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A ‘job for life’ that we can all learn a lot from

By Emma Kane
31 May 2022

By Emma Kane

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations will be resplendent with pomp and pageantry, lashings of Jemma Melvin’s winning Jubilee trifle (it would be rude not to), and a feast of media footage about Her Majesty’s remarkable reign. 

Such a remarkable milestone deserves to be celebrated; there are few people who have remained in the same role for 70 years.  But a ‘job for life’ was much more common in 1952 when the Queen ascended to the throne. Then, the norm was for people to leave education, secure a job and pretty much stay there until collecting their carriage clock upon retirement.

Today, the average tenure for employees in the UK is just 1.6 years and that is a number that is almost certainly going to reduce further with the ongoing impact of the ‘Great Resignation’ in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as people continue to reassess their lifestyles and work-life balance. For leaders, the period tends to be longer on average, staying in their position for six years.

For our 96-year-old queen, resignation or retirement has never been an option. Instead, the Queen has made the role distinctly hers, redefining what it means to be a monarch.

Her role has changed dramatically over the decades. At the time of her 2002 Golden Jubilee speech to Parliament, she stated, “Change is a constant, managing it has become an expanding discipline”. 

That change has seen her served by 14 Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom during her reign - her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill. 

The Queen has been quick to embrace the technological advancements that have enabled her to communicate with a wide range of stakeholders efficiently and effectively - launching Buckingham Palace’s first official website in 1997, sending her first tweet in 2014 and publishing her first Instagram post in 2019.  

Managing her profile and the media has also always been core to her role, having been in the spotlight since day one - on the Coronation route in 1953, there were more than 2,000 journalists and 500 photographers from 92 nations. The Coronation Service was broadcast live on the BBC, enabling millions of people to see their monarch crowned for the first time.

Her relationship with the BBC was exclusive from 1952, but in 1997 she decided to end the monopoly the BBC had over broadcasting the Queen’s Christmas Message. Instead, she recognised that the media had changed and that it should be produced and broadcast alternately by the BBC and its main rival ITN, adding Sky News to the rotation in 2011. 

Her Christmas Message has become a key fixture in the nation’s diary, with people gathering around their televisions, radios or laptops to hear her words of wisdom; even the tone of her message has evolved and has become more personal and religious in recent years. I certainly knew when I organised two Zoom calls on Christmas Day for colleagues who found themselves home alone due to Covid, that I had to avoid the 3pm slot! I felt it was important to do something though because, in a crisis, people look to their ‘leader’ for comfort and reassurance.

That is why, in 1997, the Queen came under the only significant criticism in her reign.  Princess Diana had died, and the nation was looking to the Queen as their leader at a time of crisis. But the Queen remained silent and the flagpole at Buckingham Palace empty for a week. As every leader knows, exceptional communication is the critical skill needed in a crisis. 

Those around her were as much to blame because leaders need to be surrounded by people that they can trust, to tell them when they aren’t listening or acting as they should.  The Queen has an astonishing 1,200 people simply to keep the Royal Household up and running – cooks, chauffeurs etc. - the team organising her diary must hold a number of those positions. During the course of her reign, the Queen has carried out more then 21,000 engagements and is a patron of more than 500 organisations. 

The Queen has carried out all her duties over the last seven decades, whilst also managing to raise four children and welcome both grandchildren and great grandchildren to the Royal Family. She has remained a focus for national identity, unity and as a political figurehead with many State and national duties, as well as carrying out important work in the areas of public and charitable service.

So, as the nation joins together to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, people should also think about the enormous social change she has presided over in her role during the last 70 years as the longest-reigning British monarch in history. There is a lot that we can all learn from her incredible sense of duty, devotion and ability to change.

To listen to Emma Kane and Naomi Kerbel delve deeper into longevity and leadership, head to Spotify or Soundcloud to listen to the Jubilee special of our 'In conversation with...' podcast series.