The news from New Zealand last week was heart-breaking. But it has shown me one thing very clearly: that some leaders don’t need an advisor to tell them what to do. A leader whose heart is connected to her brain will do the right thing naturally.
In the UK we woke up to the terrible news last Friday morning of the massacre in Christchurch. It made no sense. “How?” “Why?!” It will never make sense. But one thing has comforted me: the leadership of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Many of us in PR counsel leaders on what to say. Our advice is particularly welcome when the situation is fraught. “Remember to express your condolences.” “Make sure you say you are sorry, and promise to look into this situation thoroughly.”
Sometimes our advice has to be run past the legal team, first. Heaven forbid you express sympathy when they advise against it!
Prime Minister Ardern doesn’t need me. She doesn’t need any public relations advisors. She knows the right thing to do. Faced with a horrific and unexpected tragedy, she has responded articulately, intelligently, and with kindness. She has been decisive, compassionate, and clear. She has responded from the heart.
I believe she’s been able to do this — to communicate with intelligence and empathy — because her head is connected to her heart. Her communications since the terrible attacks in Christchurch has been heart-felt in every sense of the word.
I’m not sure you can teach someone to have a heart, or teach them to let their heart advise their head in extremis. But if you could, the world would be a much brighter place. Even when terrible things happen. Especially when terrible things happen.
What struck me quite profoundly, and what I believe has also impressed so many other people, is how unusual her behaviour is. How rare. How different from all the politicians we have become accustomed to.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful is Ardern’s way was the norm, rather than the exception? Perhaps it’s time we expected more from our politicians. Perhaps it’s time we looked past the rhetoric, the name-calling and the obfuscation, and listened for something different. Listened for evidence of . . . a heart.
Ardern is an example our leaders — both political and otherwise — would do well to emulate.
Thank you Jacinda. You’re an inspiration.