The Queen – Never complain. Never Explain.

 First published 12 March as guest on US ‘Switch and Shift – Future of Leadership‘ series:

As you may know, this year, to honour Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, the rest of the world has generously invited us to host the Olympic Games in London. On behalf of my Queen and I, I would like to thank you all.

Diamond Jubilee? If you did not know, that is sixty years on the throne. Or, as she may see it, sixty years of hard work. By any definition, that is a long career.

For the whole of this time, The Queen has lived by her mother’s well-worn mantra: ‘Never complain. Never explain.’

Online research attributes this maxim to such diverse figures as Benjamin Disraeli, Henry Ford, Frank Sinatra, Kate Moss and now, we are told, the mother of another Kate, Carole Middleton.

No matter. Let’s stand back from this name-dropping and think about what The Queen, a world leader for longer than anyone else on this planet, has achieved as a human being. A person. A woman.

For sixty years, she has got up for work and out to face the world – quite literally face the world. Her whole life is on film. Her every move has been tracked and photographed. These days, no doubt, she has been warned of cameras pointing at her through every window of every house and every shrub in every garden.

In the face of all this attention, she has not said a wrong word and has not offended anyone (unlike her famously gaffe-prone husband). In fact, she does not appear to have said anything to anyone about anyone at all.

Starting, unbelievably, with Sir Winston Churchill, no one knows what she thinks of any one of the thirteen British, eleven Canadian, twelve Australian, fourteen New Zealand, nine Jamaican, seven Barbadian and three Bahamian Prime Ministers whom she has known – or, if I have counted right, the fifty-eight others from various other Commonwealth countries.

I am confident in saying that not one person on the planet has set eyes upon that many leaders, let alone worked with them. It is a lot of leaders. And a lot of tact. Because we do not know her opinion of any one of them.

By definition, if you are reading this post, you are online. You will have read a lot and you will have said a lot. The chances are, like me, you will have said more than you should – more, even than you may have wanted.

Yet, for sixty years, apart from formal speeches, The Queen has said nothing at all.

Is there a lesson in this? I think there is.

If you are in a position of leadership, perhaps you should say less than you do. You do not have to justify your every decision. You should not speak ill of anyone you work with. You need not criticise any of your customers or suppliers. You have no need to impress. Or preach.

Just get on with your job, set yourself the highest professional and personal standards, stand by them for the whole of your life and, while doing so, keep your mouth shut- and, certainly, never speak or write ill of any other person.

Then, like The Queen, and by example, you will win the admiration, loyalty and respect of everyone around you.

I am not saying this to curry favour or grovel.

I simply pay tribute to a remarkable woman.

And, in every sense, a life well led.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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