New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is putting the country on track for success against the coronavirus.
While every leader is reacting differently, and every leader will be judged by the results, the 39-year-old Ardern is forging a path of her own.
Her approach isn’t just resonating with her people on an emotional level. It is also working remarkably well, writes Uri Friedman.
People feel that Ardern “doesn’t preach at them; she’s standing with them,” Helen Clark, New Zealand’s prime minister from 1999 to 2008, told me. (Ardern, a fellow member of the Labour Party, got her start in politics working for Clark during her premiership.) “They may even think, Well, I don’t quite understand why [the government] did that, but I know she’s got our back. There’s a high level of trust and confidence in her because of that empathy.”
One of Ardern’s innovations has been frequent Facebook Live chats that manage to be both informal and informative. During a session conducted in late March, just as New Zealand prepared to go on lockdown, she appeared in a well-worn sweatshirt at her home (she had just put her toddler daughter to bed, she explained) to offer guidance “as we all prepare to hunker down.”
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