Elizabeth I, CEO

Among the rows and rows of secondhand books at Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland – one of England’s largest and most charming bookshops – I discovered this little gem while touring the area. Whether you like browsing for hours or not, go just for the atmosphere of this wonderfully converted and restored Victorian railway station. Have a cooked English breakfast, and enjoy the open fires and extensive model railway that whizzes along above the bookshelves.

Intrigued by the subtitle, “Strategic lessons from the leader who built an empire”, I wondered what tips I might learn from this long-reigning English monarch from five centuries ago. But Alan Axelrod – a US specialist – or at least was back in 2003 – in management and career development – orders his insights from original speeches, correspondence and historical biographies, and clearly structures them into 10 themes. Each lesson (of 136) is linked to its relevance for today’s business leader.

Over 45 years, Elizabeth became an exceptional leader, succeeding in turning England into the richest and most powerful nation in Europe. (Some of our current politicians might do well to study this carefully). I grew to admire this hardy woman who refused to be intimidated from a young age, who knew how to avoid upsetting people and when to keep a cordial distance, and who knew how to win people over with her humility, gratitude and compelling vision for the future.

She could be shockingly clever, witty and strong-willed. Amazingly, she learnt how to keep a calm mind through taking brisk walks in palace gardens, deep reflection, and holding to her own clear principles. She was passionate about constant learning, reading and taking good advice. Above all, she became good at turning a crisis into a triumph and staying alive.

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