Ardern’s leadership

Post from Gezza:


A fan-girl piece by Suze Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Executive Development at Massey University:

As someone who researches and teaches leadership – and has also worked in senior public sector roles under both National and Labour-led governments – I’d argue New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is giving most Western politicians a masterclass in crisis leadership.

Imagine, if you can, what it’s like to make decisions on which the lives of tens of thousands of other people depend. If you get things wrong, or delay deciding, they die. Your decisions affect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, resulting in huge economic disruption, mass layoffs and business closures.

Imagine you must act quickly, without having complete certainty your decisions will achieve what you hope. Now imagine that turning your decisions into effective action depends on winning the support of millions of people … success or failure hinges on getting most people to choose to follow your leadership – even though it demands sudden, unsettling, unprecedented changes to their daily lives.

Three communication skills every leader needs
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker … said New Zealand had the “most decisive and strongest lockdown in the world at the moment” – and that New Zealand is “a huge standout as the only Western country that’s got an elimination goal” for Covid-19.

American professors Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield’s research into effective leadershp … highlights “direction-giving”, “meaning-making” and “empathy” as the three key things leaders must address to motivate followers to give their best.

Being a public motivator is essential – but it’s often done poorly. The Mayfields’ research shows direction-giving is typically over-used, while the other two elements are under-used.

Ardern’s response to Covid-19 uses all three approaches. In directing New Zealanders to “stay home to save lives”, she simultaneously offers meaning and purpose to what we are being asked to do. In freely acknowledging the challenges we face in staying home – from disrupted family and work lives, to people unable to attend loved ones’ funerals– she shows empathy about what is being asked of us.

The March 23 press conference announcement of New Zealand’s lockdown is a clear example of Ardern’s skilful approach, comprising a carefully crafted speech, followed by extensive time for media questions.

(In contrast, Boris Johnson pre-recorded his March 24 lockdown announcement, offering no chance for questions from the media, while framing the situation as an “instruction” from government, coupled with a strong emphasis on enforcement measures. Where Ardern blended direction, care and meaning-making, Johnson largely sought “compliance”.)

[And Trump … yesss … well … all over the place – in typical Trumpian chaorder. – Gez] )

Ardern has used daily televised briefings and regular Facebook live sessions to clearly frame the key questions and issues requiring attention. Also she has regulated distress by developing a transparent framework for decision-making – the government’s alert level framework – allowing people to make sense of what is happening and why.

Importantly, that four-level alert framework was released and explained early, two days before a full lockdown was announced, in contrast with the prevarication and sometimes confusing messages from leaders in countries such as Australia and the UK.


More …
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/120858256/coronavirus-three-reasons-why-jacinda-arderns-response-is-perfect-crisis-leadership
… … … …

This article has made me reflect on Jacinda’s leadership.

Even though I have expressed some criticisms on YNZ of what I perceive to be some oversights, unforeseen adverse consequences, & other minor failings in Jacinda’s “Go hard & go early” Covid-19 “lockdown response – overall I agree that Ardern has done a remarkably good job as the country’s leader at this time of global health emergency.

I also agree that she stands out from many other democratic country leaders in the strength & determination she has demonstrated, AND in the relative clarity & consistency of her Pandemic Response Team’s communications to businesses & the public of what the different alert levels & restrictions are (an excellent Our Plan – the four alert levels a detailed & well-laid out A3 poster-style leaflet delivered to all households, & a variety of other targeted information material, including notices for Rest Homes, for example).

Yes, there was some early confusion over policing of the lockdown (more a reflection on senior police leadership & the difficulties for them, caught on the hop, of clarifying & codifying actual vs police management’s preferred responses to situations “on the ground”, & then internally communicating up-to-date & comprehensive guidelines for front line staff, than on Jacinda).

And there were/are occasions where Jacinda’s press briefing assurances on what airport checks, self-isolation follow ups, & Covid-19 testing were being done that were just not matching what was actually happening out there in Kiwiland.

But even some of Jacinda & the coalition government’s most constant critics on this blog have noted their satisfaction at times with at least some aspects of the Pandemic Response, & of Ardern’s willingness to front for the strategy – to take the (mostly) bouquets, AND any brickbats for the government’s actions & the rather draconian restrictions now imposed on all New Zealanders & visitors, unparalleled in a century for a non-wartime situation.

