The world seemed to have stopped on Thursday when the world’s longest reigning monarch passed away, less than two days after having received the traditional first visit by the UK’s new Prime Minister. Queen Elizabeth II was working until the very end.
She needs no memorial from me, but she was too exemplary a leader to let her passing go without notice in a blog that is intended for leaders. To that end, I offer a short article from Chief Executive Magazine which focused on her special brand of leadership: “She was a revered head of state and a reminder that Machiavelli clichés are wrong—leaders can be both loved and respected, hardly the tradeoff Vladimir Putin and too many others seem to feel.” Our own leaders, regardless of party affiliation, would do well to take note.
The article offers a few other insights; to them I would add the often-overlooked fact that the Queen mastered what may be the hardest challenge of leadership: leading without authority. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy; it has a Parliament and Prime Minister in which the actual power to decide and execute resides. She had no real powers from the state to direct others; only the power to influence others from within herself by her words and deeds. As Walter Bagehot, founder of the Economist magazine, remarked over a century ago about another great Queen, Victoria: “The Queen reigns but does not rule.” In short, she could not command, but she could lead…and she most certainly did. Would that our own leaders, past and present aspire less to the former and more to the latter.
“She is a reminder of the inextricably intertwined nature of the substance and symbolism of leadership and how very important it is to the life of a nation.” Take a minute for a short tribute: “Queen Elizabeth: A Leadership Appreciation.” I would also recommend a short and insightful observation from my fellow Vistage Chair Nora Paller on another aspect of the Queen’s character that goes hand in hand with leadership Duty.
Rest in Peace, your Majesty.