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1. Outline the issue

According to Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand, there has been a total of 2,477,820 cases of covid reported with 3933 cases of death, 2,470,623 cases of recovery, 271 and116 cases of reinfections (, 2023). The pandemic also impacted the economic stability of the country as well. Businesses, especially in the hospitality sectors, were greatly affected by the lockdowns and a general fear of being exposed to the disease. By 2020, New Zealand was reeling from an economic recession with its GDP slumping by more than 12%. It shows how COcid-19 was a major issue in the country.

2. Ardern's understanding of the issue

During this challenging period, Jacinda Ardern showed her leadership skills to guide the people of New Zealand. Her understanding of the pandemic was marked with a quick and scientifically backed response. She was able to recognise the problem at an early stage and then ordered the borders of the country to be closed and strict quarantine protocols to be followed. Her understanding was also supported by strong communication with experts and her ability to make informed decisions based on scientific data. She understood the importance of gaining public trust and engaging with people with a robust and applicable solution (Friedman, 2020). Baker and Wilson (2022) pointed out that Ardern's understanding of the problem was shaped through a journey of 2 years from the strategy of elimination to mitigation. Her consistent focus was to protect the health of the public, promote scientific leadership, and maintain equity and communication. She emphasized the importance of political consensus and transparency. She also highlighted the importance of pandemic tools and infrastructure and managing a healthy indoor environment, which she understood to be important to fight the pandemic. She understood the need for swift lockdowns and border closures (even if it caused disruptions) to prevent further exposure and spread of the virus. This gave her praise both nationally and internationally. Her personal commitment could be seen with Ardern postponing her own wedding when the Omicron strain of Covid-19 hit (Al Jazeera, 2023).

According to Voina and Stoica (2023), Ardern's understanding of the pandemic can be explained by her ability to show values like competence, responsiveness, responsibility, and attentiveness while responding to the crisis. Her competence was supported through international comparison, expert advice, collection of facts, and making anticipations based on facts. Her responsiveness was supported by information, a sense of responsibility, empowerment, and confidence in communication. Her sense of responsibility was supported by her decisions, coordination with other teams, and the will to enforce the protocols. The attentiveness was supported by her recognition of the cultural, economic, and human vulnerability in New Zealand due to the pandemic and her sense of empathy to people. She also understood the importance of being prepared for the crisis, managing the outcomes of the crisis, and initiating a recovery process.

Figure: Factors that explain Ardern's understanding of the pandemic problem

(Source: Voina & Stoica, 2023)

Thus, it can be said that Ardern's understanding of the pandemic was based on scientific knowledge and understanding, backed by expert opinions. Her understanding also included the importance of timeliness, gaining public trust, and adapting to changing situations.

  1. How were her choices determined by the Covid-19 situation

It can be said that the choices of Jacinda Ardern were determined by the extant situation of the pandemic. She showed her ability to quickly react to the crisis using her leadership skills and use scientifically proven or scientifically backed strategies like closing the borders at the early stages of the pandemic and maintaining quarantine protocols. When she understood that there were growing public concerns, she tried to instill trust. Her priority was to implement a robust solution to address the concern. As the problem continued, the issue of Covid took the center stage for her decisions at the time, even leading to her postponing her wedding due to the pandemic (Voina & Stoica, 2023).

The decisions made by Ardern were also informed by international comparisons. This created a form of benchmarking that allowed her to adapt her responses based upon other successful approaches taken by global leaders. Ardern recognised the potential of the pandemic to create a major economic and social impact and therefore planned for an early response system as well (McGuire et al., 2020). This significantly helped to reduce the viral spread in New Zealand at the early stages.

With the progress of the pandemic, scientific and research data were constantly evaluated and expert guidance was sought by Ardern to understand the changing nature and dynamics of the pandemic based on this, more flexible and adaptive responses were developed. This allowed changing the strategies when the other variants or strains of the virus also emerged in later years. A shift from elimination to mitigation approach took place based on the high rates of vaccination in New Zealand (Baker et al., 2020).

The choices she made were based upon her own competence and were supported by expert opinions and international standards. She was able to make anticipations based on facts and the changing situations of the pandemic. These dynamic situations required being responsible and adaptable. Ardern was able to understand the need of the hour and communicated her insights and strategies with the public to address the growing public concern and fear. She was able to show her a sense of responsibility and commitment to address the issue and gain the trust of the people. She also empowered people to make better health choices and engage in self-care in times when the healthcare system was overburdened with covid cases. She instilled a sense of duty and responsibility for others, empowering people to act proactively (Huang, 2021; Voina & Stoica, 2023).

Thus, it can be stated that the responses of Ardern were shaped profoundly by the pandemic situation. She was also able to adapt her choices and strategies with changing situations, baked by scientific data and expert advice. She focussed on strong communication, adaptability, and competence while working on the pandemic issue.

