Dr. Suze Wilson, is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Management at Massey University. She is passionate about all things leadership along with an abiding interest in how we can make organisations both effective for external stakeholders and enjoyable places to work for employees.
Her doctoral research examined why and how it has become normalized in recent decades to equate 'leadership' with grandiose expectations of 'transformation', 'vision', and 'charisma'. She argues these ideas, when examined closely, actually create undesirable pressures on leaders, grant them excessive powers, and rely on the problematic assumption that 'followers' are inherently inadequate. She is interested in theorising and practising leadership in ways that are more inclusive and humble.
Dr. Brad Jackson joined Waikato Management School as Associate Dean Strategic Engagement in May 2020. He currently serves as MBA Director and Professor of Leadership and Governance and is the Programme Director for the Community Enterprise Leadership Foundation Elevate programme.
Jackson has published seven books—Management Gurus and Management Fashions, The Hero Manager, Organisational Behaviour in New Zealand, A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Leadership, Demystifying Business Celebrity, Revitalising Leadership, and The Board as the Nexus Between Leadership and Governance and Responsible Leadership in Corporate Governance. He also co-edited the Sage Handbook of Leadership and Major Works in Leadership. Brad is a former co-editor of the journal, Leadership, and vice-chair of the Akina Foundation, Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, and the International Leadership Association.
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Note: Voice-to-text transcriptions are about 90% accurate, and conversations-to-text do not always translate perfectly. I include it to provide you with the spirit of the conversation.
Scott Allen 0:00
Okay, everybody, welcome to the Phronesis podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today. Today's gonna be a really important conversation. And this really was sparked by an article by a previous guest, Dr. Suze Wilson, who's a Senior Lecturer at the School of Management at Massey University. And I reached out to her and Chellie Spiller and Dr. Brad Jackson, and I said, "Hey, I would love to have the three of you come on." And Brad said, "I'd love to come on and join you for a conversation. I think we're in the midst of a fascinating case study. So what we have here is Suze Wilson, and we have Brad Jackson from the University of Waikato. And they are going to help us make sense of some of the leadership challenges and some of the situations that are happening in New Zealand right now. I couldn't think of better people to help me better understand the situation. So Suze, maybe we start with you today; thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for doing the incredible work that you do. We're going to put some links to some of your writing into the show notes, so listeners can check in with that. But maybe we start with the two of you, providing a little bit of kind of background on why she is so important to New Zealand, but also just globally, and how she is incredibly relevant right now on the global stage.
Suze Wilson 1:32
Kia Ora, Scott, thanks for your interest in this topic. So Ardern, she's no longer Prime Minister, the transition to a new one has taken place. But right throughout her, her role as leader of the Labour Party and shortly thereafter as Prime Minister, she has attracted a lot of attention beyond New Zealand. Partly because, you know, she was a relatively young woman who all of a sudden was the head of a major political party, two months out from an election, which it looked like they didn't stand a chance of winning. And then she managed to pull the votes up. Because people were, I think, drawn to her energy and the kinds of values and vision that she was articulating for the future of the country. They managed to pull off a coalition deal and all of a sudden, she was the prime minister. And then a few months after that, she announced that she was pregnant; he was only the first woman leader head of state that in history after Benazir Bhutto to have a child in office, and it was, you know, something that kind of people knocked in New Zealand and went, "Wow, isn't that fantastic? You can have a young woman who's the head of state, and she can also have a child perform her job and, you know, be accepted and such." So there were, you know, some beautiful images of doing with a young baby after the visit, speaking at the United Nations when she was pregnant, she went to visit the Queen. So there was some, you know, kind of really powerful imagery that started spreading about her right early on from her tenure. And then the Christchurch terror attacks happened, the world saw, rather than a "thoughts and prayers" kind of response, a response that demonstrated genuine empathy and concern, which sought to wrap care around the victims who were primarily members of the Muslim community and to act decisively in relation to gun control. So, you know, all of that built her reputation; she started to really be seen sort of as the anti-Trump, a different kind of leader. So yeah, she's throughout her whole tenure, she's tracked a lot of interest from people around the world.
Scott Allen 3:55
Brad, when we had our conversation, gosh, this might be almost a year and a half ago; it was at the height of COVID. And we talked about even her response to COVID-19. At the time, I remember you provided me with this image of millions of people rowing in the same direction, like there was a vision of how to respond to this. And even in that emergency, you were talking about your respect for her ability to navigate the crisis situation.
