When it comes to leadership, people want a leader they can believe in, one who works hard, and that does their job with grace and fortitude. But where does the line of work versus play get drawn? Are leaders allowed to have a personal life? It certainly seems like you shouldn’t have to forfeit your entire life, just because of the job you have. As the old saying goes, all work and no play can make a person dull. It seems like if you wanted a country to run as it should, then you should have a leader who was well-balanced, with leisure activities to take their minds off the stress of the job at hand. Running a country is no easy task, and leaders need a way to balance work and play.
You Can Dance If You Want To
One notable prime minister has gotten herself into a bit of hot water lately for playing a little too much, but is it fair to say that if you are leading a country, you do not deserve to go out and have a good time? Sanna Marin was elected in December of 2019 as the Prime Minister of Finland and is the third female and youngest ever in the country’s history. The spotlight was recently shining on her as video tapes of her dancing at a party were linked to the press, and many people in the country and around the world were scrutinizing her actions. Finnish politicians asked for her to take a drug test to be tested for narcotics after the video became available, even though Marin herself insists she has never taken drugs, not even in high school.
“I spent the evening with friends. Partied, pretty wild, yes. Danced and sang,” Marin said earlier this week. “I have not used drugs myself, or anything other than alcohol. I’ve danced, sung and partied and done perfectly legal things.”
Politicians and reporters raked Marin over the coals after the incident, asking if she could make important government decisions if something difficult for the country were to happen while she was out partying.
The New York post reported Marin saying, “I don’t remember a single time that there was a sudden situation in the middle of the night to go to the State Council Palace. I think my ability to function was really good. There were no known meetings on the days I was partying.”
Marin, for her part, thinks that she should be allowed to live her life. “I trust that people understand that leisure time and work time can be separated,” she said. Marin agreed to a blood test at her own expense to rule out drugs in her system, wanting to prove to her nation that she was not doing anything illegal.
A Double Standard
It certainly seems like a double standard is at play here. While Marin put up her own money to prove she was innocent, other leaders have behaved inappropriately such as Donald Trump or Bill Clinton, and never had to defend their honor at their own expense. It seems as though the bar is set higher for women, especially young women.
It seems as though Marin gets the last laugh, however. “No narcotics were found in the prime minister’s drug test,” the Finnish government said in a brief statement on Monday night, adding that more details on the test would be available soon.
“I did nothing illegal,” Marin told reporters. This begs the question of how world leaders should be able to spend their free time. And for young women like Marin, it does seem like the spotlight is shining just a little too brightly on her actions as opposed to her male counterparts.
This was not the first time that Marin has apologized for partying, once being out till 4 a.m. without her phone, after her foreign minister had tested positive for Covid-19. Even after this latest incident, she has no plans to change her social life habits. It seems like a world leader would need to have a work hard/play hard attitude to balance everything they need to do in a week, and to be able to step away from work and have a fresh perspective.
“I hope that’s accepted,” she told the Finnish broadcaster YLE last week. “We live in a democracy, and in elections everyone can decide these issues.”
Solidarity With Sanna
Despite the prickly politicians, many women have come to Marin’s defense, with many of them citing the fact that she didn’t do anything wrong and that she deserves to go out and blow off some steam. In fact, hundreds of Finnish women have posted videos of themselves dancing, showing solidarity with the prime minister, using the hashtag #solidaritywithsanna.
The support is broad-reaching. “The sky is the limit for Dancing Queens,” one user tweeted. “We should all dance a little more! I stand in solidarity with Sanna,” another user posted. “Why can’t she party after work? Do we expect our leaders not to be human beings?” tweeted Ashok Swain, a professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Many in the public understand that prime ministers are people too and deserve the chance to let their hair down. “How shocking!!! A young politician who does her job and enjoys her private life… Why can’t a young woman have fun? I can’t stand gender double standards,” Spanish politician Iratxe García Pérez tweeted. “All my support to @MarinSanna.”
It certainly seems like older men are not scrutinized this much about how they spend their free time. But with a negative drug test in hand, it is clear that Marin was not doing anything illegal. And hopefully the world will learn to be a little more forgiving when it comes to young leaders. The fact that Marin is a young woman seems to have won her more scrutiny than her male counterparts in the past, even when they have actually done things wrong.
I like to spend my time giving back with organizations that focus on mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs. I have supported after school programs that focus on entrepreneurial and global initiatives in local primary schools. I recently extended my mentoring to include students at Case Western Reserve University.