Royal lessons in core values and consistency


For all the negative headlines that appear across the news, one of the things that the UK has to look forward to this year is the coronation of King Charles. However, while we anticipate this happy occasion in the new Carolean age, we also preserve lessons from the UK’s longest-reigning monarch and the only one that most of us have ever known.  
Elizabeth II was a publicly quiet woman, but her actions spoke volumes, and she gained global respect for her consistency, core values and unflinching dignity. When she did speak, it appeared to be with unerring wisdom - offering the kind of leadership over nearly 71 years that few could hope to replicate.  
There is much in the ether that pays tribute to Elizabeth II. Still, in a world of trends and reactionary actions, fast-paced change and disruptors, her steady example is one from which many leaders, intent on an enduring legacy and sustainable business can take guidance. Whatever we think of the monarchy today, while we mere mortals think in years and decades, the House of Windsor thinks in terms of millennia. Elizabeth II has arguably been the most successful ‘CEO' of the ‘Firm' to date.  
In this article, we wanted to reflect upon some examples of leadership displayed by Elizabeth II - a woman whose reign was described by Forbes as “a masterclass in leadership – especially for women."  

Leadership lessons from Elizabeth II 

To confine The Queen’s leadership style to an example for women alone, though, is to do her a disservice. As Forbes continued, “For 70 years as Queen Elizabeth II, she embodied leadership, and showed generations of women – and men – that women could “be” leaders and “do” leadership.” However, as CEO Magazine points out: “The Queen was a trusted leader – she made decisions even when it was difficult, she had no personal agenda other than to serve her country, and she was consistent in her approach.” 
Forbes described seven critical lessons in leadership from the late Queen - all of which showcase the careful balance of power that she maintained throughout her extraordinary career: 

"It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.” 

Embrace tradition and progress 

The Queen’s ability to embrace tradition and progress was a shrewd and valuable move throughout her reign, ensuring the monarchy’s stability even through challenging periods and setting it up for success in the future. An institution that has lasted over 1,000 years, she recognised the beauty of longstanding values and the deep roots they offer for navigating challenging times and inspiring good ones. However, she also saw the importance of moving forward and embracing the new. CEOs and business leaders too can benefit from that outlook - it’s very easy to see the importance of new trends. However, solid principles and ethics are essential for businesses that want to build real brand value and can withstand stormy weather. 

"During these years as your Queen, the support of my family has, across the generations, been beyond measure. Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide." 

Have a trusted advisor  

The Queen’s marriage to Prince Phillip was in so many ways the stuff of fairytales, and she famously described him as “my strength and stay” in a speech on their Golden Wedding Anniversary. For CEOs and business leaders, having a trusted advisor to turn to - one with the experience and capability to set personal agendas aside in favour of offering guidance and support that’s for the benefit of the business, is invaluable.  

"It has been women who have breathed gentleness and care into the harsh progress of mankind." 

See the best in people  

The Queen was popular not only in the UK but worldwide, seeming to transcend the muck of politics and popular opinion. According to her eldest son, the reasons for that affection were her: “warmth, humour and an unerring ability always to see the best in people.” While she may have seemed to be a benign grandmother figure in many ways, Elizabeth II was an intelligent leader - a characteristic that could not have been mutually exclusive from her kindness. CEOs can take heed of an approach that’s very much leading from the front - seeking to create a culture and affection amongst teams and inspiring positivity and loyalty.

“No age group has a monopoly of wisdom, and indeed I think the young can sometimes be wiser than us." 

Be willing to throw out protocol when it doesn’t serve you 

We talk so often in this fast-paced world about the importance of agility in a business. As both the pandemic and digitisation have taught us, agility is undoubtedly a helpful and necessary characteristic. However, being reactionary is not. Elizabeth II was a connoisseur of the considered approach. At times she could probably be criticised for not evolving quickly enough. Still, over the course of her reign, she gradually shifted the perception of the royal family and the way they approach their roles, recognising where tradition had value and where protocols no longer served their purpose for the reputation and purpose of the Firm. After all, who could forget the moment where she broke with tradition on the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on 9-11-2001 and directed the Coldstream Guards to play the American national anthem during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace? 

"I have to be seen to be believed." 

Your style is part of your brand 

The Queen has been one of the most successful people in the world at using her image to make a statement. As a master of diplomacy, amongst other things, she often used fashion to make a point where words were inappropriate or insufficient. She was known to use colour and symbols on her clothing to show respect and reverence on trips around the world - a habit that the Princess of Wales has continued to uphold. She also left the world speculating on multiple occasions regarding coded messages through her attire. Examples of her intentional dressing include donning head-to-toe in green as a sign of peace when she went to shake hands with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in 2012 wearing a brooch from her honeymoon to Prince Phillip’s funeral. As The Guardian has said, she "led the way in power-dressing for the world stage", and was a "pioneer in using clothes to project a message." For businesses and business leaders, the lesson might not be about clothing, but an enduring and consistent image can sometimes be as, if not more powerful, than words and statements. 

"I know of no single formula for success, but over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal, and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration, to work together." 

Soft power is powerful leadership 

It would have been easy to assume that Queen Elizabeth was merely a figurehead. In truth, she proved herself to be amongst the most skilled leaders, particularly given the delicacy of her role. She used strong communication skills and even better listening skills to influence rather than control. She managed both her household and her official responsibilities effectively. She was, perhaps, the very definition of an iron hand in a velvet glove because her goal was not to be self-serving but to have a higher purpose. Neil Jurd OBE, author of The Leadership Book, said: “In this leadership style the focus is outwards, on others and on the objective.” For business leaders, learning to listen and direct rather than micromanage and maintaining a focus on the 'greater good' rather than small wins is a powerful skill to master. 

"Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God." 

True leaders don’t stop until they leave the stage 

The last photo of the Queen was famously taken only two days before her death, as she greeted the incoming Prime Minister, Liz Truss, with a warm smile. She might have appeared frail, but there was no loss of professionalism or enthusiasm as she carried out her final act of service. Herein lies a lesson for all, from leadership to those rising through the ranks of a business: always serve your purpose to the best of your ability, doing our best in our current roles until we actually leave them. The mark of a good leader or a potential leader is how we behave when things are not going according to plan, when things are challenging or when we’re heading towards a seismic change. This is where having a sense of purpose is essential - knowing that the personal, professional and company values you're seeking to uphold are enough to drive you to do your best - for your company, your team and your customers, until you leave the proverbial stage. 
If you're looking for support developing a leadership style that will support your team, your company and your customers for sustainable success, you may benefit from working with our CEO Whisperer or Fractional CMO service. If you want to learn more, contact us to see how we can help your business grow.