Brad Jackson 4:26
Yeah, I think there was a strong personal dimension because I think I'd mentioned to you I left Australia three days to leave, as I came here earlier than I anticipated, got here a day before locked down. I was reflecting on my wife, and I was sitting, you know, most relieved because we weren't sure we were going to get on the plane or what was going to happen and, and sitting there watching the evening news and seeing Jacinda and our chief medical officer, Minister, Minister of Health, and just that feeling, the whole approach was so different to what we were experiencing in Australia, it was Scott Morrison. And by the way, I know a lot of very nice Scotts. But just the whole feeling was very different here in that Australia was really focusing on the 10%, of weren't getting behind this, whereas in New Zealand, it was focusing on the 90%, who were. And there was a sense of pride and a sense of collective responsibility as well. And globally, you know, actually saying, you know that "we're all facing this, we have a chance here to help the rest of the world in terms of how you respond to these things." And I just want to commend a fantastic series that you've created, Scott, and a great platform for this, but also my colleague, Suze, has done an awesome job of actually showing the benefits of an academic critical perspective on making sense of what happened during that period. And then onwards to any particular article, Suze just recently wrote about the resignation and the fallout in the kind of situation there. So yeah, in terms of creating a sense of a common cause, and bringing the whole country together. I've never experienced anything like that. I guess people talk about the Blitz in London and the church and all these other kinds of things. But there is a real, there was a sense that we were coming together, doing something very important, not only for New Zealand but globally, too. And so yeah, I got, I guess, I've got a personal connection. And I'm very grateful. The other thing I think I mentioned to you at the time was Jacinda, one of our esteemed alumni from the University of Waikato on our communications program here. So that felt, and she's very much on Waikato as well. you know, and so there was a going back to that 'place-based approach' to leadership. I think she exemplified that beautifully. So yeah, it's not only a kind of a critical academic attachment, it's very personal for me, and I know it is for Suze too, as well - it mattered. And I think, do you think about that, she made political leadership relevant to a lot of people who felt shut out from political leadership, particularly young people, women, those that were kind of perceived to be on the margins of societies, and also just struck a chord with our Indigenous Pacifica community as well, LGBTQI, that all of these, there was a sort of feeling that I think she sparked an interest in sections of society that were pretty well outside of political leadership. And I think that's something that we're not only also with the mosque response as well, the Christchurch mosque response, but just it's building that actually, this matters. And I, I should be in on this too, which, speaking to big undergraduate classes, you know, you mentioned Jacinda, and the intention level goes up, you know, in a way that hadn't gone up for a while, too. So I just feel that there was a moment actual political leadership was, first of all, critical. And we all had a role to play in that too. And that was a very special moment. That opened up I'm very grateful to her for what she did for us.
Scott Allen 8:03
Well, a couple of times, you've mentioned the mosque attacks. I mean, we have a woman who is entering a leadership role at it just unprecedented contextual shifts, whether it's the mosque attacks, volcanic explosion, that occurred, I just watched a movie on Netflix a documentary about that (The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari), which was fascinating to observe, we have COVID...so you have an individual who not only has a lot of contextual shifts at home, but she's navigating just, I mean, it's monumental.
Suze Wilson 8:34
You know, this is all saying we all know about how how "crises pose a true test of a leader's character" in school, and then you if you like, layer on top of it the kind of suspicion really about whether a woman leader would be tough enough to handle a crisis, the whole notion that somehow women are waking emotional. So I think are doing legacy in relation to crisis leadership is not only to show us a different way of leading and crises but also to absolutely 'put paid' to the presumption that women are not actually hellishly damn good, actually, potentially, in a crisis, at least in part, because what she's done every time there has been a crisis is that she has centered and effects of care. Right is the pivotal lens through which she's communicating with people about what's going on and how we should try to make sense of it. But also, I think, in terms of guiding decision-making to try and discern "what is the right thing to do here?" So the Moscow tech, in particular, my understanding is she was at an event in the northern half of New Zealand, were two main islands for those who don't know that. So she was in the middle of the North Island at an event when she was given a phone call that there was a shooting event in Christchurch, which was in the middle of the south island, and within a couple of hours, once it became public, you know, her first kind of press conference, in response to the already she had, if you like, framed the moral significance and the strategic significance of the event by saying "this is probably going to be our worst day," but also saying "they are us," rather than othering the victims, she's trying to encourage all of us to wrap our arms around a community, which actually is a very small community, within our country. And which, of course, has been subjected to islamophobic prejudice and abuse. She's immediately trying to reframe the situation in a way that focused on the victim and immediately abhorred the actions of the terrorist. She took another, I think, clear moral stance and said that she would never say his name, and she's trying to encourage us to understand that what he wanted was fame; what he wanted was attention. And actually, he doesn't deserve it. But people that deserve our attention are the victims and their families. So you know, I think a really significant example of a leader being able to use their own kind of ethical and moral compass to make sense of what was an incredibly confusing situation. There was no clear path. From a security perspective, there was no clear information for many hours - was it just a one-off person...attack? We didn't, you know, we didn't know if there were other mosques throughout the rest of the country that we're going to be attacked. It was an incredibly frightening time, but she was calm, she was clear, and you could tell she was very determined that things were going to be done, that this would not stand; the level of outrage that has been committed on our shores was intolerable.
