A platinum Jubilee marks 70 years. Here in Britain, we are celebrating 70 years of one person’s life committed to servant leadership. 70 years is a record for any King or Queen on a throne in the history of our land and the Queen is currently the 3rd longest reigning monarch in the history of the world. It’s an astonishing achievement by any standard, but this woman stands out in particular, because her leadership has been characterised by service.
The Queen, whose first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, has given us an embodied example of servant leadership that has spanned two centuries. For me, her rarest and most significant leadership attribute, is that she has demonstrably not misused her power. As a leader with enormous power and influence she has daily chosen a path of putting others before herself a path of service. And in this she points to the one person who has been her primary inspiration – Jesus:
“Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born. Now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace-on-earth and goodwill-to-all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It’s needed as much as ever.” (The Queen’s Speech, Christmas 2018)
In our age of power discourse and the continuous dissection of power dynamics, we may be rightly suspicious of those who hold the power of office - elected or institutional, the power of celebrity, the power of wealth and the power of privilege. And we may struggle to point to many examples of “goodness” regarding the exercise of power. But the Queen is the exception to that rule.
It is precisely her commitment not to use the power invested in her at her coronation, and her commitment to political neutrality and the service of all her people, that has enabled her to reign for 70 years. Because, while she has reigned over us as our Head of State, Head of our national Church and her face is the emblem of our currency, in reality we know that she has served us. She has ruled a nation for 70 years through what the New Testament calls kenosis which means “self-emptying.” She has in the words of Jesus “laid down her life for her friends.”
I have lived my entire life in a country led by a woman who has quietly and competently modelled a selfless giving up of power. In 2016 she said:
“Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them…” (The Queen’s Speech, Christmas, 2016)
I am one of them….
The Queen is in her own words a follower of Jesus. One of billions. A follower. That is the secret to her leadership success – she is following the right person.
Jesus Christ made a habit of trusting women to lead. He had female disciples who financially supported him (Luke 8 names some of them for us). A woman was the first to learn of Jesus’ true identity in John’s gospel and the first to become an evangelist (John 4 “Come and meet the one who told me everything I ever did.”) Jesus’ virgin conception, crucifixion and resurrection were primarily witnessed and then proclaimed by women. Jesus entrusted a woman called Martha with one of the most important theological statements of the New Testament: “I am the Resurrection and the Life, anyone who believes in me will live even though he die’ John 10.
Perhaps it is no surprise that a woman who has put her trust in Jesus and drawn her inspiration from him, has proven to be such a good and faithful servant – and a leader of a nation for more than 70 years.