The Leader: Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir

There’s more reason than ever to love the nation that produced Björk and Sigur Rós—Iceland now has the world’s first openly gay head of state. Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, Iceland’s longest-serving member of parliament and former social affairs minister, was named prime minister on an interim basis in February 2009, after the collapse of the previous government amid an economic downturn, and elected to that position in April. (Norway once had an openly gay interim leader.) In her progressive country, Sigurdardóttir’s sexual orientation proved a nonissue. The 67-year-old, who is also Iceland’s first female prime minister, has been dubbed “Saint Jóhanna” for her work on behalf of the less fortunate, and while she is a member of the liberal Social Democratic Alliance party, she is well-liked across the spectrum. The BBC has called her “one of Iceland’s most popular politicians,” and a 2008 poll showed 73% of Icelanders approved of her work as social affairs minister even as other government officials faced angry protests. Named to Forbes magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women list for 2009, she has pledged to lead “a strong government that works with the people” in an effort to bring Iceland out of its economic troubles and into the European Union.

Tags: People