Rethinking Your Leadership Style: What the Movie, The Queen, Teaches About Corporate Leadership

an article by Barb McEwen

Just what does the movie, The Queen, have to do with corporate leadership?

It certainly isn’t a movie about business. But it is a movie about leadership. And the point is simple. You may be a shining new star. People could be talking about your leadership potential. You may even be one of the company's financial wizards or a technical genius. But that’s not enough. Successful leadership takes personal insight and an understanding of what it takes to lead and manage people’s hearts and minds.

The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.

For those of you that haven't seen the film, the movie depicted the Queen as someone very dedicated to her role, yet very much utilizing a Traditional Management style -- one that is more associated with the way men are socialized. Her style was very pragmatic, impersonal, quite rigid, objective and focused on achieving quick results.

Diana, on the other hand, was portrayed as having a more Emerging Management style -- one that is more associated with the way women are socialized. Her style was seen as supportive, flexible, tending to take things personally but also someone who was inclined to make emotional rather than rational well thought out decisions.

The Queen was very much supported in her ideals by her husband and various confidants.

Diana was not supported and could not understand why the gulf between the Royal Family and herself existed.

It’s no wonder they didn’t get along - their approaches to life were radically different.

But the relationship between Diana and the Queen tells us more than the dynamics of the Royal Family. This example underlies the importance of why women executives in particular need to understand the importance of creating a management style that is both functional and appropriate for both men and women -- a balance between both the Traditional and Emerging styles of leadership.

Women are continuously bumping up against the familiar "this is the way we do things here." In today's workplace, both genders are on a huge learning curve. Women are expected to toughen up, take some risks, be more bottom-line driven, as well as being prepared to take some hits for the team. Men are questioned when it is inappropriate for them to take on an authoritative tone, jump right into problem solving, or fail to recognize their behavioral shortcomings.

Of course, not all men think and act alike; nor do women. We all know overly aggressive women and gentle, soft spoken men. Each gender carries some qualities of both the masculine and the feminine. However, men and women often approach a broad range of career issues differently.

Since corporate life still tends to favour men, a woman can learn valuable insights by looking at work through the eyes of a male. This will help her rise above gender politics, compete with confidence and succeed on her own terms.

The Need to be Both Gutsy and Nice

If you want to reach upper management, everyone is some way needs to transform himself or herself. In coaching we use a number of assessments. Using the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Technical Indicator), the Queen's obvious type preference is the "T" or "Thinking" function. It’s obvious that Diana's type preference would be a "F" of "Feeling" function.

We all use both the Thinking or Feeling functions but each of us has a preferred style of operating. Some careers will see more people with a particular style. The Thinking function is more prevalent in accounting, engineering and information technology. Conversely, in the helping professions such as nursing, teaching, and social work, Feelers are more common.

For example, when you come across a doctor who is a brilliant physician (Thinking) but has no bedside manner (Feeling), it is immediately noticed. And if your child's teacher (Feeling) cannot understand you have a commitment to present at a board meeting (Thinking) it will leave you feeling there is a real disconnect. There is no right or wrong. Each simply has a preferred way of approaching their world.

In the business world just being who you are -- a Thinker or a Feeler -- just doesn’t cut it. To be effective, it is helpful to be able to flow between the two. Whether you are relating to customers or staff, leading a team or participating as a group, it is important that you be able to choose a style that is more fitting to the occasion. Being overly sensitive or taking business issues personally casts a woman in a bad light. By the same token, if a man is overly focused, or a workaholic, the same is true.

There is the old saying, "Just because you have a hammer doesn't mean that everything is a nail." To be viewed as an exceptional leader begins with understanding yourself; this opens the opportunity to better understand others.

How does this relate to The Queen?

The movie ends with the Queen making concessions to her previously rigid style. She doesn't really understand why the media was describing Diana as the People's Princess. From her understanding the royal duties should be done with firm resolute. Grieving should be done privately. It was only when she reads the notes and cards left on the flowers outside the palace gates does she feel the impact of not being liked for her lack of compassion. It is then that she realizes that in her rationale decision making, she has left the hearts of the people behind.


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Barb McEwen is a Master Executive Coach and Organizational Strategist who works with corporations and individuals worldwide. As founder of 20/20 Executive Coaching and 20/20 Executive Women she has spent the past twelve years working with high potential individuals to help them hone their leadership and management skills. Contact Barb at