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What the Queen taught us about leadership and networking

by Richard Foulkes

Leadership & Networking Lessons from Queen Elizabeth II

The late Queen may have been the greatest networker of all time. Who else has shaken over 3 million hands?

That’s an average of 113 handshakes a day for every day of her reign, including public holidays.  She also built her network, the Commonwealth, from just 8 countries in 1949 to 56 countries in 2022 with 1.2 billion citizens while allowing the Empire to disband and some former countries become republics.

So, what can we learn from her about Leadership and BNI?

The Queen and Leadership

“I know of no single formula for success, but over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration, to work together.“ — Queen Elizabeth II

Doesn’t this speak of leadership in BNI and of BNI itself?

As a leader she had to inspire people of all races and faiths to come together through all manner of crisis and challenges.

As your new Leadership Team, we want to create this kind of leadership for the chapter.

The Queen and BNI Core Values

The Queen embodied many of our BNI Core Values, starting with Givers Gain®. Famously in 1947 on her 21st birthday she made a speech where she said:

“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong”.

It was a long, not a short life and she lived up to that pledge in spades.

She gave her life to the service of others, even though she was a Queen, and in return she received the adoration of millions as was shown by the hundreds of thousands of people that queued for hours to pay their respects.

Traditions and Innovation

The Royal Family is all about tradition. The Queen’s funeral was traditional on a grand scale and incredibly impressive. Yet the Queen was all about innovation. Her Christmas speech began on Radio, then TV and ultimately it was on the internet.

Her method of travel changed from her own boat and trains to aircraft. Think about the changes she in technology she saw over her 96 years. The monarchy was modernised, it had to be to stay relevant. Hopefully the 78 bathrooms at Buckingham Palace also got an update at some stage.

Positive and Supportive Attitude

Occasionally the Queen must have had the bad day, in fact in she admitted having a “annus horribilis” (horrible year) in 1992 when there was (just for your information):

– Publication of photographs pertaining to an affair between Sarah, Duchess of York, and Texan oil millionaire Steve Wyatt (18 January).

– Separation of the Queen’s second son Prince Andrew, Duke of York, from his wife Sarah (19 March).

– Divorce of the Queen’s daughter, Anne, Princess Royal, from Captain Mark Phillips (23 April).

– Publication of Diana, Princess of Wales‘ tell-all book ‘Diana: Her True Story’, revealing the problems in her marriage to the Queen’s eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales – particularly his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (The Sunday Times, 7 June).

– Publication of photographs of Sarah, Duchess of York, sunbathing topless with her friend John Bryan (20 August).

– Publication of intimate conversations between Diana and James Gilbey from a tape recording of their phone calls (24 August).

Fire in Windsor Castle, one of the Queen’s official residences (20 November).

After her speech, one more notable event transpired: the separation of Charles and Diana (9 December). She had to work with all kinds of “interesting” characters over her 70 years as Queen. She outlasted all of them. In all that time she never outwardly showed anything less than positivity, support – and a sense of humour.

Lifelong Learning, Building Relationships, and Accountability

The Queen was obviously a lifelong learner, a relationship builder and she was prepared to change the Monarchy to be held accountable by the British people. Recognition is also a massive part of the Monarchy, titles, knighthoods and awards like OBEs that recognise people doing valuable work.


The Queen didn’t act like a Queen, she fulfilled her pledge to be a servant of the people she was the nominally “in charge” of. This is called Servant leadership.

“Servant Leadership is a philosophy where a leader is a servant first. Servant leaders aspire to serve their team and the organisation first ahead of personal objectives. It is a selfless leadership style where a leader possesses a natural feeling to serve for the greater good”.

In BNI and in our businesses, this style of leadership is much more effective than an autocratic style of leadership.

RIP Queen Elizabeth 1926-2022

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