4. Leadership theories

The leadership style used by Ardern during the pandemic could be related to the transformational leadership theory. This could be reflected by her approach of motivating and inspiring people using her vision and actions. She frequently and effectively communicated her plan with a sense of commitment and purpose to create a sense of hope, unity, and engagement with the people to fight against Covid-19. The swift decisions, based on scientific evidence and real-world scenarios, showed a state of intellectual stimulation. This, in turn, promoted collaboration, trust, ability, and innovation among the people (Devaney, 2023).

The leadership style of Ardern that was exemplified during the pandemic was marked by the approach of careful negotiations and emphasized the values of kindness while navigating through challenges. Her use of empathy and kindness acted as a strategic tool that allowed the development of public engagement, ethical standards, and diffuse contests. The approach also helped her to gain political capital and gain the approval of the public. Her style of leadership focussed on four key aspects, namely making positive assertions, managing the conflict, delineating key responsibilities, and political evasion. Her leadership style not only showed her adroit management of the situation but also challenged conventional politics, showed her ability to adapt with situation and maintain a positive political image and also addressing the challenges and discourse related to covid 19 in a pragmatic manner (Craig, 2021). Cortazello and Bruni (2021) pointed out how Ardern used a combination of Charismatic Leadership and Authentic Leadership while addressing the pandemic situation. Ardern showed her charismatic leadership style from her ability to inspire and motivate the people, gain their trust and support, and ensure they follow the quarantine protocols. Her authentic leadership could be seen from her sense of empathy to the struggle of the people, genuine concern about public health, and her willingness to admit the truth of the situation when needed. These aspects helped Ardern to gain the trust and confidence of the public and steer New Zealand through the crisis (Cortazello & Bruni, 2021).

Thus, it can be said that the leadership style used by Ardern can be related to three distinct theories: transformational leadership, authentic leadership, and charismatic leadership. The transformative leadership allowed her to guide the people and the nation towards better and safer situations from the pandemic. Her authentic leadership style helped her to show genuine care and gain trust and participation from people. Her charismatic leadership allowed her to motivate others, gain their support, and ensure compliance to quarantine protocols.

  1. The ethical-moral environment and team building

According to the World Health Organisation, the pandemic showed important ethical dilemmas related to healthcare, allocation of resources, and making public health policies. The ethical problems were further complicated due to the vast diversity of the healthcare systems and the social/cultural factors in the countries. WHO established the Working Group on Ethics to guide the process of policymaking, clinical care, and clinical research during the pandemic and address the ethical concerns. The pandemic also highlighted a moral imperative to collaborate as communities to address the problem at national and global scales as a part of medical ethics code (World Health Organisation, 2023).

General ethical concerns during the pandemic included the need for public engagement, surveillance of the disease, constant clinical research for management and treatment, and developing novel interventions. Two of the most important moral obligations during this time were "duty to treat" and "duty to act." Rights of the healthcare workers were an important moral consideration as they were acting at the frontlines of fighting the pandemic and often, therefore, exposed to higher risks while treating patients. The ethics of preparedness and outbreak research was an important aspect during this time that facilitated the swift action and development of new interventions and treatment for the disease. Other ethical concerns that were also exposed during the pandemic included the technological divide, importance of interdisciplinary dialogue, fund allocation, responsible conduct in science, vulnerability of population, patient care, technology transfer, social isolation, misinformation, scientific knowledge, information access and rights of the handicapped (Tanveer et al., 2022). The duty to and treat could be justified from a deontological perspective. These are moral imperatives for healthcare professionals to work in the best interest of the patient as a part of their duty (McConnell, 2020). Furthermore the situation also showed the theory of Evidence Based Practice where the strategies were being adjusted in real time based on most recent evidence and latest situations.

Ardern's leadership skills showed her capacity to develop efficient and effective teams to steer the nation away from the looming dangers of Covid-19. From the recognition of the urgency and seriousness of the pandemic at the early stages, Ardern used the approach of collaboration and multidisciplinary involvement to develop a robust plan on how to act. Her team involved healthcare professionals and experts, epidemiologists, officials working in public health, and also representatives of various departments and branches of New Zealand. This team was given the task of developing and implementing necessary policies to control the spread of the virus. As per her leadership style, she ensured there is effective and open communication and sharing of knowledge, which allowed effective coordination between the teams and thereby informed important decisions (Voina & Stoica, 2023).

Thus, the ethical and mortal environment during the pandemic established the conditions for the creation of teams to address the problem. Ardern successfully used her own leadership skills and position to establish such a team that guided and informed important decisions related to crisis management.

6. Behavioral tools/personality traits

It can be said that a combination of behavioral tools and personality traits were used by Ardern for team building during the crisis situation. Effective communication was a key tool that made the leadership style of Ardern stand out during the pandemic. Her use of transparent, clear and empathetic communication while addressing the nation not only helped to prepare the people for the pandemic but also called for a wide range collaboration and team work to address the problem (McGuire et al., 2020). The clarity in her communication allowed her team to be on the same level of understanding.

