I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that I was taking a Teaching Company Great Course on the History of England from the Tutors to the Stuarts in preparation for a trip to Wales, Northern England, and London.
Today, the instructor, Professor Robert Bucholz of Loyola University in Chicago, introduced Elizabeth I, the grand Queen of England from 1558 to 1609.
Elizabeth I was a master at getting people to do what she wanted them to do. Following on the horrific reign of her sister, best known as Bloody Mary, her subjects feared another inept female monarch. After all, a Queen defied the Great Chain of Being — which linked the “King” from God to man. But through careful actions, she won the love and respect of her subjects.
How did she do this?
First, and maybe most importantly, she acted with deference and awe to the people she led. She went out amongst them often, paid attention to and listened to them, remembered names and circumstances, and showed them how much she cared about what was important to them. Refusing to marry, she stated that her subjects were her husbands and it was them she would serve.
Elizabeth was a genius at compromise—creating a solution that allowed all the factions involved to win. The best example of this was the reestablishment of the Church of England after the reign of Queen Mary. At the end of the negotiations, the Protestants got the theology they had to have and the Catholics got their ritual.
Elizabeth was practical and rational and slow to act. Sometimes seen as unable to make a decision, the truth is she was reluctant to act in haste. Smart and perceptive, she watched and listened, and maneuvered, and waited until exactly the right time to take action. When she did act–take the burning of the Spanish Armada in the summer of 1588–she did so with conviction.
Elizabeth was involved in the day to day decisions of her realm. While she listened and learned from her advisors, she was the one who made the decisions and owned the consequences of those decisions. That said, she was also adept at denying those things she did that were counter to her allies best interests, but advantageous to her own subjects.
So what does any of this have to do with us?
Elizabeth I, despite her many challenges, demonstrated the traits of a great leader/manager and can serve as an example to us even today.
How so, you may ask?
- Although a charismatic leader, she was empathic. She cared about her people and they knew it.
- She was present and available to her subjects. She was seen and she took the time and energy to involve herself in the lives of her subjects.
- A great diplomat, she knew how to create win-win compromises.
- She was deliberate and thoughtful in her decision making and didn’t act or react in haste. She was able to take the emotions out of her decisions.
- She knew what was happening in her business, owned her decisions and the consequences of those decisions. She was accountable.