It’s not every day you get to spend time with a Prime Minister, let alone pick her brains on what makes her tick and how she thrived in the cutthroat world of politics. Business Chicks presented Jacinda in sold-out events in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra and here’s three lessons we took away from our time with her.
- We often look at leaders and think they have it all figured out. That they’ve arrived at some bulletproof level of confidence and are equipped and ready for whatever task gets thrown their way. Jacinda helped expel this myth and admitted she often thought she wasn’t good enough or smart enough for the job and she certainly, at the age of 37, wasn’t ready enough. Jacinda admitted that she’s not sure she ever really conquered imposter syndrome, even when she left office earlier this year. She recalled a story of a social science teacher of hers that once said, ‘I often look around and wait for the leprechaun to appear and tell me I don’t know what I’m doing’ and that left an impression on her. If her very skilled and experienced and talented teacher still doubted himself, then it was a condition that could afflict us all. Her solution? Try to turn those thoughts into something positive and surround yourself with people that believe in you.
- You don’t need to be tough and ruthless to be a great leader. Jacinda told a story about the volcanic eruption in Whakaari in 2019 that claimed 22 lives. She wanted to get there and see the devastation, understand the situation firsthand, and provide whatever support she could. When the media heard of this, one journalist scoffed and said, ‘All she’ll do is hug everyone’. Jacinda grappled with this and convinced herself she would present a more staunch, tough front. When she arrived, she met a young paramedic who had only started on the job a week prior. This young woman was clearly overwhelmed with the human lives lost, the horrific injuries of the survivors, and the gravity of the whole situation. Jacinda thought of the media’s negativity but still decided to do what felt right – she reached for the young woman and gave her a hug. Following on from this she said, ‘I’d rather be a bad politician than a bad human’. Jacinda has countless other stories about what it means to be an effective leader and her style is characterised with empathy and compassion. She also said that being a great leader is to be ourselves, as fallible as we might be. She asked us if we’d ever heard a politician say ‘I don’t know’ to a question they were asked. Jacinda encouraged us to see that it’s ok not to have the answers but it’s critical to come up with a plan. Above all, be yourself.
- Most importantly, we’re all humans having a human experience. Go easy on each other and go easy on yourself. Try and calm the noise and remember who you are and not let the naysayers make you doubt your intentions and your goals. Don’t martyr yourself for others – get the sleep you need, and ask for the help you need too.
~ Emma Isaacs