In Leadership – Part 1, I addressed what makes a good leader with, admittedly, a lack of strong real-life examples. But I did offer plenty of examples of people who have been poor leaders, drawing from the political party leaders in the UK at the time of the last general election. It pleases me to finally find an example of good leadership in our present day. I know I’m not the first to say this. All over the world, people have been marvelling at Jacinda Ardern. In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch, the New Zealand Prime Minister condemned the racist attack for what it was, acted quickly to change gun laws and showed empathy and compassion towards the victims’ families and the Muslim community as a whole.
Above all else, for me at least, she has dealt with these attacks using imagination (another criterion for a good leader) by not following the script written by other presidents and prime ministers in similar situations. She has made it a point to not utter the name of the perpetrator, thereby not giving him his celebrity, not helping to create another hero for the alt-right. Going off script, she has also used the Arabic language, albeit in small ways, at talks about the attack and at funeral services. I know from my own experiences with speaking foreign languages, even a small bit can be taken to heart and warmly received.
I’ve also been struck this past weekend by another example of good leadership, one that I haven’t seen mentioned in the press. Attending the latest march against Brexit – or in support of another referendum, depending on how you look at it – I started to think about how we managed to get here. The ‘here’ isn’t the political mess that is currently dominating British life, already making it culturally and economically poorer (sorry, I digress). The ‘here’ was the physical place, walking down the cordoned-off streets of London, along St James, Whitehall, Trafalgar, winding up at the buildings of Parliament. This ‘here’ was non-violent, at times joyful and funny. Considering the behaviours of the opposition – the hate speech and death threats, the stabbing of an MP during the referendum campaign – matching like with like would have been easy and for many justifiable. But thanks to the leadership of organisations, such as European Movement, Best for Britain and Open Britain, and a handful of politicians, some of whom have broken ranks within their own parties, over a million people in London marched peacefully.
I say all of this with some reservation. Acting peacefully might give us the moral high ground. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen from the referendum result and the goings on between Downing Street and Parliament, that doesn’t preclude gaining the support of voters or altering the behaviours of politicians. There might not be a Leadership – Part 3, but keep your eyes peeled for Morality – Part 1.