Life is a peculiar mix of the constant and inconstant. Our days are filled with variability, and yet, some things seem to remain the same. Our life span is such that the pace of change of certain things seems almost immeasurable. Despite this, as constant as certain things seem, deep down, we know nothing lasts forever.
The British Queen, Elizabeth II, was a fixture in my life and that of many others until she died this week. I am not a monarchist – it would be strange if I were, given the nature of UK and Irish relations throughout my life. QE II was a neutral presence in my life and awareness, if not in the lives of many others. Fans of the monarchy and the royal family are undoubtedly grieving the loss of a monarch who outlasted 15 UK prime ministers, including Winston Churchill. Critics have, in some cases horribly, greeted the news of her demise differently.
What the Queen represented, not just in the minds of UK citizens, was a solid, stable, professional approach to leading her country. She was diplomatic and discreet and gave her entire life to the service of the UK. She continued to do so following the loss of her husband of 73 years – the kind of blow I can’t even imagine and a level of commitment that very few people in my experience can demonstrate.
While the notion of the monarchy seems archaic and bizarre to me, the level of leadership that Queen Elizabeth II demonstrated is much more relatable. She navigated challenging diplomatic situations with gravitas, aplomb and surety. There were no reports of her ever speaking ill of anyone, despite having plenty of ammunition in some cases. She was a solid, dependable, compassionate leader of her people. She was constant.
That kind of constancy is rare. I aspire to it in my personal and professional life. I try to be a good Dad, keeping my temper when it is sometimes challenging. I try to be a thoughtful partner and husband to my wife. I put enormous effort into being a good leader, manager and teammate at work.
I fail to achieve these things with consistency. I can get cranky with my kids when I’m tired and in pain. I have failed over the years to see where simply asking “what else can I do to help” would have taken a burden off my wife’s shoulders. I have made mistakes (and continue to) as a leader, manager and teammate, including not being as aware as I should be of the impact of my words.
Where I give myself a passing grade is that I always care. I always try. And I always care enough to try and learn from my mistakes and do better next time. That is the primary area of consistency in my life. I am a constant learner. And, like her or not, QE II represents a life lived in learning and lessons that I can take from a leader who faced challenges I can only imagine.