Scott Allen 12:06
Talk a little bit about your perception of her response to COVID. And to the volcanic eruption? How did she respond that really stood out for either one of you?
Suze Wilson 12:16
With the volcanic thing, I mean, she did what, I guess most leaders will do as she turned up, she was present. But I think, you know, because of the trust that she had built in people's minds through her response to the mosque shooting when she turned up and demonstrated care for those affected by the volcanic explosion. You know, it felt real, there was a sense that this was authentic, that it wasn't, this wasn't just a bit of stand up for and for the cameras that, you know, she was someone who really cared about situations, she also grasped that there were many tourists affected, and therefore there would be, you know, a lot of international attention. And so I think she was conscious of wanting to display to the international community that the New Zealand government was doing everything that it possibly could care for its citizens who had been hurt in our place. With the pandemic, the way she was able to build collective understanding and build collective effort around some really kind of simple principles about that, we're trying to save lives and livelihoods with our approach, and that you all have a role to play in us trying to keep people informed, making sure that science was leading them if you like, the technical aspects of the response that you know, we weren't going to, she wasn't going to do a Trump and say, "Oh, look, you know, I Googled something and maybe you want to, you know, down from the bloody beach," and in Ivermectin, and all that kind of nonsense. And it was clear that she, she's not a scientist itself, but she was understanding what the scientists would be trying to tell her and was able to translate that into not only policy decisions but communications to the general public. So their initial response was extraordinary. We did have one of the strictest lockdowns with the highest level of compliance. And we leveraged our strategic advantage of being an island state to enormous effect. We didn't squander it the way other island states like Britain did. I saw a recent analysis that seed had we taken a similar approach to Britain in that first wave and throughout the rest of 2020 and really mastered 2021 until people were vaccinated, another 15,000 New Zealanders would have died. Is it as our total death toll is around 3000-3300 at the moment, so it wasn't really until we've been fully vaccinated we'd got through a very difficult Delta lockdown in the Omicron came along. There was a massive adaptation and policy response at that stage. But, you know, we'd largely built a level of immunity that helped mitigate, if you like, the worst of it.
Brad Jackson 15:11
But I'd say she doesn't do framing capital F; she frames intuitively, it's very embodied, present, just like anyone else, as opposed to, you know, the line, please, commissioners by commissioners, if you get everybody, she's there, she's present - runs through her. And I think that exactly the huge personal and physical, physiological cost, and emotional costs are massive. If you're all in, you can't make that kind of framing. It's there. So by being embodied that you lay open, but you also get to be honest, and what we'll talk about the resignation, but I was genuinely concerned for about six months about her health and how she was, and let's not underestimate the personal cost that was required to be able to create that authentic leadership that Suze talked about. And I think the other would be, you know, we do quite a lot of appreciative inquiry; she was very appreciative. In other words, it wasn't so much on okay, we were looking for compliance, but really what she was celebrating this commitment to was examples of, you know, noticing what was going on in different parts of the community or in bringing attention to what people were doing going beyond duty, the call of duty as those you know, in a way. So it was like, inviting people to get behind us. And it wasn't an invitation, it wasn't, you should but actually acknowledging and appreciating the level of commitment which she was being and celebrating, too. But doing it very much hand in hand. I think Suze, it was a superb example, co-leadership with Ashley Bloomfield, and you know, the science, but just saying, "we do this, we do this together." So it's an interesting point when you think about that crisis leadership. And I know, historically, people have said crisis, really, as Suze says, "brings out and as the ultimate acid test of leaders of leadership," but the problem is when you're perceived to be so effectively, leading crises and responding when you don't have an obvious crisis. What happens? I mean, how do people respond, go back to Churchill, again, you know, great in wartime, but wasn't the right person in peacetime? And this is the conventional wisdom. There is a bit of conventional wisdom that is brilliant and a crisis. But what happens after? So I think that's something to certainly "textbook plus" genuine crisis leadership. But then, beyond that combination of physical and physiological challenge and maintaining momentum.
