardern made some tough decisions, and that too very quickly. She announced a nationwide strict lockdown that included closing all schools and non-essential workplaces along with severe restrictions on travel and social gatherings, on March 23, when the number of COVID-19 cases stood at just 102. But she did it all with a smile on her face and being constantly in communication with the population of New Zealand.
One of my favourite Ardern stories from her handling of the coronavirus crisis is when she declared Easter Bunny and tooth fairies as essential workers during a Facebook live assuring children that they would go around doing their work uninterrupted. “I say to the children of New Zealand, if the Easter Bunny doesn’t make it to your household, then we have to understand that it’s a bit difficult at the moment for the bunny to perhaps get everywhere,” she added. This was just one of the many occasions when Ardern has used live streams and Q and A sessions to stay connected with people of New Zealand, instead of just going for press releases and formal addresses.
What do we seek from our leaders and what does that demand say about us? Do we want charismatic leaders, or competent ones, or both? Or the ones whom we feel understand what we need and what is good for the nation?
When you see a young working woman, a mother herself, organically speaking on the coronavirus ordeal, it becomes easier to connect with her, as compared to a barely accessible head of the state whom you see briefing you from a formal setup. While we have been associating authority and the aura of approachability while being distant as essential leadership skills, the current times demand a dose of compassionate leadership. Could the fact that Ardern has been voted as the most popular prime minister of NZ in the last one hundred years be emphasising on that?
There is a lot to learn from Ardern’s rise in popularity and the way she has handled crisis after crisis so far, for both global leaders and electorates. What do we seek from our leaders and what does that demand say about us? Do we want charismatic leaders, or competent ones, or both? Or the ones whom we feel understand what we need and what is good for the nation? Arden may not be perfect, as her critics might want to point out. But the way the rest of the world desires the kind of leadership that she has provided, shows how our priorities are shifting as we endure a global pandemic. Could a broader assessment of how world leaders faired in tackling this pandemic and the economic crisis that accompanies it change the way we vote? But the bigger question is, do we have it in us to go into that deep end of the pool and take the power of how the country is run back into our hands?
Image Credit: WikiCommons
The views expressed are the author’s own.