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Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reveals the real reason that led her to step down

She was the youngest female head of government in the world as a 37-year-old Prime Minister in 2017.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reveals the real reason that led her to step down
Cover Image Source: Jacinda Ardern poses at her desk for the last time as Prime Minister at Parliament on January 25, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Earlier in 2023, Jacinda Ardern resigned from her post as the Prime Minister of New Zealand after over five years of service. She was the youngest female head of government in the world at the time: a 37-year-old Prime Minister back in 2017. At the time of her resignation, many believed she was stepping down as a result of burnout. Ardern had resigned from her position saying she no longer has "enough in the tank" to move forward, reported The Guardian

NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 19: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation at the War Memorial Centre on January 19, 2023 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)
Image Source: NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 19: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation at the War Memorial Centre on January 19, 2023 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

“It’s time,” she said noting that she would step down and not seek re-election. “I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility–the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple. I am human, politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can. And then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”



 

Many assumed it was burnout that led her to leave the high-profile job. The condition is defined by the World Health Organization—which included "burnout" in its International Classification of Diseases—as a result of "chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." Ardern recently informed Good Morning America of the real reason she stepped down from her role.

"I could have kept going but, for me, having been through a period where we did experience a lot of crises in New Zealand, it was whether or not I had enough to do the job well, and the answer for me personally was, no, it was time for someone else," Ardern told co-anchor Robin Roberts in the recent live interview. "So, a bit different than burnout."

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern speaks at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters on September 23, 2022 in New York City. After two years of holding the session virtually or in a hybrid format, 157 heads of state and representatives of government are expected to attend the General Assembly in person. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Image Source: Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern speaks at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters on September 23, 2022 in New York City. After two years of holding the session virtually or in a hybrid format, 157 heads of state and representatives of government are expected to attend the General Assembly in person. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Ardern clarified that though it was not burnout that led her to step down she "was overwhelmed by the fact that beyond New Zealand's shore, it triggered a discussion about how we make these decisions," Ardern said. "I had particularly a few women say to me, 'Thank you for making it OK to say that I'm tired or that I don't have enough in the tank to do a job well.' I think we carry a huge sense of responsibility to just keep going."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford pose for a photo with their new baby girl Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford on June 24, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. Prime Minister Ardern is the second world leader to give birth in office, and the first elected leader to take maternity leave. Arden will take six weeks of leave with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters assuming the role of Acting Prime Minister. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Image Source: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford pose for a photo with their new baby girl Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford on June 24, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. Prime Minister Ardern is the second world leader to give birth in office, and the first elected leader to take maternity leave. Arden will take six weeks of leave with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters assuming the role of Acting Prime Minister. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

At the time of her resignation, Ardern was focused on spending more time with her family. She was grateful for her partner, Clarke Gayford, and daughter Neve, whom she gave birth to while in office. Ardern was only the second elected world leader in modern times to give birth while in office. She also held the title of being the youngest prime minister in New Zealand in more than 150 years. Remembering her time in office she hopes she inspired anyone "who is holding themselves back."

Image Source: NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 19: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation at the War Memorial Centre on January 19, 2023 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)
Image Source: NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 19: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation at the War Memorial Centre on January 19, 2023, in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

"I think it might have been perhaps a call to other reluctant leaders, to those out there who may think that they don't have the character traits or they see themselves as too sensitive, not tough enough or [see] roles in leadership, particularly politics, as being a place where that would be a hard set of character traits to bring to the table," Ardern said, adding, "I think they're necessary ones. If you're sensitive enough, it means you're empathetic. We need more empathy in leadership. We need more kindness in leadership."



 

Editor's note: This article was originally published on September 21, 2023. It has since been updated.

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