What Happens When Women Lead With Empathy And Kindness
‘It takes courage and strength to be empathetic. And I am very proudly an empathetic, compassionately-driven politician’, said Jacinda Arden to the BBC in November 2018.
Today her words ring true in her conduct over the recent Christchurch killings that have shaken her nation and the world.
A gunman chose to open fire on a particular group of people in their place of worship on a lazy Friday afternoon. His live footage was viewed across the globe after the attack. Yet, Jacinda Arden put a strong message out when she said that she will never mention his name and deny him the ‘notoriety’ that he sought. Instead, she urged her nation to ‘speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them’.
She clearly stated emphasis on ‘they are us’ has set the narrative and tone for New Zealand’s stunned astonishment. Her kindness and empathy towards the relatives of those who have lost their lives, has taken the global world by an impressive surprise.
Surprise because it has been hard to imagine a world leader manifesting inclusivity and love in such measure, allowing and becoming one with her people in grieving and yet managing to not be a walkover. This is a refreshing moral stand that people across the world have hoped from their leaders yet never seriously imagined to come true.
A Leader With A Difference
A leader needs to be tough and the rhetoric that resonates in the politics of the world today is largely one that of ‘an eye for an eye’. We have seen curbs on migrations, bans on head scarfs and a growing resistance towards various sections and communities of society. However, Jacinda Arden has been able to rise above the pettiness of politics to embrace the larger truth of humanity. She has shown the world, that inclusivity and empathy work in better measure than discrimination and hate.
Clad in a black headscarf with a sombre pained expression on her face, Jacinda Arden’s this one photograph has become the beacon of hope and dignity. Her gesture of sharing the pain of her people as her own and condemning the attacker as a terrorist, criminal and extremist has chalked in distinct clarity the wrong from the right.
Why Empathy Works?
How often have we seen backlashes when a community is targeted? At least we in India need not look too far. Violence fueled by political gains that work on a cause and effect principle is not new for most of the world either. Anger vents more anger, where one community gets back at the other to only proportionately spread more hatred and violence. But it takes great courage and absolute clarity in thought to be able to see beyond the immediate yet not ignore it. Jacinda Arden has in the last week become a woman of reckoning as the leader of her nation, guiding it to be kind instead of hate, to include the Muslim community as her nation’s very own and to tell the grieving that she walks with them in the darkest hour of her country.
She has been seen hugging and consoling the grieving and that perhaps has been her most defining moment. Her genuine grief and concern have led the way in a collective response of love and inclusivity by her entire country. There are bunches of flowers outside mosques, an outpouring of donations and condolences books signed.
New Zealand as a whole is grieving together, setting an example for the world to follow. There are no hate speeches, no dissection of the attacker’s backgrounds and no sense of insecurity.
Empathy and kindness thus have managed to heal better, to cement stronger the bonds of humanity and to stop the further acceleration of discrimination and violence – that is the power of empathy, of sensitivity and goodwill.
Because she is a woman…
Does Jacinda Arden’s compassionate outlook stem from her being a woman? Is she an answer because she stands in contrast to the strong-tough stance dominated by her male counterparts? It is hard to pin it to just that, though it does make a case to analyze the role of women in politics and leadership positions.
A rule of generalization, of course, does not work but according to the UN report, only 18.3% of government ministers were women as of 2017. One hence cannot help thinking if more women leaders would make the world a better place.
Jacinda Arden’s approach and her moral stand have been appreciated and awed by most. But it is not just her softness and solicitude that is winning hearts.
It is also her resolve to call a terrorist a terrorist without blinking an eye. It is her quick recognition of the problem in policy and action to correct the gun laws of her country. In fact, less than a week from the attacks, she has announced that New Zealand will ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons, as well as, assault rifles. It is also her steadfast belief to acknowledge differences and embrace them rather than use them to divide. And this has brought to the forefront the basic tenants of common sense ruling that the world has seen rarely for a very long time.
Are women in a better position to follow these ideals? Are they more equipped to feel and demonstrate a sense of kindness?
I would like to think so. Yet the solution is not just the want of more women leaders. It is the want of more compassionate, level-headed women who are nurtured with a deep sense of purpose, concern, and values. It is maybe time for the many male leaders of the world to take a cue from Jacinda Arden’s approach. She won more accolades for her precise thinking by replying to Trump on what he could do, ‘Sympathy and love for all Muslim communities’.
Yes, she is a woman who understands the insecurities of the world and advised the leader of the most influential nation to correct it.
The Ongoing Battle
The battle is not over! We need more women like Jacinda Arden to lead our countries. We need more like her because she has also redefined with simple actions what a balanced and progressive society should be.
She is the youngest leader of her nation in the last 150 years and the second to deliver a baby during her tenure. She has been smashing all the stereotypes, becoming a breastfeeding mother at work with a male partner who is the primary caretaker. She was accompanied by her three-month-old daughter to the United Nations General Assembly and was seen kissing her before her speech.
With a fantastic political graph and her contribution often also called ‘Jacindamania’, saw her party’s popularity rise from a low of 20% to 40% before the national elections. Yet, many had doubted her capability, calling her ‘style over substance’. But her acumen and empathy have left the strictest of her critics speechless.
She is a woman, in fact, a young woman, a working Prime Minister mother and a strong leader who has balanced her kindness towards the tragedy with equal sternness in ensuring the full force of law against the attacker. She took time to feel the pain and loss along with her people, yet wasted no time in formulating gun laws that were the quick precautionary solution to avoid future tragedies.
We need emphatic, inclusive and kind leaders. We need them now more than ever before because let’s admit it, the moment we heard Jacinda Arden’s speeches after the attack and the moment we saw her consoling her people, we felt a warmness inside us. We felt our hearts beat for humanity and we heard our mind at peace not having to further plot and prey. We felt a wave of compassion and we too rose a little in our flight to love, embrace and include.