Jacinda Ardern, like George Washington, knew when to quit

“Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it,” William Shakespeare writes of an executed rebel in “Macbeth.” Today’s leaders, however, often struggle to embrace an

equivalent vision of a dignified exit from political life when their time comes. Jacinda Ardern is the rare leader who is choosing to leave the stage, not to be pushed off

it. New Zealand’s prime minister said Thursday that she had “no more in the tank” after five years in power and would not seek reelection. Unlike leaders who go on too long, who

are forced out by rebellious colleagues, rejected by their own parties, turfed out by voters, refusing to admit they lost elections, perennially plotting to return or resort to

autocracy to cling onto power, Ardern’s stay in power will be enhanced by the leaving of it. Her self-awareness is on brand for a politician who became a progressive

global icon while Donald Trump-style ego populism swept the globe. Her leadership during Covid-19 and after mass shootings at two mosques in 2019 won Ardern admiration far from

New Zealand. A cynic might argue that she simply saw the writing on the wall: Ardern’s popularity has ebbed and her Labour Party trails in the polls amid rising crime,

high inflation and falling home prices. But there would have been time to mount a comeback before the general election that she called for October. The price of power for

Ardern, 42, has been arduous. She’s faced abuse and threats linked to her gender and relative youth. She has a young daughter and wants to marry her partner; spending time with

family isn’t just the classic politicians’ face-saving excuse here.