For a number of years now, those that know me well have heard me go on about the lack of leadership displayed from those in political power. For over a decade now political leadership in Australia has been about one thing, Power. How do I get power and then how do I maintain it. There has been no vision, mission or strategy for the people to buy into, there’s only been this idea that you need to vote for my side because we are better than the other side. In fact if you believe the rhetoric, we have had the worst governments ever for the last 20 or 30 years. At least prior to 2007, we had leaders: agree with their ideas or not (and I certainly have views on each of these) but Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard were leaders who had a vision and the ability to take us on the journey with them. The leaders from both sides of the political divide since then have been sorely lacking in this ability.
This brings me to the topic of New Zealand, this is a little personal for me; my step father was a kiwi, my mother lives in Christchurch to this day and I have family and friends there. This does not promote bias, in fact if anything it promoted a greater sense of friendly rivalry. As much as I loved New Zealand, I always believed Australia to be the greater country (even if we didn’t show it on the Rugby Field). That is until they elected Jacinda Adern as their Prime Minister.
Forget the fact that she is the youngest female Prime Minister of NZ, forget the fact that she is the first world leader to give birth while in office (proving that it’s not just possible for women to do but that they can in fact thrive in the role), forget the fact that she had just 7 weeks to convince New Zealand to vote for her. All of these great achievements in their own right. Today though I would like to focus on what makes her, in my opinion one of the truly great leaders in the world at the moment.
Jacinda Adern has vision, she accepts that the world is changing, in climate, in economics, in technology. She understands that action is required for her country to thrive into the future. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, she announced that she would mandate that when her cabinet committed to spending any money, they would have to take into consideration the impact that the policy had on individuals, the environment, and the future. No new money could be spent without these considerations. She was able to stand on the world stage and show that New Zealand (a nation of 4.5 million people) was prepared to act and lead rather than wait to see what larger nations would do. She put in place a strategy that would see New Zealand prosper in a tumultuous time in the world, and she communicated with elegance how she was going to implement it and why people should come along on the ride.
It’s fair to say that I have been signing her praises for some time now, and then on Friday last week, in my mind she went through the stratosphere in my mind as a leader. In what she described as the darkest day in New Zealand’s history, she displayed strength, declaring that gun laws will change, she displayed courage; nobody was going to stand in her way, she displayed compassion that was genuine, you could tell that she was hurting but would not shy away from the challenge of leading her country through this period. Most impressive though, she displayed a phenomenal level of empathy for the muslim community of New Zealand. She made it absolutely clear that the people who had been slaughtered were kiwi’s, not muslims living in New Zealand but one of us. She had the emotional intelligence to engage with her people on a level that few other political leaders in the world would have been able to. It wasn’t about maintaining power, it wasn’t about appearances, it was about being there for her people in their time of need.
We have often joked in Australia that New Zealand should join Australia for their own good, now I wish that it could be the reverse so that Jacinda Adern could lead our country. There is so much to learn from this great women, who is going to be our Jacinda Adern and what will it take for them to stand up and be counted.