The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, which took place over the weekend saw huge celebrations in the UK and around the world. Her 70 years as monarch represent a remarkable length of time, which dwarf the typical tenure of a here-today, gone-tomorrow leader in politics, business or other arenas.
Whilst different fields have their own particular characteristics, there are parallels between the responsibilities and challenges of leadership, whether you’re the Queen or a leader of any organisation or group.
Ten macro themes of the Elizabethan era, which a leader in any field would do well to take note of are as follows:
- Actions speak louder than words
The Queen has fulfilled her duties with incredible devotion over the course of seven decades. This has encompassed constitutional responsibilities, such as giving assent to approximately 4,000 Acts of Parliament, or weekly audiences with her PMs from Winston Churchill when her reign began to Boris Jonson today. In total she has carried out 21,000 public engagements over 70 years, and treated each one with seriousness and a sense of duty.
- Think and Act Global
In addition to the UK, the Queen is Head of State in 14 other countries, including Australia and Canada. In the course of her international travel, she has visited over 100 countries on every continent. As an example, she has visited the US 11 times, including for the bicentennial in 1976. Since the start of her reign, she has been Head of the Commonwealth, comprising 54 countries across the world.
- Seen to Be Believed
The equivalent of a CEO walking the office corridors, the Queen has realised the importance of contact with the public. She reportedly once said “I have to be seen to be believed” and understands the power of meeting people face-to-face, for example on walkabouts during public engagements or through hundreds of Garden Parties, which attract up to 30,000 guests each year.
- Happiness Business
The monarchy has a special role touching people at positive moments in their lives, such as when they receive an honour at an investiture or through sending out over 300,000 congratulatory cards to people celebrating their 100th birthdays since 1952. This year’s Jubilee will be the Queen’s fourth and it’s no accident one former courtier described his employer’s role as in “the happiness business.”
A leader has to be present in time of struggle and need. The Queen has appreciated the importance of visible leadership at times of national mourning, such as responding to the 7/7 bombings in 2005 or the special broadcast after the outbreak of Covid in 2020.
- Never waste a crisis
As to be expected from a 70-year reign, there have been some moments of challenge and crisis for the monarchy. When the Royals were criticised for their slow reaction to the Aberfan mining tragedy in 1966 and also faced searching questions following the death of Princess Diana in 1997, in both cases they seemed to internalise the criticism and respond.
The Queen has famously never given an interview but understands the importance of communicating visible leadership in other ways that chime with the mood of the nation, whether through carefully planned public addresses in times of crisis, such as the Vera Lynn reference in her speech to the nation during COVID or unexpected activity that catches everyone by surprise, including the “James Bond” moment for the 2012 Olympics.
- Purpose and Charity
Through the Queen’s patronage of over 500 charities, and encouraging other Family Members to back different causes, the monarchy supercharges the country’s third sector. It helps charities to raise money and helps shape the national conversation around issues such as mental health and youth unemployment, as well as climate responsibility.
- Servant based leadership
In a message released on 6th February, the exact 70th anniversary of her reign, she signed it off “”Your servant Elizabeth R.” The Queen has a deep-estate appreciation that the monarchy is there to serve the people, not the other way round.
- No substitute for hard work
Considering she is 96, the Queen maintains an incredible work schedule. She leads by example by continuing to check her Red Boxes of official papers on most days, and still carries out visits such as to Paddington Station and the Chelsea Flower Show in the last few weeks.
The Queen’s leadership has been a byword for service, stability and continuity. Whilst she has been a model leader in many ways, the institution can never stand still and will need to continue to adapt and evolve. For the time being, as the Queen celebrates her Jubilee, she has a track record that any CEO or political leader would be enviable of, and we can all draw lessons from her 70 years of leadership.
Zaki Cooper and Nick Loughran MVO are the Co-Founders of Integra and previously worked for the Royal Household.