Rest in Peace, Queen Elizabeth
People lined up for miles this week to pay their respects to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who passed away at age 96 on September 8 and is now lying in state at Westminster Abbey. At the time she died, she was the world’s longest-serving head of state—her reign started in 1952. In addition to being the head of state for the U.K., she was also the sovereign leader of 14 other countries, among them Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and was head of the Church of England.
The world has changed tremendously since Queen Elizabeth first took the throne. Many have taken Britain and other countries to task for the colonialism of that time. That said, there is no denying the impact that Queen Elizabeth had as a leader as she carried out the far-reaching duties that were thrust upon her unexpectedly when she was only in her twenties. Her role was mainly as a goodwill ambassador for her country, but it was an important one that was visible around the world and that kept her in the headlines constantly, for many years. And she was a constant on the world stage for generations. Most people alive today don’t remember a world without Queen Elizabeth. Her son, then-Prince Charles, had to wait more than six decades before he became king as a result, joking at one point that he was worried he would run out of time.
Under the glare of the spotlight of the British tabloids, Queen Elizabeth embodied the type of servant leadership many business schools teach today, with grace and a quiet humor. We can all learn a lot from her devotion to public service, life-long commitment to charitable activities, and her composure and reassuring presence during turbulent times. Driven by a deep sense of purpose, she worked tirelessly until the end of her life.
Over the more than 70 years she served her country, Queen Elizabeth’s approach to leadership was a great lesson in resilience. No matter what was going on in the world around her, she always found a way to adapt to changing times while remaining unshakeable in her values. It puts many of the challenges we’ve faced these past few years into perspective.
Whether you are in professional services or any other type of business, the current global spotlight on Queen Elizabeth’s reign is also a reminder of how important it is for leaders to stay focused on what’s most important: our people. And that includes our clients, customers, partners, communities, and of course, our teams.
As leaders of middle-market companies, many of us are in a position to prioritize decisions that help make people’s lives better—whether by offering opportunities for growth; embracing work-life balance; advancing diversity, equity and inclusion; providing better benefits; investing to create great products; or delivering superior customer service (hopefully, all of the above). Not only do these priorities make companies more competitive, but they also foster employees’ well-being, which has a ripple effect among our clients and communities.
As Queen Elizabeth once put it, “We sometimes think the world’s problems are so big that we can do little to help. On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.” Most of us will never have the worldwide visibility or impact that Queen Elizabeth did, but we can all make a difference in our sphere of influence. Rest in peace, Queen Elizabeth.