Photo of Jacinda Ardern
Photo: Nevada Halbert.
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Jacinda Ardern’s premiership in New Zealand is coming to an end after six years of leadership which put community first. It will be hard to forget the success of Ardern’s political brand of empathetic governance. Her career has demonstrated a necessary change in the way we understand political leadership at the global level by emphasizing the importance of compassion.

Ardern always knew that compassion was central when it came to leading people through uneasy times. With divided nations across the world, Ardern showed that compassion is the new courage; it is necessary for building trust, cooperation, and peace.

After the Christchurch shootings in 2019, Ardern swiftly banned most semiautomatic weapons — a move which highlighted her commitment to preventing more incidents of hate. Likewise, Ardern led one of the strongest responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, upholding her promise to put people’s lives first. She built her relationships with New Zealand citizens on trust, frequently sympathizing with how they felt during the pandemic. Jacinda Ardern knew that in dire situations, looking out for the collective was going to save more lives than protecting individualism. 

Furthermore, when Ardern admitted burnout to being a cause of her resignation, she demonstrated that bravery is about confronting all challenges, even the ones that may seem less important to the world — like mental health.

Although we tend to praise political leaders for being unstoppable forces of action, at the end of the day, they’re human. And when humans are in overdrive, they are not well-positioned to make the best decisions. Being a political leader comes with a responsibility to the people, but as human beings, we also have a responsibility to care for our own well-being.

During Ardern’s public resignation, she stated, “The only interesting angle that you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges, I am human. Politicians are human.” Her statement reflects the same emotional intelligence she used to lead her country over the last six years. She put an end to her premiership by showing compassion for New Zealanders, admitting that she wouldn’t be able to lead with the same integrity that she started with. 

In order to to create better systems of governance, ones that truly understand people’s needs, we must place emphasis on the kind of empathetic leadership that Ardern illustrated during her time as prime minister. Although Ardern has stepped down, political leaders moving forward will have to step up to the model of leadership that she’s trail-blazed — one that centers around honesty, empathy, and humility. 


  • Grace is a second-year political science student joining the Fulcrum for the 2022-23 publishing year. She has experience in public service, and has volunteered in advocacy campaigns and grassroots initiatives uplifting youth and women. She is passionate about the arts, community organizing, and politics. When she’s not studying or working, you can find her reading or rewatching Seinfeld episodes.