One thing’s for sure; it’s a lot easier to criticise the PM than to be in the job & be the one who will be held responsible for how it all works out longer term for New Zealand, when the crisis & the emergency are over.

Some have predicted we are headed for an economic disaster. Certainly according to the economic pundits national & global economies will be facing major disruptions & a recession – perhaps even a depression – & New Zealand will no doubt find itself having to do a rejig. People have lost their jobs, although significant interim measures have been taken to encourage as many good employers as possible to keep locked down workshop workers & office staff on payrolls.

A few have even predicted the start of a new world order, as it were. The demise of Capitalism and /or the last gasp of finacialism, corporatism & the 1 %, in favour of a more inclusive, sharing society – perhaps one based around a UBI.

I dunno. Personally I doubt it. Although around the world maybe there might be an increased focus on whether it is worth implementing policies that encourage increased local manufacturing – by thinking smarter, minimising costs to remain competitive enuf with trade partners to allow small scale local production to be economically sustainable – so that future trade & economic shocks don’t leave governments too captive to overseas suppliers, without any capacity to manufacture needed goods & equipment in the event there are global shortages or supply chain disruptions?

My feeling at the moment, though, is that things will remain largely the same as they have been, with perhaps a few tweaks & improvements here & there, once the country & the workforce gets back up & running again & jobs become available. Maybe new jobs for folk who discovered new interests & marketable talents during their enforced break from their old ones?

I don’t know why, exactly, but I’m feeling quite positive about the future. Maybe it’s because this government is showing itself to be very agile? It certainly seems to be listening, adjusting, & prepared to be pragmatic. And to be now looking forward & starting to plan for the end of the crisis & the resumption of normal life & work.

And maybe also because of Ardern’s agreeing to the establishment of the Epidemic Response Committee, stacked with opposition members and chaired by the leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges, as a mechanism for holding the government AND the bureaucracy to account. From my perspective anyway the Committee has been doing a sterling job. We may end up with better politicians & senior public servants overall as a result of the functioning of this Committee.

I think I agree with something Parti said the other day. Not about a brave new world along the lines of Frank E. Warner’s dream. But that Jacinda Ardern is possibly going to be recorded very favourably in future history books. Maybe even one of our greatest PMs? Who knows – it’s very difficult to make predictions, especially about the future 😉.


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31 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  7th April 2020

    the editor of that international icon TIME Magazine must be a ‘fan’ too….Jacinda Ardern made the…cover!

    Reply
  2. david in aus

     /  7th April 2020

    Jacinda is more of a Prime Public Relations Minister. That is her greatest strength. Prime Minister is sometimes about making difficult decisions, weighing the costs and benefits and dealing with uncertainty. I wish her well for the country’s sake.

    I sense the global Left wing media is gravitating towards her since Trudeau had been disgraced. Her missteps being glossed over and the image is everything. I take these articles as versions of a Woman’s day piece.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  7th April 2020

      Bridges is the poster boy for Womens Day with exclusive photo shoots ..at home..with his young kids front and centre .
      Paula gets her photo shoots and cover s on Next…of dear they have closed now

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  7th April 2020

      Jacinda is more of a Prime Public Relations Minister

      Well that’s actually quite a good thing. Most PM’s are – or they try to be.
      It’s pretty clear by now that she learned a thing or two in gaining that Comms degree.

      If she had a team of top performers under her, capable of overseeing a tight ship in their departments’ operations, analysis & policy making, she’d be very hard to dislodge from the Beehive top office because:

      1. she has learned to go & get answers to questions about matters she knows little about
      2. she’s a mainly-female-media darling.

      She is showing during this Pandemic crisis that she IS capable of making the big girl controversial calls & of wearing the results.

      Reply
  3. …Jacinda rulez OK 🙂

    Reply
  4. Duker

     /  7th April 2020

    In Melbourne even with a sort of ‘level 3’ close down people who are stopped by police without an ‘essential reason’ are given $1600 ‘on the spot fines’ ( same as others)

    https://www.3aw.com.au/teenage-learner-driver-slapped-with-1600-fine-for-driving-with-her-mum-during-covid-19-lockdown/
    It would be inconceivable here for that level of on the spot fines as a first punishment.

