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Maintaining Britain’s largest family firm: Secrets of the Queen’s success

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Although challenging at times, the Queen has always striven to maintain the stability of the family firm – which has included sharing certain responsibilities with other members of the royal team and evolving into a role akin to chairman. Taking on a more collaborative and leadership role, we have seen her leverage the strengths and skills of other family members, as well as empowering them to take ownership of their duties, and continue to forge mutually beneficial connections globally. 

This approach is one that business leaders can learn from to progress the profitability of their own organisations. 

As with any boss who has been at the top for many years, the Queen’s strategy and vision has had to evolve as the views of her stakeholders, the British general public, have changed and work hard to stay relevant as an ancient institution in modern times.

It takes a truly skilled leader to adapt their style in response to situations and people. The Queen is under intense public scrutiny, and we have seen her leadership style evolve over the course of her reign to become more transparent and collaborative.

Collaboration is key to success for every leader – in fact, one of our recent studies shows that those leaders working well with and through others not only achieve better organisational results – achieving 12 per cent better revenue outcomes in their businesses – they also achieve better success for themselves.

Read more about the impact of the Royal Family:

Her landmark achievement this week is testament to how adapting your style of leadership to the needs of the times can ensure a long and productive tenure at the head of a significant and productive royal firm.

Increasing transparency in the Queen’s Christmas speech – or the firm’s ‘annual statement’ – has also been an important development. Acknowledging her ‘annus horribilis’ and other challenges to the monarchy has helped win favour and empathy among key stakeholders, those political and media commentators who hold sway over reputation. This also holds true in other areas, such as the firm voluntarily opening itself up to greater financial scrutiny from parliament and the Queen agreeing to meet the bulk of family expenses from the firm’s own inherited income. 

The enduring success of the Commonwealth is testament to its figurehead’s ability to innovate. While all members of the royal family have pitched in by maintaining links with the firm’s global business prospects, the Queen has visited 116 countries during her reign in the interests of strengthening relationships. In her role as leader, she has steered an increasingly modern approach and ensured that the satellite branches of the organisation such as Canada and Australia remain content.

When it comes to financing the firm, the Queen has also explored alternative sources of revenue, opening up Buckingham Palace to the public to raise funds for repairs and ensuring other business leaders including Prince Charles ‘volunteer’ to pay tax on their private incomes. 

Finally, one of the greatest achievements of the Queen’s time at the top has been through the joint venture with the Middletons, launching the hugely successful brand “Wills & Kate”. By nurturing and sharing responsibilities with high-potential junior talent, the Queen has added value to the firm, with the success of two ‘Royal Baby’ campaigns crowning a highly successful rebrand. Not only can such a high profile collaboration ensure the continuity of the firm, the diversifying of key figureheads has been shown by CEB to drive double digit profit growth and revenue for businesses. 

Business heads who wish to emulate the long and flourishing leadership of the Queen can learn from the lessons that have shaped her reign. Sharing knowledge, encouraging new ways of working and enabling more cross-group collaboration will ultimately lead to stronger growth, happier stakeholders and a stable succession plan.

Jean Martin is HR expert at the insight and technology company CEB.

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