Scott Allen 17:53
As soon as when we spoke for the first time, it was after the trucker's event in Canada. And then you were telling me about some incidents that occurred in New Zealand. And it seems like there was this kind of contextual shift, and it got vicious, and as the context shifts and gets vicious, it's no longer just people in New Zealand being vicious; you have the world, right? Any bad actor from China or Iran, or North Korea can begin stirring the pot and get, and it gets vicious. Is that an accurate assessment? Is that was there a contextual shift that she then had to navigate some white waters that were?
Suze Wilson 18:42
Yes, yes. So in 2020, you know, when the pandemic starts our first lockdown, we come out of that with zero COVID in the community. Enclosed borders to try and keep it out. And we have this pretty luxurious dream run through the rest of 2020. And most of 2021, you know, when looking at the rest of the world going, "Oh, my God, there are so many people dying, but here we were incredibly, incredibly safe." But because, you know, we're all networked, people are also noticing all the anti-government anti-COVID, anti-COVID protection, anti-science, a discourse that is playing out in other countries. It's, it's seeping in here. And when we had a Delta outbreak in August of 2021, which resulted in a very extended period of lockdown in Auckland, which was our largest city. During that period, does it track and trace what's going on and disinformation and the kind of conspiracy networks we see a huge uptick in engagement with that kind of stuff? And so we started seeing anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination stuff reaching a much higher level of intensity and a much broader reach than before. And then it all reached a fever pitch on February 2022 with the parliamentary lockdown. You know, to very briefly say that it was very nearly our January 6, there was very close to the place losing control of the situation. But they had a radicalizing effect, and so, you know, throughout the rest of 2022, it became increasingly difficult for Ardern to go and engage in public events without encountering abusive protesters; the stuff online was there. In some sense, you know, not saying that opposition parties were breading conspiracy theories, they were not, but they were leveraging that level of distrust and discontent, that pushing hard on the fact that now we had inflation. The government wasn't controlling the cost of living crisis. If you like, completely ignoring that many things are quite difficult for the government to manage when they're driven by events in Russia and Ukraine. But it just there was this growing groundswell of discontent; her party was falling behind in the polls, and this kind of narrative developed around her that she was a divisive leader; I think that I have a problem with that because her behavior is never divisive, you know, she is kind of very much kind of the calm one in the room looking for middle ground. But you know, people want to express their opposition in quite extreme manners. That's where the divisiveness comes from. And actually, the way they're choosing to express themselves. All of last year was a really difficult time; it must have weighed upon her, the level of abuse that was coming your way and, in some way, shape, or form, the fact that there were even protests held at schools - really nasty stuff playing out in front of children. I'm sure she would have been upset about that somehow, who was present at the school was creating this nastiness that children were exposed to.
