Today we celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Now Britain’s longest-reigning monarch of 64 years, the Queen was listed in a recent YouGov survey as the role model with the best leadership skills.
More than 60% of respondents considered HRH to be the woman who best embodies leadership, putting her above others such as Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton.
So what important leadership lessons can we learn from Queen Elizabeth II?
Prepare for the top…
You could end up Queen! It wasn’t completely unexpected for Elizabeth to end up on the throne, however when she was born she was in fact third in line. Less than a year after her uncle Edward VII became King he surprisingly abdicated for love, putting her father on the throne.
Always prepare for the top job, whether it’s taking on a Senior Leadership position or new responsibilities unexpectedly. Preparing for the top means aiming for the very top, visualising yourself in that senior level position. Make sure you are ready to take that step at any time.
Even at the very beginning of her career, Elizabeth was at the cutting edge of technology and even incorporated new media into her 1953 coronation, insisting on having the ceremony televised. She also embraced email, becoming one of the first heads of state to send one in 1976! With the birth of Social Media, she took to Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube with accounts followed by millions and is now even advertising to hire a marketing manager to run these social channels for her!
In a very traditional environment Elizabeth has always been a pioneer of new technologies, and any successful, aspiring leader must acquire these attributes. Don’t resist change, broaden your horizons with emerging trends and always stay ahead on the game. Does your school embrace social media? Do you have a twitter account?
Early on in her career, Elizabeth gained popularity by becoming the first monarch to visit Australia and has made more than a dozen subsequent visits since. Not surprisingly, this more personal approach helped to gain support and change the Australian opposition to the monarchy. The Queen has also made it easier for friendships and alliances to be forged in the United Kingdom’s national interest by being a personable head of state, making important trips around the world.
Is this a lesson for us all? Yes. Sometimes an email or phone call isn’t enough. Actually making the time to see people can make the world of difference. Whether they are parents, staff members or governors. The personal touch is always preferential and will make a better impression.
Keep calm and carry on
Since Liz stepped into her role at age 26, Britain has changed an awful lot! She has ridden the wave of change, transforming and changing when she has needed to but always remaining true to who she is. She also remained calm throughout a series of violent encounters, including the 1960s riots, getting shot at in the early 1980s and dealing with a bedroom intruder too.
A good and strong leader characteristically always shows strength and remains calm even when everything seems to be collapsing around them. Being the head of school or year group means you need to encompass these qualities even when you feel like running and hiding.
Keep out of the chit chat
It’s always been the tradition of the British Monarchy to not express opinions on controversial matters but rather provide a supportive and balanced view. As Paul McCartney wrote in 1969, “Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl, but she doesn’t have a lot to say”. Our Queenie has always been very good at balancing this, so when news broke of her leaked opinion on the Scottish referendum, it generated A LOT of attention.
The lesson is clear: not every matter merits our opinion. And further, sometimes it’s important to keep our thoughts to ourselves, despite what our egos tell us. Trivial or controversial matters are best kept out of a position of authority until you are prepared to make a formal statement.
However, Elizabeth also teaches us not to shy away from the most important issues, each year she delivers her Christmas Day ‘speech’, addressing the nation on prime time television. She will always focus on various cultural and topical issues that are particularly relevant at that time. She never dodges an issue and will always face an important topic front on. Good leaders are good at reassuring and inspiring, they explain and they direct and that is why people turn to them in times of confusion.
How you portray and present yourself is extremely important. Figures of success form important ‘image signatures’. When the Queen inherited the throne from her father George VI, ‘she formed an easily identifiable signature.. a series of simple shapes and pastel colours.’ This image has been maintained for the past 64 years, it is familiar to millions around the world and is a constant in a ever changing world.
A non-royal example of this is Simon Cowell or Steve Jobs, who are instantly recognisable in their ‘signature wear’ without letting their clothing interrupt their important mission.
Power dress for the job you want, good leaders are always dressed well and ooze confidence. Take a lesson from Queen E and give yourself a strong look that is easily replicated each and every day. You can leave the matching hat and handbag though…!