Thursday, 10 September 2015

Regal Role Model - Is the Queen the ultimate Alpha Female?

Solitary Splendour               Annie Leibovitz
Watching footage this week of the landmark longevity of the Queen's reign, I found myself congratulating her and thinking how much I respect her. I'm not particularly royalist, so I rather surprised myself by how strongly I felt she deserved thanks and gratitude.

What is it about her that has made her so successful for so long and does she have anything to teach us about how to be successful as a senior public woman? I think she does.

Not many of us are born into leadership.  But apart from that, the more I thought about it, the more I think she models many of the traits I have identified as important for long term sustainable leadership for women.

She knows what she likes, what suits her and what is practical.  And she sticks to it.  A dress is a practical option for most senior women - and she has to spend quite a bit of time outside looking at parades, planting trees and suchlike so a matching coat is a must-have.  And it covers your arms.   According to the delightful children's book The Queen's Knickers, she has pairs for every occasion - corgi patterned ones for relaxing at home, union jack ones for state events and many more.  She has picked her hairstyle and she's consistent.  Mind you, she needs to be.  Having your face on a coin makes seeing those embarrassing pictures of you pop up in your FB timeline look easy. 

89? Me? Just another day at the office  BBC
Keeping on Working
She is 89.  And she's working every day, apparently completely on top of the job.  She has to see the Prime Minister every week to understand and respond to the issues of the day as well as considering the finer points of banquet small talk and whether she can talk Philip out of upsetting the visiting dignitaries.   She's a fine example of keeping on working and if I have as much energy as she does at her age I will be thrilled.

She promised herself to the nation all those years ago and that does go a bit beyond the corporate governance rules about protecting the public interest. But she has to prioritize the demands of the job over the family which is very familiar.

Handling People Problems
Unlike most of us in the corporate world, she doesn't have to worry about being replaced.  But this is a relatively new benefit for her.  Most of her ancestors had to worry about pretenders around every corner who might raise an army and storm into London to take their throne by force.  Much worse that worrying about being censored by the Board or lambasted on Twitter.

St George's Hall after the fire
Her team (they call the Royal Family the Firm) is her family.  And she has had more problems with them than most CEOs could stomach.  Divorces (three in one year out of four children), affairs, tabloid scandals - remember the toe-sucking? - bereavement,  her home burning down (well nearly).  OK she has a selection of homes, but this one had been around for a thousand years...And all she said, demonstrating great understatement - about it was:
"1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure... it has turned out to be an 'Annus Horribilis'".
Now that's getting on with it.

Spouse as supporter
Philip is a trailing spouse.  He's dedicated his life to making her successful.  OK he didn't stretch to childcare but all those courtiers have to do something.

Hilarity at the Highland Games.  Who knew?  The Mirror
Work life balance
She's always pursued hobbies outside work.  Corgis, horses and summer holidays watching caber tossing.  Not many people's choice for a relaxing summer break, but each to their own. 

Congratulations Ma'am.  We salute you as a role model we can all learn from.

Long may she reign.