Brad Jackson 22:13
Suze's point about the internet, social media, and the dark side how that's very much a global phenomenon. And New Zealand sort of always prided itself as being well, "we've never done that. Never be like that here, like it is in the States or the UK, or Australia," and it was sort of like. Yet, I think those influencing that positioning became quite an obviously, persuaded and, and what surprised me was, you know, the way, you know, they're always the fringe. I could be the 5%, or whatever, but that kind of, I guess, competition for what's going on started to persuade more and more of the middle ground. And so it's interesting, you know, as leadership scholars, we get virtual leadership, but we don't get it. We don't, we haven't started to understand the influence that has and the dynamics, and with the Jacinda case, I mean, I don't want to use this as a case. Still, the richer would be to look at what are the motivations for followers, you know, those that...what got what's going on there in terms of the drive - people that had been supporting actively celebrating, Jacinda and what we were doing to suddenly, why did that shift? What was the turning point around that? And an awful lot is going on emotionally, but people, you know, that there's the insecurity of the economic future and many things. And so, what, we've had some recent conversations about the Suze, we're just very concerned about the sort of standard of basic decent behavior and discussion. So people, you know, social media will bring the worst out of people, occasionally the best. Still, it's when it starts to permeate, seeing what goes on in the street, you know, when you're lining up for in the grocery, or when you see someone complaining about some shouting or someone else on the street...it just never happened when I first arrived here, and yet it seems to be coming normal. So it's, it's all part of, I think people have pent up frustration, pent up - we've done this, we've come through this, and now you know, that we have to get that shift and the fact that it's happened in the middle, reasonable, you know, the quiet, New Zealand, you know, get on with it. That's what worried me. And that's I think, as Suze says, you know, I was pleased when we had the protests that there was a United focus build from politicians. But it all started to come unstuffed and start around when people started to exploit this, in a way, I think was, you know, in a way natural political capital, but it's not the way we did things here, and it's not what we're about. So that's the thing that I think most exercises me, and I know Suze and a few others that we've talked about, but it's "this is not on, this is not what we're about, it's not what we stand for." But I think we've only begun to scratch what is going on there, and I think we, as leadersship scholars, need to get into that and understand that it's murky, it's unpleasant. It's hostile, but it's got huge implications for democracy generally. Around, you can't seal it off. You can see a pandemic response to a certain extent, but you can't see all this ideological ferment globally; we need to be much smarter in terms of understanding but also finding ways to address it. I think that that's the piece that I'm taking more richly from Jacinda, in addition to, you know, superb exemplary prices, leadership. But the sort of the two things, I think, is really important for us to learn the positive, but also some of the negative things that are happening and what do we learn from that? What do we do about that? It's important for us in New Zealand, but it's important globally as well.
Scott Allen 25:46
when it seems that there was just ever worsening sexism and misogyny, that she was being subjected to, again, some of this behavior becoming more normalized, or some of the social media normalizing some of this behavior - where again, I can be anywhere in the world, and just hurling horrible, horrible content that...Suze, how do you make sense of that? I mean, it's very, very troubling.
Suze Wilson 26:17
Yeah, that's important. We cannot understate in any way just how vile the stuff that she was being subjected to was so that the researchers at the disinformation project published a report in November last year that had some of the roughly 30 Odd keywords that they were tracking, that was used about Arden a key target. So the "c-word" was the number one word; most of the other words, you know, associated with some death, or murder, or rape, her child's name is on that list. The Christchurch terrorist's name is on that list is one of the heroes, so they're enmeshed in this incredibly hateful discourse. And I do think that maybe part of what is going on here as that, that was the there was a period, particularly with the pandemic, where people were scared, we weren't quite right, rightfully, really scared about what risk it posed to us. And we were wrapped up safe as a border shut, and "Aunty Jacinda," or "Mum," was looking after us, and we were kind of dependent on her. And I wonder if part of what's going on for people is that they can't depend on a woman. And so what you've got, if you like, is this kind of huge counter-reaction...This refusal to have to give her any space to give her any legitimate say, to listen to anything that she's got to say, but as this kind of actually this huge backlash about, "Oh my god, I was relying on that woman, and she's just, you know, she's just a girl in a skirt, or she's a witch, or she's a shapeshifting wizard person, or whatever nonsense that people are caught up. So I think something is going on, I think, for people that having to listen to a woman show instructions, having to see a woman make decisions on difficult policy issues. There's just this fundamental, "How dare she. How dare that woman tell me what to do?" I think there's just something, you know, and that's just that basic, kind of underlying misogynistic women should not be having a say in the staff. They should be docile and submissive, and silent. There's this kind of roar kind of misogynistic, patriarchal tension that's in there? And to be very clear, it's not only coming from men. There are plenty of women who are who express hatred towards her, as well. And you know, there is research, that helps us unpack why a woman might do that; she can achieve that and see something to me that I can't, so I have to tear her down because I'm tearing her down, I make myself feel better.
