With her sincere resignation, the youngest person ever elected to head a government shows us both the costs of leadership and its creative next steps.
Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, is ready to express her frustration. She remarked on Thursday, “I know what it takes to perform this job, and I know I no longer have enough in the tank to do it correctly. That’s how easy it is.”
So, after serving for 5.5 years—and eight months before the next election in New Zealand—she is resigning in February.
Many women will have little issue comprehending the 42-year-old world leader’s desire to prioritize her well-being, even though this is being reported as surprising news around the globe.
Threats against Ardern significantly tripled over three years, according to an investigation in The Guardian published seven months ago. The majority of this threat has come from two groups: gun rights extremists who despise her for passing legislation that outlawed the majority of military-style weapons and anti-vaxxers who despise her for enforcing tight COVID-19 regulations that saved lives. We all know how a certain number of men feel about a woman who refuses to submit to their misogyny, and both of her efforts have propelled her to international recognition.
Ardern acted like women typically do: 5.1 million people live in New Zealand. It is nearly half the size of Georgia and comparable to South Carolina. So how did Ardern, the youngest person ever chosen to head a government, come to be so well-known? When she was elected in 2017, she was 37. She became only the second elected world leader to give birth while in office the following year.
Early on and frequently, the effectiveness of Ardern’s leadership was put to the test.
On March 15, 2019, a lone shooter opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, while people were attending Friday prayers. As he streamed the shooting live on Facebook, he killed 51 Muslims. Arden arrived, as women typically do. She hugged and comforted bereaved survivors while wearing a headscarf over her hair. She also accomplished what most American women want: less than a month after the tragedy, she oversaw legislation that changed the country’s gun laws, effectively outlawing almost all semi-automatic weapons with military styling. There was only one parliamentarian who voted against it.
Ardern stressed that the actions announced today were not motivated or intended for gun owners who had lawful reasons for possessing their weapons. “On behalf of all New Zealanders, our measures are intended to ensure that this never occurs again.”
When Sandy Hook happened six years ago, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez correctly noted on Twitter, “We can’t even convince the Senate to have a vote on universal background checks. After the Christchurch tragedy, New Zealand moved to remove military weapons from the consumer market.” This is how a leader behaves.
The pandemic began a year later. Ardern swiftly locked down her nation’s borders and imposed stringent quarantine guidelines for returning New Zealanders. Following lockdowns, she kept infection rates remarkably low, winning plaudits from all across the world and a reelection victory.
Life itself was the “true motive.” It’s difficult to imagine that her intense competition alone is forcing her out of a difficult reelection race, given that she faced a challenging opponent. She is conscious of our questions. “I am aware that the so-called “true reason” for this decision will be hotly debated in the days and weeks to come. I can assure you that what I’m offering today is the real deal. You will only discover that I am human after enduring significant hardships for the past six years, which is the only intriguing aspect. Politicians are fallible people. For as long as we can, we give everything we have, but eventually, it must come to an end. And for me, the time has come.
I’m reminded of the day in November last year when Ardern was on stage with Sanna Marin, the prime minister of Finland, and a male reporter inquired as to whether the two had met because they were “similar in age and, you know, got a lot of common stuff there,” whether they had met or not. Although he didn’t propose a route to “there,” we all understood what he meant. They were just two women talking about the news and their upcoming manicure and pedicures.
None of that was acceptable to Ardern. “My first query is whether or not anyone has ever questioned whether Barack Obama and John Key met because they were roughly the same age. Of course, there are more men in politics than women. It’s the truth. Other than being female, there are other reasons why two women might meet.
Ardern remarked this week that she aimed for a legacy as “someone who always tried to be nice” and enumerated her most significant accomplishments.
“I want New Zealanders to believe that you can be nice yet tough, sympathetic but decisive, and upbeat but determined. Additionally, you might be a leader who understands when to leave on your terms.
Anyone skilled in the art of kindness is aware of both its potential and its limitations. This is a significant legacy, especially for ladies and the young girls who are observing.
Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, resigned. That says something about privilege and exhaustion.
Regarding the threats of violence, she remained silent. Good. I can appreciate the desire to deny the haters that advantage. True leaders react to crises rather than causing them. She is now demonstrating to us both the cost of that leadership and its motivation for future actions in real time.