While the whole notion of blue-blooded humans really doesn't sit well with my egalitarian sensibilities, I have grown to admire Queen Elizabeth II as a leader.
I watched an excellent documentary the other night 'Ten days that made the Queen' . Here are a seven points on leadership I took from it.
1. Leadership and experience are two different things
Young Liz was only 25 when she was crowned Queen. She always took her role as a servant of the people very seriously and immediately asserted herself on affairs of State and as leader of the Church of England. While she may not have had the experience, she has always possessed the wisdom and sureness of self to stand alone and not be puppeted by the old hands. Quite extraordinary in a post-war kingdom that was more powerful than the USA, USSR or China.
2. Don't forget the power of your rank
In 1957, the Queen appointed Harold Macmillan, Chancellor of the Exchequer, as successor to Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden. The Queen's endorsement sent a very clear message to the people of England that the aristocratic classes were still only giving jobs to those in their polo clubs and that Parliament was not entirely democratic.
The subsequent Suez Crisis (under a Eden/Macmillan leadership) is credited with triggering the fall of the British Empire and the rise of the USA as a superpower. The invasion was a disaster and the Queen's trust of reliable yet incompetent leaders took her empire down on the world stage. The people of England weren't happy and the monarchy was threatened. Post-Suez, the Queen vowed to never get involved in 'king-making' parliamentary or commonwealth leadership.
3. Sometimes, it pays to keep your opinions to yourself
The Queen won't comment on any of the portraits that are painted of her. She won't publicly comment on the governance of Commonwealth states or the British parliament. What did she think of Kate Middleton's dress? Who knows?
She knows that her opinion holds a lot more weight than the average Joe and she uses her powers for diplomatic good.
4. You have to be superhuman and human all at the same time
The only time the Queen was seen crying publicly was when the royal yacht was decommissioned. She didn't cry when Lady Diana died. The Queen's handling of Diana's death received a brutal backlash and showed a monarchy completely out of touch with its people.
The Queen prides herself on high standards of morality but the lack of emotion and empathy when simulcast against streets of wailing housewives and children with bunches of flowers showed an evil mother-in-law who didn't seem to understand that her grandchildren had lost their mother.
The subsequent, Tony Blair prompted, Diana tribute video shows the achilles of the Queen who has been trained her whole life to maintain a stiff upper lip. It looks like a terrible hostage video and, in some ways, the public outcry really did put a gun to her head.
5. It's the quiet ones you have to watch
The Queen is surrounded by lots of deferential, curtseying, gift-giving types that want to be in her favour. Some of her most trusted advisors openly disagree with her and refuse to get mesmerised by her sparkly crown. Conversely, she is famous for ignoring the advice of her many pandering minions. I've yet to meet a good leader that doesn't encourage healthy debate and Liz is known away from the cameras as "talking strategy like a machine-gun."
6. Take it on the chin and learn from your mistakes
"1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis" Queen Elizabeth II 24 November 1992.
(The "sympathetic correspondent" was later revealed to be her former assistant private secretary, Sir Edward Ford).
In one year, the Queen had three of her children in divorce court, an uninsured fire at Windsor castle, a scandalous tell-all book from Diana and a British public that was sick of paying for the circus.
No point in candy-coating it when you have a shocker.
7. Anyone can get knocked off their perch
As my mother always says "one day the ass that you kick will be the ass you have to kiss."
We've seen the recent falls of Mubarak, Hussein, Gaddafi and Bin Laden. Steve Jobs got bumped out of Apple for a bit and who can keep up with who is at the helm of Yahoo? JFK was assassinated and Lady Diana was killed in a car crash. Nelson Mandela was eventually President of South Africa, Iceland melted and now, everybody wants their economy to be like China's. Any seat of power worth having will always attract leadership challenges. Whether it's Charles or William or Harry or someone from China that eventually sits on the throne, I think we can safely say that the new democracy we're experiencing won't afford a monarchy in its current form for too much longer.
Queen Elizabeth II is an impeccable leader with a wisdom and perspective on world history and people that we can all learn from in the get rich quick iPhone app business world.