Brad Jackson 29:14
I was thinking Suze about this quite beautifully 'adolescent rage'...actually verging on toddler rage. And I've always been struck by a slight passive-aggressive undercurrent in our country because, on the surface, everybody's very pleasant and nice, but we do see people particularly this sort of notion of we call it "tall poppy" but this ambiguity people have about authority and authority figures generally because one of the key drivers here in New Zealand's founding is and was creating autonomy that was there the and equality and all these kinds of things. I want to add another dimension to Suze because there was a feeling that she was getting so much international attention and being held up as an exemplary leader. In a world without many exemplary leaders, she was, you know, the UN, queen, the various prime ministers. And to be honest, it's interesting because we should be feeling well; we're getting great recognition for a New Zealand leader. But going back to this whole psychodynamic, I think people felt jealous that she was being recognized she's giving in as a potential..."great for her. But what about us stuck here and we're facing." And so there isn't an element there I think about because I think a lot of people who aren't New Zealanders would say, "Well, what's going on here? I mean, you've got someone here...that we're desperate to have as a leader! What the hell are you? Why are people unhappy around there?" But I think there is a sort of anger. And as you say, I think as you're 'bang on' Suze, people just being really scared, really terrified and feeling reassured, and then all of a sudden feeling this, you know, this, this has to get emanate in some kind of hostility or some kind of frustration, but the international profile, funnily enough, I think, serve to stoke for these people who felt left out, that we've been let down and "mum, aunty." I don't want to get into too much of that. But I think there's something very deep down there that's well beyond the sort of conventional psychological explanations of, and I think it's the thing that we need to better understand if we are to find ways to channel that.
Suze Wilson 31:18
You know, the other important contextual feature - of course, there were things that the government was doing that, people quite legitimately and reasonably would say, "that's not good enough," or "I disagree." I'm not suggesting for one moment that every decision that she's made is perfect or right or necessary, at best. That's, fine. It's the way that people have chosen to express their dissent. That is the problem. And that shows such a, hugely, there's actually a hugely gendered characteristic to that, we can't understand the situation if we don't pay attention to that stuff.
Scott Allen 31:54
What's fascinating to me, or, what I come back to, is how do you succeed? I don't want to say in this context, but we are in a space where there have been reports that she'll probably need security for the rest of her life for her and her family. I mean, because of the death threats, and it's just...who wants to lead? You're gonna have only narcissists and people who are not well, psychologically raising their hand because, you know, what we're subjecting our leaders to is, is horrible. And what they are subjected to is horrible. And I think that's another opportunity for scholars, these folks, regardless of your political affiliation, what they're enduring, what their families are enduring, it's just, it's damaging. And it ranges from horrible to just bad.
Suze Wilson 32:51
Yeah, I mean, that that's the bigger picture and the, you know, the kind of the legacy worry, isn't it as that, we know, that Ardern was the number one target, but we also know that, you know, other women MPs and MPs, who are people of color, you know, are also particularly, you know, at risk of this same kind of vitriol, in, the more it becomes normalized, the more it's just "Well, that's, that's how we treat people in public life." And actually, yeah, as you say, if we, if we want to have decent human beings in public life, then we actually need to treat them like decent human beings should. So it's really concerning. I think the thing that's so concerning about what's happened here is that New Zealand is not a country that has got, you know, stuff like that the decade of deep divisiveness that says, the US has seen or Britain in relation to the Brexit. This has happened in an extremely short period of time, and I do not was reelected in late 2020 as an outright majority, which was the first time that had happened, and the 20-odd years that we've had 30 odd years, we've...The erosion of civil discourse has happened really, really rapidly. And it is really clear that there are foreign influences. And I'm not being conspiratorial and saying we know that money is coming. We do know that money is coming from Bannon to support one of the major disinformation broadcasters here that are very happy to brag about that. It's also really noticed the extent to which they are spouting Putin's talking points with respect to Ukraine. So even if they're not getting money from Russia, spreading Russian disinformation, spreading Putinist propaganda in our country, that's not helpful. What was already a difficult job of leading right just nigh on impossible, and it's not good for all of us, any of us.
