Her Majesty the Queen – A global leader

​​Are leaders born or made? Team development consultant, leadership mentor and author, Ben Morton attempts to answer this question based on the illustrious career of Queen Elizabeth II 

​​Are leaders born or made? Team development consultant, leadership mentor and author, Ben Morton attempts to answer this question based on the illustrious career of Queen Elizabeth II 

Her Majesty the Queen recently celebrated her 90th birthday last weekend.  As the longest reigning monarch in living memory she has been one of the few constants in many peoples lives for the last 64 years. She is one of the most enduring leaders of the last 100 years whom we can learn many leadership lessons from.

Looking to replicate the actions of great leaders can be a risky approach to developing our own leadership capabilities. What worked for one person may not work for another due to a different set of values or because we operate in a wildly different environment. Never has this been truer than when looking at Her Majesty the Queen.

A better approach is to understand the fundamental principles of leadership and then to look at how others have applied them, so that we may apply the same principles in our own way. Here are three of those principles.

Her Majesty the Queen – born or made a leader?

Someone recently asked me the age old question – are leaders born or made? My answer to this question is that there are 4 categories of leadership.

Category one, some people are indeed born leaders; they naturally have the ability to inspire others and lead them to a better future.  Category two, most people can be developed as leaders; through first understanding what it means to be a leader and then applying tactics that fit congruently with who they are.

A very small proportion of the population fall into category three, those who are fundamentally not suited to leadership.

Finally, category four consists of those who evolve into great leaders through circumstance, as did Her Majesty the Queen.

Christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, our Queen was never destined for such a large leadership role.  In 1936 her grandfather, King George V died, meaning that her uncle came to the throne as King Edward VIII. Before the end of the year he abdicated and Princess Elizabeth’s father became King George VI. On the death of her father in 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Queen at the age of just 25.

Save to lead

During the Queens Coronation speech in 1953 she said;

“… I am sure that this, my Coronation, is not the symbol of a power and a splendor that are gone but a declaration of our hopes for the future, and for the years I may, by God’s Grace and Mercy, be given to reign and serve you as your Queen.”

On that day she accepted the unexpected role of leadership that was thrust upon her. She understood that leadership was not about the power that she could wield but her role was to be of service.  Leadership is not about what we receive as leaders, it is about what we give to those in our charge.

Her Majesty the Queen remains as committed to being of service today aged 90, as she was when she ascended the throne at 25.  

Protect and care for those we lead

One of the duties of a leader is to protect and care for those that we lead.  This is a principle that Her Majesty the Queen understands more than you might think.  In Robert Hardman’s book, Our Queen, he describes how she often adopts a rather maternal role towards her troops.

During the 2004 state visit to Russia, Lord Hurd, then Foreign Secretary, was suffering from a heavy cold.  In recounting the incident Lord Hurd said that ‘The Queen sent me to bed,’ going on to add ‘I was suffering and she said: “I think your place is in bed, Foreign Secretary.”

Leaders don’t need to have all of the answers

Leaders don’t need to have all of the answers but they do need to be excellent at listening.  It appears to me that these principles have not been missed by Her Majesty the Queen. In contrast, I have seen many leaders handicap themselves by thinking that they need to come up with all of the ideas and failing to listen to those around them.

Prince William has said of his grandmother that she will not necessarily force advice on you. Instead she will let you work it out for yourself whilst always being available for a quick question or two; for what ever it is that you might need.

This is an approach that only works when you are comfortable not having all of the answers and when you really listen to what those around you are saying. The Duke of York says ‘ The Queen has the most incredible capacity to listen to and to learn,’ and goes onto say  ‘She is not above society. She’s in it and reflects it.’

That is an approach that comes with great humility and an understanding of what it truly means to be a leader, as opposed to simply ‘doing’ leadership.

Ben Morton is a team development consultant and leadership mentor at TwentyOne Leadership.  He is also the author of Don’t Just Manage-Coach!, The Little Book of Leadership and is in the process of wring his third book, Mission: Leadership – Lifting the Mask.

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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