    People here who have been isolated after arriving back and do go out in spite of them having ‘no essential purposes at all’ should have a considerable fine , maybe around the $400 level

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  7th April 2020

      $1600 is too much!
      It should be $750 the amount the gummint just sent out to every household.

      Reply
    • Duterte (Philippines) added to his DRUG War rhetoric ‘shoot em on sight’.. Im guessing most dont want that in Aotearoa ?
      >even tops MrTs usual drivel

      Reply
  5. oldlaker

     /  7th April 2020

    “And there were/are occasions where Jacinda’s press briefing assurances on what airport checks, self-isolation follow ups, & Covid-19 testing were being done that were just not matching what was actually happening out there in Kiwiland.”
    The mismatch is huge! I now don’t believe anything she says (and I voted for her).
    Her claims about Bauer not wanting to engage with the govt are straight out lies (as Sally Duggan from the MPA politely said yesterday).
    The media seems to have had no trouble calling out Bill English and John Key for lying but that word is never used for Ardern.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  7th April 2020

      Bauer didnt take the subsidy offered , Bauer talked about a ‘sale’ but it never got to the Beehive…probably some lower level people at the MBIE who were contacted.
      Keys lies were of things he directly knew about/signed the paperwork for . Even something like the Pike River where he spoke to the families and then later lied about what he said to them when his multiple promises and absolute assurances were made many months after the explosions.
      Thats the difference rather than minor details where the beehive doesnt have full information for every hospital in the country every day.

      Reply
  6. duperez

     /  7th April 2020

    Leadership is a field for academics to ponder and study. All very esoteric and beyond the ken of ground level it is too.

    Some see Ardern hugging a distraught person in Christchurch as enlightened leadership and other sees the same act as the antithesis of that.

    Stories of leadership and perceptions about leaders used to be spread by word of mouth. Direct observations were knitted into myth and rumour.

    Now we see and hear leaders everywhere not just those in front of us. They’re there virtually 24/7 but those viewings are fashioned by other observers into meaning. And judgement of quality.

    Like everything in life there can be scholarly work and research but it’s just opinion someone else has and how someone else thinks. Doesn’t mean it’s right.

    If you don’t like Ardern or hate her and her party she’s the least capable leader we’ve ever had. If you’re on the other side of the fence she’s the best. It ain’t science.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  7th April 2020

      Leadership is about making a plan and a team work. Key had it. Jacinda has yet to prove it. The next two weeks will be critical – do or die for her government.

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  7th April 2020

        Different people would put the different facets of leadership in the textbooks in different order of importance. Leadership being about ‘making a plan and a team work’ worded like that as a global notion would be high for some

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  7th April 2020

          Got anything better?

          Reply
          • duperez

             /  7th April 2020

            Not ‘better’ just another. Leadership is knowing what sort of leader to be at what time and being that.

            I remember as a relative youngster hearing a ‘leader’ talk about his job. He said his job was to make executive decisions. He said that he might have three executive decisions to make in a day and he might make them before he vacated the toilet first thing in the morning.

            Another guy a few years later talked about being the captain on the deck. He didn’t have to know how the engines down below worked or how to operate them, or how to cook like the chefs in the galley, or serve drinks like the workers in the bars. He had to know though that he had employed the best people at doing those things, they had the necessary to do those better than anybody else and he could trust them to perform. In some senses that is your making a plan and a team work.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  7th April 2020

              Good points…. its often only the hard decisions leaders have to make , if the others in your team all agree and have looked at the choices properly then its easy.
              One of the things PMs have to do which executives dont face is question time in parliament which has to be prepped for. There is a bigger amount of public speechs – with speech writers but it still should be something you would say .
              Above all the PM in westminister type countries isnt an executive President who can hire, fire and mostly direct the public service.
              You hear the catch phrases from all PMs ….Im advised ..Ill have to seek advice … Ill ask for a report on that … the closest to instructions is “its not my expectation’ or usually its ‘its an operational matter’

