Updated: Sep 21, 2022
There surely can't be anyone on the planet who missed the big news story of the past week. Indeed if you only get your news from free-to-air TV you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing else of any significance has happened since Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second passed away.
Here in Australia we had wall-to-wall coverage in the 24 hours after her passing. Then again we had wall-to-wall coverage of the funeral. There has been a huge outpouring of grief and affection for Elizabeth and her family. She wasn't only Queen of England of course but also, since Australia still remains a constitutional monarchy, our head of state.
This extended public display of grief, respect and admiration might be considered somewhat surprising in a former British colony that nowadays prides itself on its independence and self-determination.
I found myself questioning why this should be so. The whole idea of Kings and Queens is something of an anachronism, harking back before the advent of democracy. These days, don't we prefer to have a say in who our leaders are?
Then I thought, leaders? Maybe that's it. That's the problem. Lately our elected leaders haven't exactly covered themselves in glory. The Australian "government" that was ousted back in May had spent its time in office setting new standards for incompetence, corruption and moral turpitude, with new revelations of their skulduggery surfacing almost every day since they were unceremoniously booted out. A similar situation is going on in many other nations, including of course in the UK itself.
In a time when we've become used to our so-called "leaders" behaving with breathtaking arrogance, striving only to enhance their own status and feather their own nests at the expense of the general populace, the way Queen Elizabeth conducted herself througout her extraordinarily long reign couldn't be more starkly different.
When she took the throne way back in 1952 - before I was born - she publicly dedicated herself to a life of service, a promise which she fulfilled every day of her life from that point on.
As a constitutional monarch Elizabeth had very little real power or authority, except what she earned from the respect she garnered through the example that she set. Always, she demonstrated care and compassion for the common people and went out of her way to inspire and encourage them. If you needed a moral compass to help you to figure out what was right and what was wrong in a complex and confusing world, Elizabeth stood out as a shining example of decency and integrity.
That, perhaps, is why she commanded such respect around the world, not just with the common people but with leaders of nations far and wide. When she spoke, they listened.
The Archbishop of Canterbury summed it up nicely in his homily at Queen Elizabeth's funeral when he said that she had dedicated her life to servant leadership. In days to come, if you look for a definition of the term, all that will be required is a reference to Elizabeth.
So now I'd ask all you leaders out there to reflect on your own leadership style and on your relationship with those you lead. Do they respect you and look up to you? Do you put their interests ahead of your own and is every decision you make weighed against its impact on your people? Do you inspire them to give their very best, to be their very best, every day?
Does the example set by Queen Elizabeth inspire you to follow in her footsteps as a servant leader?
Or are you, like so many world leaders who have been in the public eye lately, riding roughshod over those you lead, concerned only with your own personal status and wealth?