Brad Jackson 34:59
As you know, the thought that occurred to me is the rich Suze's point about how it's happened so quickly, so compressed that it hasn't been properly processed. And I guess Suze is one of the things that I don't think there was a lot of attention around Jacinda's resignation. People recognizing, you know, the hostility of the office, in the sort of misogynistic behavior, a whole bunch of things, but it's amazing in two weeks with a new leader. It happens to be a mackerel, Chris Hipkins; we have two, two leaders, both called Chris - Christopher Luxon and Christopher Hipkins, and the polls have already gone up for labor - male, oh, and the way, you know, "we'll get back to basic" that this kind of agenda, and it's just so it's reinforcing exactly what you're saying, Suze about how this quote is just the ceiling. I think it was significant that was only one person who stood up to be the leader. You might say, well, actually, that's a sign of a party, that's, united and integrated. But, you know, if people say to me, do you have a criticism of Jacinda? I would say, is the ability to be able to create a very strong cabinet, and caucus, because, you know, my time spent in Wellington, that's probably the thing that most impressed me is that you know, you can focus on the leader, but it's, it's about that cabinet. And it's about that broader caucus. And when you're so focused on that kind of distal leadership versus proximal leadership - you know globally, without a lot of that kind of, quote, "management, political management" piece, and I'd say there was a weakness, I would, that's probably an area that I would say to you know, we're creating the strongest collective leadership platform. And that's a problem, and you've got someone who is so leader-focused in terms of, and I'm not saying that she did that by design, but I'm just saying, so it's interesting that we're, we're the heir apparenst? Where was that...we were looking around thinking, "Well, who else A) would be crazy enough to do this and B) and have that", and thankfully, Chris Hipkins, who was a student union president when I was at Victoria, many years ago, and he is we're lucky to have that as a successor. But I just feel that I'd most concerned about the future of democracy here. And in particular, going back to the impact Suze that this has had on younger people, cool kids, even my grandchildren, they've seen this. And I just, I wonder about the effect, it's going to have a long-term effect on their attitudes towards leadership and to democracy. That's something I really need to grasp.
Suze Wilson 35:02
The chances of having a left-of-center female prime minister in the next decade are extremely low because, you know, those leads to senior parties would look at it and go, "Hmm, what is this going to cost us?" You know, just despite, if you like, whatever skills and competencies that the candidate might have, we have seen an immediate bounce in the polls, because she's been replaced by a man, a man who was also strongly associated with the COVID response. Right, which supposedly was the thing that was entertaining people. Therefore, the chances are that we will have another prime minister in the next decade. It's she's going to come from the right to the center-right side of the house because we, you know, we know that, you know, internationally, I don't know if we've got any data on this. New Zealand, I guess, case, we have that most of the disinformation, people are enmeshed in, you know, far-right conspiracies. So they're not, you're not likely to attack their own, nearly so much.
Brad Jackson 38:42
But we do have too strong deputy leaders. But I think our point about the center is in the press, another thing I would say is how to hang on to that center as the toughest is in a context, you've got to do that. And I think you Jacinda's case, just because of that shifting context, the center was lost. But there is a reason why we need to focus on that center.
Scott Allen 39:07
I've said it a couple of times on the podcast, you know, how do you monetize the middle? Right? How do you monetize that? Because, you know, "Republicans or Democrats compromise today to help the American people," you know, isn't being clicked and the extremes are being clicked, and then the algorithms elevating and then attitudes and emotions and are elevating and, you know, it's there's something in here, and I'm not wise enough to know what it is. But there also seems to be a sense of, "it can very quickly leaders can lose command of the narrative." And very quickly, some of these influences - leaders, whether they're leading a Fortune 500 organization or a family-owned business or a country are going to have to put significant efforts in framing the narrative and commanding the narrative and highlighting the good and highlighting all of the positives that are happening, because billions of dollars are being spent to spin the opposite narrative, it's big business. It's big business, I think keeping us stirred up is big business. Again, no one's clicking on the compromise story. And so, I don't know if there's something in there about, did she lose command of the narrative? And then we couldn't adjust quickly enough to ensure that there was a command of the narrative. And I see that happening in the States as well, whether that's the governor of my state, and how was he communicating all of the good, so that all of that negativity is balanced that at least, right? Because then that negativity takes over, and that becomes the truth. And people get agitated. I don't know if that resonates or not. But it seems like as I listened to the two of you, there was a there's a loss of, of some of that narrative that she seemed to have such an incredible command of.
