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Leadership: Does God Expect Perfection?

by | Fri, Sep 9 2022

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By: Elizabeth Torres-Russell

What can we learn from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in respect to leadership?

“I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm, and their inspiration to work together.” – HM Queen Elizabeth II

Imagine being thousands of miles away from home in a strange land, when suddenly you are brought the news that your father whom you have loved and admired since you were a child has died. What was your response? What thoughts would have run through your mind? You may wonder, what if you could have been there by his side those last days, hours, and moments before he parted.

But just as the news comes to you, life as you knew it ends. You are simultaneously promoted. You are catapulted to one of the hardest and most demanding roles in the world. No time for grieving, no time to pause and reflect, instead you accede to the throne and 18 months later on 2 June 1953, you are crowned Queen Elizabeth II.

I am far from being a royalist, yet both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II have been two royals I have admired for their leadership qualities. Both were young women as they unexpectedly were thrown into enormous leadership roles. They endured incredible hardships, nonetheless demonstrated tenacity, yet humbleness amid great adversity and personal sacrifice and pain.

The sixth of February 2022 marked the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II becoming Queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, as well as Head of the Commonwealth. Since that day the Queen has captured the hearts of millions around the world.

 What makes Queen Elizabeth II a leader apart from her title?

From the way go, a young Queen did not shy away from declaring her faith and her reliance on God for wisdom, strength, and desire to be faithful. On her first Christmas broadcast in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II delivered her own personal prayer request in a public statement to the Commonwealth;

“Pray for me … that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.”

Her audience witnessed from that very first moment Queen Elizabeth’s strong Christian faith which has been evident throughout her life. On her 21st birthday, she vowed to serve the people and submitted she needed God’s help to do so.

“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to our service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong… God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”

In an ever-changing world, she has remained one of the public figures consistently pointing to the hope in the God she serves.

As I have researched more and more about Queen Elizabeth II, her leadership attributes have been something I have observed attentively and reflected on personally, often asking, how would I have responded in that situation?

What attributes can you relate to? Which ones do you need to develop?

Research is evident from both the secular and Christian worldview that Queen Elizabeth is deeply admired for her leadership qualities across the world. Throughout her reign, the theme of servanthood has been constant. In 2008 she said:

“I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life … He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served.”

The following list is far from being exhaustive, nonetheless, it provides us with food for thought into our leadership style, attributes, character, and skills.

Vision:  “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” A clear statement that articulates her vision and purpose – what are her ultimate desires to achieve in a specific timeframe.

Leading by example: Her majesty exemplifies servant leadership. She considers her work as a service and appreciates others’ roles in the same manner.

Authenticity: In an article by Penn State University, Queen Elizabeth is referred to as an authentic leader. It further states “Although there is no standard definition of an authentic leader, we are going to use the 2003 Approach Version. This involves five topics: purpose, self-discipline, values, relationship, and heart. (Hamel, 2021) There is no need for perfection in each category, instead, they are seen as opportunities for improvement.”

Hard work: Even at the age of over 90, she continues to work 40 hours a week. Quite an inspiration to all of us.

Commitment: Philip Ziegler describes the Queens as having a ‘crippling sense of duty’ which has earned her a positive public image globally. She lends her patronage to more than 600 charities, public service organizations, and military associations.

Curiosity: Her Majesty has interacted with not just world leaders and celebrities, but with coal miners, engineers, and the public. She is curious and not afraid to ask questions, to listen intently, and answers carefully demonstrating interest in the other person.

Never stop learning: The Queen is always on duty which includes a huge workload including public engagements, daily tasks and if you have watched The Crown, you will be familiar with the big red box full of paperwork (parliamentary reports, intelligence documents, etc.)

Respect of others: In the Daily Telegraph, Celia Walder wrote this about Her Majesty the Queen; “Discretion may be outmoded, but it is her majesty’s greatest commodity. (The Queen is) “Circumspect, muted, subtle, and grateful in every arena of her life.”

The Team comes first: Duty and the wellbeing of her subjects come first. It is understood that Her Majesty’s main goal during her entire reign has been one of promoting unity and peace not just amongst her family, but her constituents.

Embrace innovation (technology): From her coronation being televised in 1953, to being one of the first heads of state to send an email, as she adapted and embraced new technologies, these enhanced the importance of the monarchy and provided her with a platform to openly declare Jesus through her Christmas messages.

Embrace adversity: Prime Minister David Cameron is quoted as saying the following of the Queen “she remains celebrated as “a rock of stability in a world of constant change.”

 Does God expect perfection from us as Leaders?

As mentioned earlier, this list is far from exhaustive, yet insightful the least. Whether we are leading a small business, a church, ministry, or large organisation the above attributes and attitudes certainly give us food for thought to reflect on our leadership.

For me, a key aha moment was the reference to being an authentic leader, specifically the description set out by Penn State University founded on five topics: purpose, self-discipline, values, relationship, and heart. There is no need for perfection in each category, instead, they are seen as opportunities for improvement.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

How often, do you expect perfection for yourself? How often do you expect perfection from your team?

God doesn’t expect perfection from us. Perfection is an enormous and heavy load of failed expectations that you and I are unable to carry.

I believe God wants each of us to become the person God created us to be, to be authentic to our true selves, and to follow His example.

References:

Christianity, Queen Elizabeth’s Faith, 2022, https://christianity.org.uk/article/queen-elizabeths-faith, viewed 7 February 2022.

Forbes, Leadership Lessons From Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2020/12/09/leadership-lessons-from-her-royal-highness-queen-elizabeth/?sh=3b9fdc425b41, viewed 7 February 2022.

5 leadership lessons we can learn from Queen Elizabeth II, 2015, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/5-leadership-lessons-can-learn-queen-elizabeth-ii, viewed 7 February 2022.

AZ Quotes, Top 25 Quotes by Queen Elizabeth II, https://www.azquotes.com/author/4435-Queen_Elizabeth_II, viewed 8/2/2022

Good Housekeeping, 12 Life Lessons Queen Elizabeth Follows for Good Health, 2020 https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/a34619774/queen-elizabeth-life-lessons-health-new-book/, viewed 7 February 2022.

Penn State University, Leadership of Queen Elizabeth II, 2021, https://sites.psu.edu/leadership/2021/04/18/leadership-of-queen-elizabeth-ii/, viewed 7 February 2022

About the author: Elizabeth Torres-Russell is the Chief of Staff at Vision Christian Media. Her personal mission is to mobilise a new generation of global leaders that transform organisations and people to flourish by embracing adversity. She is a published author, an award winning cinematographer and TV producer. You can reach her on linkedin:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethtorresrussell/

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