Like many of you, I took some time out to watch the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. The pomp and circumstance were a lovely distraction of course, but what really struck me was the fact that the Queen stood for the whole thing.
Why was that remarkable? Well for starters, the main event took more than three hours; it was probably longer than that for the royal family, as there was almost certainly some sort of preliminary reception or meet-and-greet. The day of the pageant was also rather cold and very damp. And the Queen is 86 years old.
Even more interesting was the fact that the spectator interviews conducted by the CBC suggested that it was ever thus. The word that kept coming up when interviewees were asked what it was they appreciated about Queen Elizabeth’s reign was: steadfast. She epitomized quiet strength and endurance.
Much of the current thinking on business focuses on themes like speed, change, and passion. You’re encouraged to pour your emotions into your business, to be able to change direction at a moment’s notice, to cultivate a sense of restlessness, and to never be fully satisfied, always tweaking and tinkering. These are all admirable — and even necessary — qualities for an entrepreneur, but too much of this sort of thing can lead to turmoil, instability, and anxiety. Stop and think about your leadership style. Would your staff describe you as steadfast, or are you the irritable princess, always making inexplicable demands and causing lots of office drama?
We can learn a lot from Queen Elizabeth’s example. Here are five royal qualities you should develop:
Calm. Or call it composure, poise, or aplomb. However you describe it, it’s the ability to stay cool under pressure. It’s easy to be a fun, inspiring leader when times are good; when crisis hits, your people need an anchor in the storm. This applies even when there isn’t a major situation too: simply making key decisions in a careful, considered manner will ensure that your people have more confidence and faith in your leadership.
Endurance. Are you prepared to dig in for a long fight with the competition? Are you willing to put off getting that fancy corner executive suite in favour of investing in the company’s success? If you want your staff to put in the hours and stay loyal, you have to demonstrate you are willing to make a few sacrifices and endure some hardships as well.
Uncomplaining. Queen Elizabeth was never meant to be the monarch in the first place; she inherited the throne because her uncle abdicated suddenly in 1936, and her father died young in 1952. She saw England through World War II (as heir), the Falklands War, and the Iraq War, as well as through the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Personally, she has been through the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, the breakdown of her children’s marriages, the death of her daughter-in-law Diana, and the loss of her mother and sister. And yet through it all, she has carried on without a fuss. Are you this circumspect, or are you always behaving as though you belong on the Dr. Phil show? Which is better for company morale?
Taking the Long View. The English are famous for looking ahead, sometimes way ahead, and considering potential opportunities and threats. The Queen, although obviously not able to control all the external variables, has always attempted to act with the long-term survival of the British monarchy in mind. Do you have the same approach with your business? Even if you hope to exit or sell your business in the very near future, circumstances might dictate otherwise, and you need to consider the consequences of what you’re doing. How will your current actions affect your customers, your staff, your reputation, and your bottom line in five, 10, 15, or even 20 years?
Change with the Times. It would have been very easy for the Queen to stick entirely to the old ways. After all, what is a monarchy, but an institution founded in medieval times, and based on centuries of tradition? Yet, in recent years, one can see clear evidence of change. The Queen now pays taxes, and Buckingham Palace is open to the public. The royals are much more conscious of the importance of public relations, especially in the Internet age, and have worked hard to become a more open and engaged organization. At the same time, they’ve been careful not to jump on every passing fad, and to maintain the “magic” that makes the royal family, well, royal. Change and innovation is critical for survival, but it must always be done with your core values and strengths in mind.
We all have different motivations for going into business, but for many, making a difference and leaving a legacy is important. What will be yours?