Real leaders lead from the heart: how we can all learn from New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern

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.

PR in a ‘DIY’ age

With the advent of social media, we are living in a “DIY” age when it comes to corporate communications. With dozens of platforms, instant access and suites of tools to automate previously complex communications tasks, everybody and their kid are “doing” PR these days.

Which is great in some ways, but not so good in others.

So many platforms, so little time

With so many platforms and so many tools at their disposal, the average business owner is likely to be overwhelmed. Worse, they may be spending hours each week in ad hoc posting across a number of social media sites, without any formal plan to make the most of their activities or leverage the time they are investing.

During the past five years in particular, we have seen the ascension of Twitter, Facebook, and most recently Instagram. Even the old-fashioned [relatively speaking] LinkedIn has become “Facebook-ified”, with ‘inspirational’ messages transposed over landscape photos supplanting what would previously have been a bit of news about one’s business.

People are turning to social media as their first point of reference for news of all kinds. This includes your clients and customers, as well as your teams.

And the volume of materials posted is growing exponentially. It’s literally impossible to keep up.

Set priorities and hand-off

So what is a business owner to do? Unless you have a great interest in social media and plenty of time, my advice would be to outsource your social media to a firm that can manage it as one component of your overall communications programme.

I say “communications programme” advisedly. Because while social media has become paramount to many, it remains just one branch of something bigger. That something is a coordinated communications strategy encompassing public relations and marketing.

Working with a team to set goals for your communications, develop campaigns, and plan tactics is a great way to ensure that you manage your social media — and all your other media — rather than it managing you.

And that is a great starting point for any business to succeed. Even in a DIY age.