On January 19, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she would not seek re-election when polls are held on October 14 this year. (The full text of her speech.)
(Chris Hipkins is the new Prime Minister.)
When Jacinda Ardern was sworn into office on October 26, 2017, at the age of 37, she became the youngest female head of government in the world. (Hitherto it was Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan.)
Her responses to the shooting in a mosque in Christchurch in 2019 and the Covid pandemic crisis the next year won her laurels, and she led her party to a historic victory in 2020, becoming the most successful prime minister in recent times.
Ironically, though she saved lives, she was blamed for the economic impact the pandemic wreaked.
As people's livelihoods got hit, Ardern's popularity began to slip. So much so that many had been talking of a new leader for the Labour Party who could lead the party to victory.
(Of course, it's a different matter that inflation, price rise and looming recession are problems that most countries in the world are facing. But in politics, that's not reason enough to get oneself bailed out of trouble.)
So, Ardern being replaced wouldn't have been a surprise.
But what was surprising was her candid admission that she didn't have enough energy to carry on and do justice to the position she held. She will be just 43 years old this July.
Very rarely do we hear politicians say that.
Though she didn't use the word "retire", from what she said, for all practical purposes she has retired from politics.
Nothing surprising about quitting when the chips are down. But to let go of positions and privileges when things are going reasonably well, and pivoting onto a different path with an entirely different set of priorities is something altogether different.
There is a mountaineering analogy here. After having ascended to a good height (literally and figuratively, definitely an achievement in itself) the climber might feel that s/he doesn't have the energy to go on further.
That's when a decision has to be taken whether to "let go of the goal" and start climbing down or "carry on against the odds to reach the summit".
Is there a right time to quit or retire?
There is no one template that everyone can follow blindly. It's a personal decision of reprioritizing one's personal commitments and goals.
Having said that, to call it quits "early" surely requires a fair amount of courage because letting go could be seen as "giving up", and giving up could be seen as a "defeat".
However, it's not what others think that matters. It's one's own comfort levels and priorities that matter.
As Jacinda Ardern said, "For me, it's time." Or, as Ashley Barty said, "It's right for me."
Sadly, lots of politicians are getting blamed for economic problems that are a direct result of the pandemic. I guess people need someone to blame. (And they won't be blaming the system which is set up badly, prioritizing profits over people.)ReplyDelete
I like the idea of leaving on a high, and if that is not exactly the case for Ardern, she certainly left with her dignity intact and is widely respected by many. This is rather unlike our own former disgraceful Prime Minister.ReplyDelete
The world would flourish, were there more politicians of the calibre of Ms Ardern. But her honesty of the toll it takes to hold such office just proved the very essence of her incumbency - and strengthened her departure. To see such leadership of withdrawal is itself a lesson. YAM xx
Hi Yamini - Yes, it's sad such politicians have to bow out.Delete
My husband and I happened to be driving in NZ and heard her speech live on radio and the discussions (call-ins) that followed for the rest of our road trip. Her humility and clarity came through so strongly that for the duration of her speech, I felt like I was listening to another human being--one with great talent to govern and one who's honest and humble. I wish there were more like her in world politics-- people who have the capacity and the courage to see their own selves as clearly as they see their political goals.ReplyDelete
Hi Arti - I admire Ardern's candidness. It requires a lot of confidence in oneself and good clarity of thought to make such a decision. However, it is sad that such honest and humble politicians don't survive for long in the murky world of politics.Delete
Quit when you are ahead. All good and successful gamblers do.ReplyDelete
I think both women gave their all and then reached a point where it was no longer satisfying or rewarding, but became a drain on them. Recognizing when you've had enough and being brave enough to leave speaks of a strong character and good self-awareness.ReplyDelete
I know a person who should retire, but instead is plodding on and taking everyone down with him - it's sad to watch and tells me that he has no consideration of what's best for others - just what's best for himself. He could learn from these two women!
Hi Leanne - Indeed Ardern and Barty have great confidence in their abilities. It is pointless to stay on when one isn't getting anything good in return. It's better to step aside and trod a different path that is more rewarding. Both women are admirable role models,Delete
Hi Pradeep - the chap I write about in my latest post - gives reason for stopping something he loves - keeping himself alive ... or getting out, before a disaster occurs. We definitely could all learn from Jacinda Adern ... I admire her. Also Ash Barty ... cheers - interesting post - HilaryReplyDelete
I think it also was very smart of her to announce her resignation before she lost an election. To continue your mountaineering analogy, she has reached a very high peak. And she is so young and has so much to offer that I feel sure she has not retired from public life altogether. She was secure enough not to cling on to power for the sake of it, but to step away from the position for someone new to fill.ReplyDelete
Hi Anonymous - It requires a lot of self-confidence for one to make a decision like the one made by Ardern. Quite possible she might come back to politics. But that's when she thinks it's the right time for her to do that.Delete
Frankly, more people need to accept when it's time to leave, especially in politics.ReplyDelete
Politics is not for good people. So Arden's quitting is no surprise.ReplyDelete
Hi Tomichan - Yes, I agree. It's sad, is it not, that it's tough for honest and humble people to survive in politics.Delete
A thought provoking post.ReplyDelete
Hi Rajeev - Thank you.Delete
Quit while you’re still ahead is often said to be a good principle. Even though she’s lost her popularity, you could say that’s what JacintaReplyDelete
Ardern is doing. More important.y, she’s doing it for her own health and peace of mind. Good for her. It’s surprising about Barty, though. At 25, it sounds as if she could have gone further, but maybe she just didn’t want to, and if so, that’s courageous too.
The decision can take a long time, too, as I know from experience. My attitude change after retiring improved our household conditions better than that second income and insurance. Best wishes!ReplyDelete
Hi Darla - It's always better that such crucial decisions are taken after a lot of thought. And when such decisions are taken they are bound to impact us in a positive manner. It is all about one's personal priorities.Delete
You are always wise and your wisdom uplifting. ~nods~ Best wishes to you and yours.Delete
Really interesting readReplyDelete
Hi Pooja - Thank you. :-)ReplyDelete