Her trait of empathy played an important role in her efforts to build the team. Her ability to show genuine concern towards the struggles of the public and the members of her team developed a sense of commitment and urgency to work together. Her empathy also established an environment where the members were supportive of each other and were motivated to contribute to their best potential (Khorana, 2022).

Her trait of being decisive was a crucial factor that allowed her to make tough decisions in a quick manner and maintain the effectiveness of the team. She was able to filter out the information to ensure that her team did not get overwhelmed. She did not show hesitation or fear to take quick actions as well, which included the lockdown protocols and quarantines (Tyner & Jalalzai, 2022). Thus, her decisiveness also gave encouragement to her team members, thus helping in team building.

She was able to collaborate as an important behavioral tool to bring together a diverse group of professionals and experts into a single platform and team. Healthcare professionals, nurses, health experts, health educators, epidemiologists, and health officials were all involved in sharing their opinions from their disciplines (Hafner & Sun, 2021). The collaboration ensured that the decisions made by the team were well informed and based on a wide range of expert knowledge and insights.

A sense of transparency and adaptability were also evident from the personality traits of Ardern as he ensured open communication with her team members and adjusted her own decisions and leadership approach based on situations. Her transparency instilled trust among the team and gave her credibility as a leader (Le Fevre, 2021). Her ability to adapt ensured her teams to remain effective while responding to the crisis situation.

Therefore, Ardern's communication, empathy, decisiveness, collaboration, transparency and adaptability played important roles in the development of teams during the pandemic and these traits could be seen to be the centerpieces of her leadership style.

7. Evidence of leadership focused issue-based strategic planning

Leadership focus of Ardern can be understood from her emphasis on crisis management, public engagement, and ethical governance. Her main leadership focus during the pandemic was to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the people. Her approach in crisis management involved a quick, responsive, proactive, and evidence based approach. She also showed her ability to implement issue based planning by changing her strategy from eliminating the disease to mitigating the disease as the pandemic situation changed, creating new issues for the government (Rosa, 2019).

Her leadership was focussed on public engagement, where she showed the importance of reassuring the public. During conferences and media press meetings, she shared information in a reassuring and clear manner (Aziz & Rusli, 2022). It fostered collaboration and unity among the public.

The leadership approaches taken by Ardern during the pandemic showed her ability to engage in issue based strategic planning and also demonstrated her ability to use communication in an effective manner. This approach was seen from her decision to shift to a mitigation strategy as soon as the vaccination rates in New Zealand increased significantly (McGuire et al., 2020). Her approach could be characterized through the combination of values like transparency, decisiveness, adaptability, empathy, collaboration and open communication, which were pivotal for her successful attempts to manage the crisis (Seijts & Milani, 2021).

One of the most effective communication skills for her leadership was her effective communication. This allowed her to communicate complex information in a clear manner. She ensured that public concerns and fear were regularly and frequently addressed through media conferences and addressing the public on various communications. She was able to gain the trust of the people due to the accuracy of her communication based on evidence (Rosa, 2019). Her strategies were also highly actionable as it was based on issue based planning that focussed on practical applications (McGuire et al., 2020).

Thus, it can be stated that the leadership focus of Ardern was based on ethical governance, agility in response, evidence based decisions, and crisis management strategies. She used issue based strategic planning to address the problems and maintain effective communication throughout the pandemic.

8. The overall effect of the leadership choices made by Ardern

Ardern was able to show remarkable leadership ability during the pandemic to make important decisions to protect the health and wellbeing of the people of the country and take part in the global initiative to eradicate and mitigate the pandemic. She constantly showed situational awareness and communication abilities that helped in the successful management of the pandemic. This can be evidenced by the high number of recovery cases. Since January 2022, the number of daily confirmed cases of covid also experienced significant reductions(, 2023). Moreover, more than 72% of adults in the country have received their first vaccines, and more than 90% completed the primary course (, 2023).

According to Corlett (2021), New Zealand had one of the best outcomes for Covid. The action of swiftly closing the national border and the use of strict quarantine protocols to prevent further spread, use of the evidence based strategies, and adapting with situations played a crucial role in the management of the crisis. The leadership style of Ardren not only facilitated time decisions to be made, but also brought together a multidisciplinary team who worked round the clock to control the spread, maintain public trust, ensure effective allocation of resources and treat affected people to health.

The choices made by Ardern, therefore, had a profound as well as a positive effect on the situation. Her swift and strategic decisions to adapt to the changing situation and use evidence while making decisions helped in effective management of the crisis. This not only helped to achieve a high rate of vaccination in the country but also increased the rates of recovery and gained public trust (Devaney, 2023). Overall, her status as a leader, her effective use of communication, her strategic abilities, and personality traits made her an effective leader during the period of the pandemic.


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