On September 8th Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms died. She had been Queen since February 6th 1952. A reign of over of seventy years. She became queen at the age of 26. Interesting that I don’t know the name of a monarch of any other country. She has been a queen for my entire life. Hundreds of years ago the monarchy (the King and Queen) of England had ultimate ruling power. The United Kingdom has evolved into a constitutional monarchy. The King and Queen have very limited power undertaking various official, ceremonial, diplomatic and representational duties. There are lots of news stories out now about Queen Elizabeth’s life if you want to learn more.
Queen Elizabeth II was actually very powerful. The media are calling it “soft power”. I call it leadership! The Queen was able to gain the respect and loyalty of her subjects and others around the world because of her actions not because of any constitutional power she had. Leadership expert John Maxwell defines leadership as, the ability to influence and develop people. It has nothing to do with a person’s title and position. What can we learn from Queen Elizabeth II that will help us and our organizations?
My freshmen calculus professor at WVU taught me a lot about leadership. He said, “Do you know who the most powerful people are on campus? The secretaries! When you go to see the department chair. You never see him without first seeing his secretary. She is the gatekeeper. If you need something you see the secretary. She determines whether you get it or not.” He told us to always take care of secretaries. Treat them with dignity and respect. Buy them flowers on their birthday. I learned my calculus professor was right. The secretaries didn’t have official power or titles but the best secretaries were great influencers. They were leaders.
My engineering department head was also my academic advisor. He traveled a lot. Even when on campus he was hard to have a meeting with. I took good care of his secretary. She was talented. We became friends. If I needed something signed or an approval for something all I had to do was give it to her or tell her about it. If I could justify what I needed, she managed to get it done. When I needed to have a meeting for academic advising she always got it scheduled for me. She could influence the department head making her the real leader. In many ways more powerful than he was.
Queen Elizabeth’s influence started on the day she became queen. In her opening message to the British people she promised to serve the British people and did just that. She didn’t stay in her palace. If there was a disaster she showed up to comfort her people and use her influence to help them. She could go to almost any country and be welcomed. She didn’t need to worry about getting elected and stayed non-partisan, at least publicly. When the Queen showed up people knew she came because she cared, not to get a vote. I remember her traveling all over the world spreading goodwill and a positive message for those she touched. She understood diplomacy and how to work with people to get things done.
Queen Elizabeth II led by example, one of the most powerful ways to influence others. She was a person you could trust. Trust is essential for any leader. We need to know what our leaders tell us is the truth. She had a positive vision for her country. People follow a leader with a vision they want to be part of. She was a person of action. That’s what leaders do. She was courageous putting herself in personal danger on a trip to Africa in the 1960s. She continued to travel even after assassination attempts. She was passionate about her love of country and her subjects. She kept a positive attitude. Queen Elizabeth II took responsibility even for situations not of her making. I can’t ever remember her blaming anyone or anything like we see in American politics. When we take responsibility we actually take control. She could bring people together to work for a common goal. We call that teambuilding.
Most important, leaders develop people and future leaders. I expect we will see results of this in her son, King Charles and her grandsons. Every true leader should be training their replacement. Leaders are never threatened by talented people. They work to surround themselves with talented people and develop them, knowing they may move up and get promoted out. Leaders attract talented people.
Everything starts with servant leadership. When people know you are more concerned about them than your own self-interests they will follow you. Jesus Christ built a church with servant leadership. In John Chapter 13 he washed his disciples feet at the last supper then said, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me teacher and master and rightly so for indeed I am. If I therefore the master and teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Leadership is not about title or position. We have all probably seen people in leadership positions in organizations or in government who put themselves first, who we can’t trust and who drive people apart instead of bringing people together. Our world and the organizations we are part of need strong leaders. Leadership is a choice. It can be learned. We can follow the examples of Queen Elizabeth II, Jesus, and the strong servant leaders we know, to make a positive difference in the lives of others and our world.
Greg Kozera, [email protected] is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. www.shalecrescentusa.com (You can follow SCUSA on Facebook) He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert, high school soccer coach, professional speaker, author of four books and numerous published articles.