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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Executive Insider

Jacinda Ardern’s Soft Leadership Strategy to Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Several countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, and New Zealand have taken timely initiatives to stop COVID-19 pandemic from spreading. In this regard, we will discuss New Zealand for combating the coronavirus successfully under the leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Crises are the unpredicted and unpleasant chronology of events that come in battalions. Leaders must have a unique mindset, toolset, and skillset to overcome crises and the method of handling crises effectively is known as crisis management. Crises occur for individuals and organizations. If handled effectively, crises bring out the best in the individuals thus unlocking their hidden potential.

When nations around the world were struggling to flatten the curve, New Zealand wiped out the virus completely. There are several lessons the world must learn from it. Here are some of them. New Zealand is relatively isolated with a low density of population. It has a coherent public health system. People are disciplined. They are asked to stay at home unless it is essential to go out. Borders are shut and swimming at the beach is banned. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern consulted health officials and took early and bold decisions. Her crisis leadership demonstrates Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield’s research into effective leadership communication involving direction-giving, meaning-making, and empathy. Jacinda Ardern leveraged technology and communicated with her people about the strict lockdown measures that have been paired with isolation, quarantines, widespread testing for anyone who is suspected of being exposed, and contact tracing. Once a case is identified, that person’s close contacts are tracked down and required to self-isolate.

New Zealand’s Soft Leadership Strategy to Combat the COVID-19

New Zealand’s winning the battle against Coronavirus becomes a case study on crisis leadership. New Zealand went into lockdown before the UK, despite recording far fewer cases at the time and having zero recorded deaths. It moved hard decisively, acted early, and enforced a four-week lockdown to combat the virus. It traced and tested. It adopted a 4-Level Alert System where Level 1 is preparing, Level 2 is reducing, Level 3 is restricting, and Level 4 is locking down. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle, but we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.” New Zealand relied on science and delivering discernable messages.

Leadership Lessons from Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is an unparalleled leader who stood out from other global leaders during the coronavirus crisis. She did not indulge in accusations and blame-game. She is part of the solution, not the problem. She communicated and gave directions clearly. She empathized with others. She is a team leader who carried all stakeholders. She led her people by walking her talk, consulting with all stakeholders, and communicating with people to come out of this pandemic successfully. She adopted a soft leadership style that emphasizes people-orientation without compromising task-orientation. Soft leadership can be defined as the process of setting goals; influencing people through persuasion; building strong teams; negotiating them with a win-win attitude; respecting their failures; handholding them; motivating them constantly; aligning their energies and efforts; recognizing and appreciating their contribution in accomplishing organizational goals and objectives with an emphasis on soft skills. It is based on the right mindset, skillset, and toolset. There are 11 Cs that constitute soft leadership. They are character, charisma, conscience, conviction, courage, communication, compassion, commitment, consistency, consideration, and contribution. Succinctly, Jacinda Ardern’s leadership symbolizes humility, humanity, and hope.

The real leaders emerge during the crisis. During peacetime, anyone can lead the helm but it requires extraordinary courage to lead during turbulent times. In the current COVID-19 crisis, humans are grappling with how to replace fear with hope, be realistic and optimistic, and react to today’s constraints and envision tomorrow’s ideals. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern emerged as the real leader globally with her vision to predict the damage, mission to combat the virus despite several constraints, and passion to serve her people with empathy. She is a courageous leader who articulates her messages effectively. She is an optimist, a decisive leader, and an inspiring speaker. To conclude, learn lessons from New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to lead from the front during the crisis.


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Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.
Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants India. He is an International Leadership Guru with thirty-nine years of experience and the author of forty-eight books including the award-winning See the Light in You: Acquire Spiritual Powers to Achieve Mindfulness, Wellness, Happiness, and Success (Waterside Productions). He is a C-Suite advisor and a sought-after keynote speaker globally. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030. Most of his work is available on his blog. Professor M.S. Rao is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.