      • Duker

         /  7th April 2020

        This is a Kiwi back from overseas and her isolation’, so happy this is what is happening then ?
        ” Now she is holed up in an Auckland hotel and is part way through a 14-day isolation period.
        “It was all very organised on arrival into Auckland – we were taken off the plane ten at a time, and given health checks before we entered the customs area. I was put on a bus with police escorts, and we were let off the bus one at a time to enter the hotel. Everyone had to go through another health check with a nurse before proceeding to check-in, and the nurses visit every day to take vitals.”
        https://www.rnz.co.nz/concert/programmes/upbeat/audio/2018741248/quarantunes-flutist-hannah-darroch-improvises-in-her-hotel-room

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  7th April 2020

          Yes, better late than never. It will have to be continued indefinitely now.

          Reply
  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  7th April 2020

    Just back from dog-walking and making a few muffins and scoffed s couple with my coffee. Called into the pharmacy on the way home for my tea-tree shampoo and got a big smiley welcome from the staff after I gave them a choc block each last visit when I heard they were stressing out with abusive customers. She reckoned 80% of their customers are really angry and aggressive. The local 4Sq had a cashier in tears yesterday after being abused by a customer when she didn’t pack his “reusable” bag because they are not allowed to in case it is infected.

    I hope most of this aggro is coming from visitors rather than locals. I can understand the stress foreign tourists who can’t leave must feel. But if this is happening after 2 weeks Saint Jacinda will be in big trouble by the end of the month if there isn’t a lot more rational thinking.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  7th April 2020

      Bay of Islands rich pricks out abusing essential workers then …

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  7th April 2020

        No, I don’t think so. Some will be semi-local iwi unfortunately like the carload that drove past swearing abuse at them. Most will be out-of-towners and foreign tourists. It’s a small place so the locals all know each other and know we have to get on with each other.

        Reply
  8. David

     /  7th April 2020

    Back to the subject of your piece, after dodging Dukers posts about irrelevant events in previous administrations, we had Bill Birch this morning for goodness sake.
    I agree I think Ardern has done a very good job and her communication skills are exactly what is needed, she is clearly a genuinely kind and nice person and is showing a bit of steel when needed, she will be under enormous pressure to relax the lockdown.
    She is lucky to have a very low public debt, an efficient public service and a country that is quite resilient and small enough to share common purpose. Kiwis are just lovely, generally. Again and this is the hallmark of her administration is her cabinet and caucus are utterly crap and havent come up to speed in any noticeable fashion, when she gets through this the recovery will be a task few of her party are up to the task of.
    I give her 8/10 and will up that when she quarantines at the border. I think Bridges has risen to the occasion too.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  7th April 2020

      Yes. Good comment David, imo. If Jacinda’s poor Cabinet Minister pool should see her & her party tipped out at the next election, my bet is her next role will be in the international arena & based overseas.

      Reply
    • I tend to agree David. In the last twelve months, Ardern’s managed New Zealand through the Christchurch mosque shooting, the eruption at White Island, and now the global pandemic.

      Those are three major events that would test the best leaders in the world. But Ardern has by and large sailed through.

      But like Helen Clark, she’s surrounded by a weak team.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  7th April 2020

      Bill Birch was the minister of Health and Skegg…remember him..had last year written about how Public Health dint master as various vested interests were the only ones to be listened to by those impressive !leaders Birch and Williamson
      And yet you can’t back up the current lot comments except ‘feelz’ or Dunnos

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  7th April 2020

        Pathetic whatabouts re ministers from yesteryears don’t so anything at all to improve the current apparent widespread lack of talent & ability in Jacinda’s cabinet. She & Robertson are Labour’s saving grace.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  7th April 2020

          hard to find any inspiring talent in the Nats lineup….you’ll find.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  7th April 2020

            True. But they’re possibly not as bereft of it as Labour, in my opinion. And they have more MP’s to pick from.

            It’ll be interesting to see whether & how chairing the Epidemic Response Committee helps Bridges hone his persona & abilities. He’s been acquitting himself well there so far. But he does have a bad habit of shooting himself in the behind just when things are starting to go well for him.

            Reply

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