hard to find a niche for Elizabeth I CEO.
quality management manual nor biography, Alan Axelrods work
is an attempt to relate the skill of managing a sixteenth-century
nation to a modern corporate world. Its a potpourri of rules
on how to influence people interspersed with perennial wisdom to
be applied in day-to-day life; a bit of history seasoned with leadership
lessons and put in a pocket-size format.
Queen Elizabeth took over the failing business that was England
in 1558. A charismatic beauty, she presented herself in a way that
put all doubts aside. During time spent in prison and under house
arrest, she developed characteristics inherent to political and
spiritual survival. She made an image of a Virgin Queen substitute
for the diminishing image of Christs mother; indeed, she made
this image stand for the earthly embodiment of the Virgin wedded
to England itself. Having chosen to stay out of marriage, she made
the most of her status. Hers was an image that fulfilled the spiritual
needs of her subjects.
Perhaps due to
scarce information about the hero of the book, those
rules and lessons that revive the Queens personality demand
the most attention. At the age of thirteen, Queen Elizabeth already
knew how to discern between outward values and inner truth. At sixteen,
she learned not to be panicked in a life-threatening situation,
to keep her presence of mind even under extreme circumstances. She
never forgot that she was in a people business. She appealed to
the imagination with theatrical effects and made a strong impression
even in difficult situations, for she knew that people wanted to
see strength and self-confidence. She stayed in good shape and was
willing to demonstrate her health and vigor. Her boldness in decision
making was well balanced by an ability to read human character.
Based on lessons
taught by Elizabeth, Mr. Axelrod urges leaders to put the issues
of universal humanity ahead of the letter of the law,
to be sympathetic to the feelings of others, to make personal contact
with people whenever possible, and to complete identification of
your well-being with the peoples well-being. In this sense,
leadership is selflessness. Few acts of care, concern, and
kindness are so small as to escape notice. The leader should
be ready to explain or even justify his actions, as well as to express
and explain his understanding, creating trust and sense of unity
of goals. In short, the leader should be a good motivator, as Elizabeth
was when she sent her troops to help the Protestants of the Netherlands
in their struggle against Spain. Present a purpose, explain the
reason, treat subordinates as intelligent workers, and you will
get more creativity from them than you would expect.
Queen Bess practiced
a tactic for avoiding hasty responses to buy more time to think
through the matter. Also, she didnt thrust sudden changes
on her subjects, but allowed enough time for them to gain confidence
and comfort. She avoided quick fixes and impulsive decisions; this
principle is well illustrated by her decision on Marys (Queen
of Scots) indictment in the murder of her husband. Elizabeth didnt
worship absolutes and believed that applying a principle in changing
circumstances required proper timing. Acting for the long-term,
she didnt marry Philip II to ensure an alliance with Spain
and temporal peace. Instead, she kept a long-term goal in mind:
the foundation of a Protestant state..
In every situation
she staved off vengeance and dealt with problems, not people. Queen
Elizabeth discerned between constructive criticism and faultfinding.
She learned early to make a request and not a demand, proposing
positive actions and aiming for positive solutions. Through her
forty-five-year rein, Elizabeth treated crises as new opportunities
and transformed those conflicts which she could not avoid into cooperation..
Many credit Elizabeths
great achievements to her adherence to freedom of conscience. She
made no attempt to control individual thinking, although she considered
allowing each person to make his own judgement dangerous. Nevertheless,
she valued unconventional decision-making..
A large part of
defeat consists in accepting defeat. Elizabeth did not admit herself
a prisoner when entering the Tower of London. What little power
is left to you, use it!
Living from day to day, going with the
flow in order to survive, she stayed alive, for there is no
such thing as a dead leader. A gifted leader, as Elizabeth
was, can control her ego and turn seeming defeat to victory.
Mr. Axelrod states
todays effective leader must learn to make a bargain
with the Machiavellian devils, yet without selling out the core
of morality. Nevertheless, some rules deviate from the managerial-manipulative
schematic and may be well used in a spiritual textbook. Do not identify
yourself with what you do or with the leaders title: Without
my position I am still me, Elizabeth
biography in case-studies form, Mr. Axelrod uses facts of her life
as demonstration tools. However, some statements seem poorly grounded,
assigning to her attributes that perhaps were not always there;
actual facts are retold in an overly concise and sketchy manner.
Mr. Axelrod uses Elizabeths words, In being, not in
seeming, we may wish the best, from her speech before Parliament
in 1572 as a proof of her pragmatism, although a less success-bent
reader may see it as her belief in that we must be who we are rather
than who we wish to be. Mr. Axelrod doesnt linger on each
assertion, thereby making them less convincing. On the other hand,
he employs the same illustrations for different rules. Perhaps one
can use merely any story for the illustration of someones
As Mr. Axelrod
underlined in one of the conclusive chapters, Elizabeth always remembered
that virtue is a matter of choice. Her morality was based not on
a stuffy religion, but on the notion that good ends do not justify
evil means and on her full acceptance of responsibility. This is
an invaluable rule for identifying core principles to act upon in
everyday life, not only in the realm of management.