Mandela called her ‘Lizzie’

guards standing near building

The news must have come your way in many shapes and forms and there is lots to read about the passing and the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

A tragic moment for a nation and mostly her close relatives.

A great article about her life as a Queen was done by The Economist and can be read here.

Here’s my humble attempt to distill a few leadership lessons from 70 years on the Throne of the 15 Commonwealth realms. There’s much to be said even about those last few words and the good, the bad and the ugly of a history of colonisation. I’m slowly working my way through 700+ pages of ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ at the moment. Even though Nelson Mandela was an obvious opponent of the oppression of his people, in this autobiography he was also very outspoken about the development that was brought to his country by the British Empire. His relationship with Queen Elizabeth was described as a friendship and he seems to have been an exception to have called her by a new nickname.

Life lessons from ‘Lizzie.’

Discretion

Knowing when to speak and when to stay silent truly is an art. It’s not one that I personally master very well, and is hard to find these days in general. Everyone seems to need to have an opinion about everything. But does what we say really edify people and build them up under our leadership? Do we speak words that need to be spoken, or do we speak simply because of our need to be heard?

Queen Elizabeth II was partly known as someone of whom no one knew what she thought about anything. She saw it as her obligation to not share certain opinions that may speak on behalf of some of the people she represented, but would leave out others. Her commitment to her people was so great that it was more important to reflect them well than it was for her to be heard.

Commitment

Self-realisation. Create your own reality. Build your future. Live your dreams. Leadership books and self-help theories are often tight buddies. The makability of life is king. But the problem with that can be that there always is the metaphorical grass on the other side. We struggle with commitment. If this is the life I ‘made’ today, what about a better future tomorrow? If my current job gets tough, surely there must be better dreams for my life. If the leadership role I finally acquired seems to be heavier than I imagined, I’m opting out and chasing a better dream elsewhere.

With 70 years of commitment, Queen Elizabeth II could have shared a word or two about the grass being greener on the other side. In fact, both before as well as during her lifetime there’s many stories of others in the Royal Family who would prefer pursuing ‘their own dreams,’ rather than picking up commitments that came with the job. ‘But they were born it to it, so it was never their choice,’ is what I can hear you think in their defence. True, and did you realise that even that statement in itself is one that is based on the presupposition of self-realisation? The moment Elizabeth realised she would be next in line for the throne, she seems to have prayed ‘fervently’ for a brother to be born. Yet, then she went on the pick up her royal duty for the next seventy years. What if there’s a sense of calling, which exceeds any and all other desires for our lives?

Change

With all respect, Queen Elizabeth II had a certain hint of ‘boring’ around her image. If you look closely, though, I think it’s obvious to see the twinkle in the eye and the lips curled into a gentle, perhaps somewhat cheeky smile. It looks like the Queen was a lot more fun than she allowed herself to be in public.

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”

–Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Queen Elizabeth II seems to have understood the subtle balancing act of the process of progress. Too much change too quickly and you lose your people. Too little change and you lose your relevance. Seventy years of that type of a balancing act – imagine that!

What a legacy. A life well lived, by the grace of God, serving millions faithfully and solemnly.

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