• Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

Jacinda Ardern’s resignation – an example to politicians everywhere

ByMerryn Hilton

Feb 5, 2023
Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern’s resignation gives us much to reflect on – take note, politicians. 

Initially, on learning of Jacinda Ardern’s decision to resign as Prime Minister of New Zealand as a result of burnout, I felt a sense of deep regret that we were to lose such a competent and progressive leader from the world stage, and if the reactions from New Zealand and other countries is anything to go by, this sentiment is widely shared. 

Ardern’s decision to leave office is no doubt a loss to New Zealand as well as the world, however, this choice, in the same way that she conducted herself in office, is in many ways exemplary, and we have much to learn from it. 

Notably, to be able to recognise one’s own exhaustion and ‘burnout’ is admirable. Understanding when something is taking too much of you and is damaging your mental and physical health takes a considerable amount of self-awareness and self-compassion. 

Burnout is becoming an increasingly widely recognized phenomenon defined as “emotional and physical exhaustion usually induced by work-related stress”, something which many students surely resonate with. As something quite intangible, it is easy to dismiss the feeling of being burnt out, therefore, to have a leader like Ardern not only recognise this but also heed it is inspiring, and will hopefully set a precedent going forward. The importance of being kind to oneself by stepping away from something should serve as an example to all. 

Aside from this, what really stands out is the humility of her decision to step away from her role as Prime Minister. It is ineffably refreshing to see a politician step down because they no longer believe that they are the best person to do the job, and not because they have been found to have broken their own laws or accepted a dodgy loan. It is the ability to put ego aside and take seriously the role of Prime Minister, which, above all, is to serve the country and its best interests rather than seeing it as a personal endeavour or a place to leave your own legacy. 

Holding onto the bitter end until hounded out of office seems to have become the norm for many political leaders today. Thus, Arden’s resolve to step down as, in her own words; “it’s time… I’d be doing New Zealand a disservice if I continued”, shows a degree of selflessness we are little accustomed to. 

We are, after all, in the age of Boris Johnson resigning with his integrity torn to pieces, Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump still insisting that they won elections which they very clearly did not, and Truss holding on to power for far longer than she should have on the basis of being “a fighter and not a quitter”, all of which suggest that these politicians viewed being PM or President as a matter of personal pride. 

What Ardern has reminded us is that holding office should not be taken for granted or considered a right but should be based on one’s desire and ability to serve a country. She left as she led; with strength, compassion and integrity, qualities for which I am sure she will be remembered. 

Image Credit: “Jacinda Ardern Japan 2022” by 内閣官房内閣広報室 is licensed under CC BY 4.0.