Building Inclusive Leadership & Cultures

Lessons on compassion and respect from the people of New Zealand

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What makes New Zealand special goes beyond the incredible landscape and friendly people.

It’s the culture of respect witnessed in the everyday actions of the NZ people after the horrific terrorist attacks at mosques on Friday 15th March 2019 during Friday Prayer that demonstrated this.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, is the epitome of practising leadership congruently as opposed to doing leadership for the situation. Ashitha Nagesh in a BBC report captured this beautifully with the headline ‘Jacinda Ardern: A leader with love on full display’ .

She is a leader who is demonstrating love, compassion and empathy combined with courage, strength and conviction. Quick and decisive with legislative and cultural change on New Zealand’s gun laws, declaring a commitment to ‘weed out’ racism locally and globally Ardern, shared with Clive Myrie, during a BBC interview.

Ardern’s leadership is adaptive and exudes an authentic presence, showing her humanity. There are no parlour tricks or rehearsed performances, just authentic leadership creating a ripple of connection. People feel she is real, they see the person first, the title second. They see someone you can trust.

Connection & trust are essential leadership ingredients which have been missing in action for decades amongst the majority of Leaders globally. Trust is in freefall globally. The Edelman Trust Barometer has been measuring Trust for 18 years, beginning in 2001 with a survey of 1,300 people in 5 countries, it is now a global measurement of trust. 

The 2019 Edelman Trust Survey reveals how trust has shifted over the past year, revealing that ‘people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers’.

Globally, 75% of people trust “my employer” to do what is right, significantly more than NGOs (57%), business (56 %) and media (47%). This is at a time when there is deep dissatisfaction within our systems.

Without doubt, Jacinda Ardern is standing tall amongst world leaders who fall short and who are a long way behind her in terms of authentic leadership, compassion and connection to the people she leads.

It’s easy to look at the recent events and headlines where Ardern shines, however, it’s important not to overlook the people of New Zealand who have exhibited the same compassionate, inclusive leadership in how they have responded to and supported their fellow New Zealanders.

Is New Zealand a product of the strong compassionate leadership that Jacinda Ardern brings to the world? OR is Jacinda Ardern a product of the strong, compassionate and inclusive culture that is embodied by the people of New Zealand?

Across all divides, religion, beliefs, age and race, young and old citizens of New Zealand gathered to show support to their fellow New Zealanders.  Many spontaneously turned to the traditional Maori war dance to pay respects to all who were killed in the tragedy, with this moving tribute by some students who were paying their respects to the bikie gangs across New Zealand promising to guard Mosques during Friday prayers.

The challenge for each of us is: How do we bring this strength and compassionate leadership to the systems we are a part of (countries, cities, organisation and family systems) where the current culture is the opposite? 

Where intolerance dominates over tolerance; where aggressive behaviours create a tide of destruction and where blame reigns free to take down all its path?

We do this by standing in our humanity and stepping into our own authentic leadership regardless of position, rank or title.

We become the probiotic that our cultures need, crowding out the destructive and toxic behaviours with positive, inclusive and respectful behaviours.

We embrace Gandhi’s wisdom and take a stand to become the change we want to see and ensure that our day to day behaviours reflect this.

We forgive and show tolerance for ourselves and others when we slip and make mistakes. We remember we are all connected, we are all human beings. This is where we can find alignment.

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