Lessons from the ultimate women’s leadership role model in Netflix ‘The Crown’

As the longest serving British monarch, the Queen is one of the most prominent and powerful leaders in the world. She has reigned over the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand since 1952, is the Head of the Commonwealth and also holds the title of Commander in Chief of the British Armed Forces.

The ultimate role model, not only is she a prominent female leader but she was also a driver and mechanic in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War, paving the way for women in non-traditional roles. Such a fascinating woman, it’s no surprise that Netflix have decided to dramatise the early years of her life on the throne.

Beginning the series as a princess, we are introduced to Elizabeth after Phillip officially becomes a Duke. We first see her framed in a doorway which indicates her on the outside rather than front and centre where she moves to not long after. During this early part of the series, Philip seems very much in charge. For example, in one of the early scenes, the princess asks him to stop smoking and he continues regardless, clearly indicating power and dominance.

In Episode 2, they travel to Nairobi on official business. The princess has to give a speech and we see her nervous, supported by her now husband Philip nodding his encouragement. On the trip, she is depicted as girlish; a young wife on a fabulous adventure with a husband she admires.

Then things change as Elizabeth receives the news that her father has passed away. All of a sudden, she is catapulted into the spotlight and it is suddenly ultra important that she is able to show leadership.

She spends her first days as Queen looking shocked at being thrust into a role with such responsibility at an unexpected time. The weight of what is happening is communicated in her wide eyes and meaningful looks between her and her husband not to mention the way her body freezes when she first hears the words ‘God save the Queen’.

Leadership Lesson 1 – Always look the part 

As monarch, it is important to always dress appropriately for the role.  After the news is announced that the King has passed away, Elizabeth must return home from Nairobi.  It becomes apparent that no-one has packed a black dress and so something has to be delivered to the plane before she can disembark in England Obviously, a Queen has to look the part at all times and when the outfit is complete we can see an immaculate presentation with full accessories perfectly in place.

Leadership lesson 2 – once you’re in that leadership role, you have a duty to be a leader at all times

As she is dressed in her mourning clothes, her grandmother is reading a letter to her:
‘Elizabeth Mountbatten has now been replaced by Elizabeth Regina. The two Elizabeth’s will frequently be in conflict with one another. The fact is, the Crown must win. must always win.’

She then prepares to leave the plane and step on to home soil as the Queen of England. For the first time, we see that her husband no longer has the upper hand. In an exchange with the Queen’s Private Secretary as they prepare to disembark, Philip says ‘It’s alright, I’ll escort her down from there’ to which the Private Secretary responds ‘No sir, if you don’t mind, the Crown takes precedence’.

The look of fear and horror from Elizabeth indicates the magnitude of the shift. She then turns towards the door and walks through it, in to the light and down the stairs as her husband follows quickly behind her.

Leadership lesson 3 – know your weaknesses and take action to develop knowledge or skills when necessary

Lots of things change for Elizabeth and one of my favourite episodes finds her asking for a tutor because her level of education prevents her from making meaningful discussion with politicians and statesmen. She recognises her shortcomings takes the positive step to increase her knowledge so that she can do the job more effectively.

Leadership lesson 4 – never give your word and break your promise

Finally, a criticism of what we see of her as a leader is the many u-turns she makes and promises she breaks. What that tells us is the importance of seeking good advice before making decisions. Something I believe a good leader should never do is give your word and then go back on it.



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