During times of suffering such as that inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, compassion expressed by leaders helps to ease distress. Doing so, those in a position to provide resources that might facilitate coping and recovery are attentive to the situations of distress. Despite an abundance of leadership theorizing and models, there still is little academic literature on compassionate leadership. To address this limitation, we present an exploratory case study of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, someone widely recognized for her compassionate leadership and frequently described in paradoxical terms (e.g. ‘kind and strong’; embodying ‘steel and compassion’). We address her compassionate leadership through the lenses of paradox theory, legitimacy theory and conservation of resources theory. We contribute a heuristic framework that sees various types of legitimacy leveraged synergistically to build resources and alleviate suffering – providing further legitimacy in an upward spiral of compassionate leadership.
- conservation of resources