We are 12 years into the twenty-first century. We’ve walked on the moon, built the World Wide Web, abolished slavery and we have an app for pretty much everything else. On the face of it, a hereditary monarchy should be anachronism, yet we are also in the year of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. And somehow I failed to experience any cognitive dissonance while I found myself ripping some fado CDs to iTunes for my iPad while watching a BBC documentary in which one of best-known historians commented on Her Majesty’s quiet modernisation of the constitutional monarchy.

In last year’s ASK Journal, we profiled 12 leaders who we picked as examples of qualities associated with leadership. Queen Elizabeth II was one of them, and the quality was being wise. Having never granted an interview (which it’s not impossible to argue as an example of wisdom it would have been a relief to see many others follow), quotations from The Queen are not as easy to track down as those from the ‘great men’ of politics and industry. One example shows a humility and wisdom that would also have been welcome from more of her subjects over the last 60 years:

We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to keep.”

(The quote also shows an acceptance that authority as a leader is not always undermined by conceding that something must be let go of that would also be a welcome sight if it were more widespread.)

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Funny how some things can pass one by. Yesterday’s Today programme alerted me to something that it appears took place last July, which in turn took place in response to a well-honed question posed in November 2008. (It transpires that this made the news as the second chapter in the story has now been written – for which see later in this post). What it provides is a fine example of a leader – no less than the CEO of UK plc, HRH The Queen in this instance – recognising that there is a fine, and dangerous, difference between delegating and departmentalising. And that if the ‘walls’ of a portfolio are allowed to grow sufficiently high, it can become a silo. And there are some leadership lessons for a great many of us here too.

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