Crowds lined the streets to honour this amazing Queen who has been in office for the last seventy years. So much has been said, so many affirmations given, so much respect; I want to add thoughts of leadership lessons I’ve read from the many who have loved, admired and been inspired by her. We cherish the memory of this truly great leader.
- Maintain calmness in the midst of
change: The past seventy years have involved immense
change in society, the ups and downs of fifteen prime ministers, turbulent
times as a family and required the queen to stand strong as a secure anchor in
the midst of the storms for the people of the UK and the Commonwealth.
How do we handle change, stress and trauma in our leadership roles? With calmness or do we experience sleepless nights, anxious thoughts and become insecure as we seek to weave our way through the challenging journey of leadership?
- Never complain, never explain:
This has been a motto thought to
originate from 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, subsequently
adopted by the Queen’s late mother. It’s now held by the royal family as a
principle. Of late, the Sussexes decided to go public with their complaints – that
has not gone well. “The very lack of personal drama has arguably been the
secret of Elizabeth II’s success,” says Tracy Borman. The Queen looked for
what we could agree on and didn’t enter fights of opposing opinions.
How do we deal with difficult issues as they arise? Are we found complaining, seeking to explain our way out of situations? Perhaps holding back some personal information is wise in this society where too much detail can be shared about our personal lives.
- An outstanding woman in leadership: Arianne
Chernock says, “So much of what made Elizabeth an ideal constitutional monarch
relies on traits or qualities that are very stereotypically feminine – the
sense of being apolitical or even passive, reticent to intervene. All her
feminine qualities served her well as monarch.” Interestingly there was a
similar response to the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. It was not necessarily
that people thought Victoria was such an amazing female leader. They considered
she had been pliable, passive and much more willing than her son to adopt this
purely ceremonial role.
How pliable are we in our leadership? Is there a sense of needing to give our opinions, of being in control, of letting everyone know who is the leader around here? It takes wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent, when to act and when to sit back.
- Leadership through influence: We often talk of the difference between authority and power. We have the illustration of a police officer stopping traffic on the road – they have authority but not necessarily power. A vehicle could easily run them down. Now if that police officer was driving a Sherman tank, he or she would have both authority and power. The government has both, but the Queen had authority only if we gave it to her. The bottom line she relied on, was influence. That waxed and waned over the years, but she finished her life with the nation recognising her incredible influence for good over these seventy years.
do we seek power and position? The Queen’s life reminds us that influence and
example can be more enduring than power.
- Embrace both tradition and progress: As
the new King Charles III said in his first speech as king, “In Queen
Elizabeth’s life of service we saw that abiding love of tradition, together
with that fearless embrace of progress, which makes us great as nations.”He
was echoing his mother’s first Christmas address as queen in 1952, when she
said, “Many grave problems and difficulties confront us all, but with a new
faith in the old and splendid beliefs given us by our forefathers, and the
strength to venture beyond the safeties of the past, I know we shall be worthy
of our duty.” She embodied that strength.
As leaders, we are well advised to carry the three dimensions of past, present and future. Jeff Fountain encourages us to be, “Rooted in the past and focused on the future, in order to be effectively engaged in the present.” We so often want to throw out the old to press on to the new. But wisdom says learn from the past, understand your history then you can move on with wisdom and insight into the future.
- Create a circle leadership: Behind any key role of leadership there are many people in the team who bring their wisdom and giftings to support and enable the leader to function. The Queen was no different and built a reliable, loyal and gifted team of advisors and workers, plus she shared her role with other members of the Royal Family.
We are very short-sighted as leaders if we think we can ‘go it alone.’ We all need a team. And not just yes men and women but people who will share their real opinions and be listened to by us.
- Calling, Character and Commitment:
In a speech made on her 21st birthday, the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth)
pledged her commitment to duty in these memorable words: “I declare before you
all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your
service.” She lived with a sense of calling and purpose over her life, remaining
true to it through thick and thin, becoming a leadership model of a queen who
Do we as leaders serve our people? Is that what they would say of us? It takes a depth of character to stay committed for the long haul, to follow through on long days of administration and relating with dignitaries from the nations of the world, always being gracious, welcoming and maintaining the royal protocol!
- Find time to do what you love: The Queen maintained a role of public relations and had a schedule that made us feel tired just looking at it. However, her hobbies are well known to us as well. She managed her diary to enjoy spending time with her corgis, visiting her horses and connecting with family.
For any leader, one of the challenges is to balance personal life, family and work. How is that going for you? You make time for the things you really want to do. So, think through your priorities and make sure you create the space in the calendar to do them.
‘It is hard to think of a better embodiment of the leadership values all business leaders should aspire to: consistency, reliability and a constant presence all could depend on.’ – Sam Gordon
Until next month