Suze Wilson 41:02
One of the things that about her is that she's actually not argumentative. So, in parliamentary question time, when she has asked questions, she will come back, if you like, strong about, "no, this is what we've done. And this and this will send you wrong to say this, and this and that." So she's, she's very assertive and that parliamentary thing. But, you know, when she's asked questions by journalists, her tone is always much more tempered. She doesn't rise to any bait around stuff. So in some sense, her problem was, you know, damned if she does and damned if she doesn't, right? Because we all know that angry. We all know, the "angry woman" kind of trope, you know, so she had to work incredibly hard, under extreme provocation, not to do that her conduct and the house, you know, accords with the norms of how people conduct themselves and the house, generally. So there was that, you know, she kind of couldn't be caught out with criticism on there. And most people don't watch it anyway. It's
Brad Jackson 42:08
It's a delicious irony in this because, you know, people are always complaining about the house and the appalling...and in fact, a lot of people when they say, look, I became disengaged with politics, because of what I see in here and in the house. And I suppose, you know, sushi spent many years in public service, I spent some time in Wellington too. So you see, some, you know, that seems quite an exception, because it's well made and can do some amazing work. There, too. And unfortunately, most people have no idea. They see the 32nd thing. And so this is something we could do about that. But it's ironic; it's that disenchantment with the conventional chambers of discussion that has led people to become much more susceptible. Our politicians are all...you know what I mean? I do think there is an opportunity. And I guess I'm a chronic optimist. I'm unusual for an academic, I know that. I do think because, you know, we've had discussions about how you fight this huge influence in the internet, it's such a drive, and I, I suppose I'm a because I proudly, analog kind of person or not a digital person, I do think that there is something we've got there in terms of our abilities to engage with, you know, it's both at our students, 245, 101 students, there are others communities I do think we need to think about. And it's interesting because I've, you know, I've got my stepson from Brazil, he's 17. He's staying with me right now. And I'm amazed when he tells me about what he knows about the world. And I go, "where did you, where did you get that?" And I've been so naive about that. But what I've been doing with him is just taking him to places showing him stuff, trying to develop his ability to note, to sense, to smell, to not rely on this bloody phone to make sense of the world. So I think we almost have to create compelling alternatives. Because the awful phrase that always haunts me about leadership is "we get the leaders we deserve." What are we doing here? You know, how do we create more sophisticated, more critical consumers of leadership? How do we instill people to say make your mind use your data, don't go with what emotionally feels appeals to your teenage angst or whatever it is. So I just think we've got to rethink generally, we've got that opportunity I'm sure we need to better understand the internet. But I also think we've got a great opportunity. And so, you know, my pleasure about being an alternate thing I'd most loved being in Wellington was being able to talk to Prime Minister talk to ministers, you know, you'd line up getting a sandwich Scott, and you've got the Minister of Finance that you know, paying $3.50 for a sub, besides where you are, and having a chat with him and saying and just feeling connected on a very basic level about that. And I think the more we can find opportunities to get people to make their own decision based on what they see in here, and apart I, I know, it's old school, but I think that's something I value is what I'm really worried about. And I, you know, as an immigrant, is what I am concerned about losing. Because it's been so special for me compared to my other experience elsewhere in the world, so this is, but it's our responsibility. What do we do?
Suze Wilson 45:31
I guess I sense that I do think I do and will be judged very kindly by historians, is probably amongst the best prime ministers that New Zealand has ever had throughout the world. She's had a significant impact; she's navigated some extremely difficult things incredibly well. And there are, you know, there are many positive lessons we can take, you know, from her approach to leadership, particularly, you know, her centering around values of, you know, an ethics of care and inclusion and being respectful and how she dealt people combined with her courage to make difficult decisions, you know. You could see that many of those difficult decisions did weigh heavily upon her. So there was the sense, I think, too, that, you know, in many instances, she rose above partisan political consideration, she was very much trying to, if you like, play a states person, like role in governing, truly in the national interest. But one of the big lessons as well, out of your experience, is just how pervasive the effect of sexism and misogyny can be for women leaders. Also, how followers for that, for lack of a better word, can have so many unrealistic expectations as to make a leader's job, virtually unbearable, better consumer, we'll be mining lessons from him for years to come. And I'm sure that she will go on to continue to make some leadership contribution, I suspect on an international stage, at least partly because it's not safe. So you're here, which is, which is terrible. You know what? She's had a bit of a break; there'll be plenty more that she can give in, and she'll continue to be an inspiring role model for many people.
Scott Allen 47:22
Well, as a leadership scholar, you know that we are often asked, "Well, who do you think is a great leader?" And she has been my answer. And I think we owe it to her. And we owe it to future leaders who, as Teddy Roosevelt would say, "step into the arena." to better understand what they're stepping into the good, the bad, the ugly - to prepare them for some of that work so that they are better prepared to navigate some of that as I said earlier to go back to Peter Vaill's, the whitewater that they're going to experience from all directions. And so I appreciate you two spending some time today and helping us make sense. And I'm sure listeners, what I'm going to do is I'm going to put out some links to some articles that the two of you suggest people read so that they can better understand the situation and make sense of themselves and start to reflect and think about this topic because it's an important one. And I can't thank you enough. I really, couldn't have thought of a better way to spend my evening than with the two of you learning.
Suze Wilson 48:32
Brad Jackson 48:34
Transcribed by https://otter.ai