Nuala Walsh is CEO MindEquity, a Behavioral Scientist and TEDx speaker, holding Advisory Board roles in business, sports & nonprofit firms.
Consider a world where the traditions of royalty echo corporate leadership.
As over twenty million people worldwide watched the coronation of King Charles III complete with the pomp and ceremony, it struck me how management and monarchy are oddly alike. While today’s leaders may not troop the flag or authorize horseback parades, they have more in common with a monarch and its traditions than might first appear.
This unexpected affiliation may inspire you to think differently and reimagine the practices employed in your corporate kingdom. Why? Because your decisions matter. As business leaders, you are royalty to employees, with your every movement scrutinized.
A Common Leadership Platform
Of course, a business revolves around commercial interests whereas a monarchy revolves around national interests. Nevertheless, monarchs and managers share similar operating platforms and symbols. Let’s explore the commonalities that manifest:
• Hierarchy And Structure: Both monarchy and management rely on formal hierarchy for effective governance, yet neither have free reign as both are accountable to stakeholders. Power is centralized in the monarch and courtiers, just as it’s concentrated in the CEO and executive team. However, it’s much easier for a CEO to restructure an organization than a monarch. For example, on Elon Musk’s first day at Twitter, he reorganized within hours. Smart leaders consider their governance structures and latitude with in-built flexibility.
• Decision-Making Authority: A monarch wields ultimate power, making decisions that affect an entire kingdom, just as a CEO’s decisions affect entire organizations and their constituents. Both typically delegate and consult with advisors. Just as citizens pledge “God Save the King,” employees pledge allegiance to their bosses, subscribing to uphold the code of conduct and corporate values. Leaders must treat these pledges as sacrosanct for sustained buy-in and loyalty.
• Succession Planning: Succession planning is a crucial executive responsibility but implemented differently to monarchy. Patiently groomed from childhood, King Charles III succeeded as heir to the throne in a pre-ordained transition. In organizations, succession means leaders identify and develop talent internally or externally. In family-based firms, the transition is similar. But in both, politics is inevitable as leaders cling to maintain their crown. Are you ensuring your business is in capable hands or inadvertently procrastinating?
• Legacy And Reputation: Brand reputation and financial stability are shared concerns. While monarchs and managers rely on their constituents to avoid misconduct, both are forced to deal with scandal and adverse feedback head-on. King Charles’s son embarrassed the family with his autobiography while Dominion sued Fox News for defamation. Leaders must embed an open culture of speaking up to mitigate reputation risk.
The commonalities extend beyond formal mechanisms and delve into leadership symbols and practices.
The Regalia And Symbols of Leadership
Compared to a royal coronation, organizations use symbols to communicate grandeur, tradition and authority. It’s the corporate equivalent of titles, robes, crests, crowns, thrones and even palaces. To think like a royal, savvy leaders manage these tools for optimal impact.
• Palaces And Thrones: Just as Buckingham Palace, the Pyramids or the Palace at Versailles symbolize prestige and power, the commercial equivalent is the corporate headquarters—and the bigger, the better. Banks seek plush properties on Wall Street, in London or Hong Kong. Luxury brands dominate Paris and Fifth Avenue. Smaller companies enjoy WeWork open-plan pods or converted warehouses. Within these premises lies the prestigious corner office and throne, the governing seat of power. I’ve seen many use the ceremonial chair as a decorative item in lobbies to depict grandeur. In my experience, modern leaders must consider the appropriateness of such statements and symbols in an era of rising costs and societal consciousness.
• Crests And Mottos: Where brands have ionic slogans like Nike’s “Just do it,” monarchs have mottos reflected in a personalized coat of arms. Of course, organizations, sports clubs and universities also design crested logos to signal longevity and stature. Some leaders personalize a briefcase, pen or monogrammed shirt. Great leaders ensure that their motto is differentiated enough to stand the test of time.
• Titles And Crowns: The commercial counterpart to the HRH title is the business title that communicates position and rank, from Dame to Director to Doctor. Royals wear crowns to cement their image and convey authority while judges wear wigs. In traditional Japanese entities, clergy, military and senior executives wear a “kanmuri” hat. Carefully choose your crown to ensure alignment with your narrative. Remember, all crowns inevitably pass to the next generation of leaders.
• Robes And Power: Just as employees power dress to exude authority through suits, stilettos or shoulder pads, monarchs don robes and regalia during coronations. Uniforms express formality in hospitality, nursing and aviation contexts. However, modern workplaces adopt more casual attire as overt symbols of hierarchy are now increasingly frowned upon. Leaders must adapt appearance to resonate with their audience.
During the coronation, one ceremonial item captivated my attention—the glove. It represents how power should be used gently by its wearer. Moreover, it’s a reminder not to abuse the authority of your office—a lesson FTX and Theranos learned the hard way.
These symbols are not mere decoration, they are communication tools that shape perceptions of both employees and customers.
Crafting Your Leadership Legacy
Traditional management and monarchy practices offer stability, define brand identity and inspire leaders to look to the past to guide the future. While a monarchy reflects centuries of heritage, some institutions over-rely on history. Being too tied to tradition prevents adaptation, sparking disruption in entertainment, travel and music, among other industries. Overreliance on the past also risks alienating forward-looking millennials.
Embrace the commonalities of management and monarchy wisely. Rule your business kingdom as a leader, inspired by the traditions of the past, yet agile enough to shape the future.
Unlike King Charles III, as a leader, you may not have 67 million people in your kingdom, but you still bear the responsibility for the welfare of everyone within your realm—customers, employees and investors.
Effectively managed, that’s a mantle of power that will define your leadership legacy for generations to come.
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