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Leaders in the Making, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 746

Essay

When I consider the many leaders in history who made lasting, and often global, impacts, my mind immediately goes to Elizabeth I of England. What I find especially remarkable about the leadership she exhibited in the forty-five years of her reign is that leadership was, in fact, never actually expected of her. Nonetheless, she set a standard in guiding her nation which exists today as a model of careful and caring government.

The reality of the 16th century was that the twenty-five year-old princess, ascending to the crown in 1558, had one definitive job to do, and one choice to make, in the eyes of the people and of Parliament. She was expected to marry as soon as possible, and turn the reins of authority over to whichever great prince she would take as her husband. Over the next few decades, Elizabeth would from the first assert that she wished to govern solely. She was not believed, as she was badgered to marry, until she was too old to conceive of an heir to the throne.

In the meanwhile, and with virtually no leadership experience except the political maneuvering she had to do to stay alive under the reign of her sister, Mary, Elizabeth manifested a presence which intimidated English court and foreign ambassadors alike. She understood from the start that, in the peculiar and divinely-held office of absolute monarch, her ability to lead effectively depended upon establishing an unquestioned presence. In her early years, when the mechanics of affairs of state and international relations were largely unknown to her, she knew that an appearance of faltering would be disastrous. She would learn as she went, all the while maintaining the posture of absolute leader.

Fortunately for England, and for Europe as well, she learned quickly. Moreover, one of the greatest and most enduring aspects of her leadership ability was in her selection and reliance upon her councilors, William Cecil in particular. Having known Cecil in her youth, her intelligence informed her that the man had an extraordinary gift for statecraft. With his help, she would quickly develop the same.

There are many occasions in Elizabeth’s reign that make me wonder how I myself might have assisted this brilliant ruler in leading her country. The fantasy is not without some ground; Elizabeth looked to a wide variety of types when she wanted counsel, from intellectually limited nobles of high birth, to men of no standing who, she believed, possessed great insight. She listened to all and sifted everything.

That being her foundation of leadership, I would, with the luxury of hundreds of years of hindsight on my side, advise her in one particular arena: Ireland. It was a huge thorn in her side, a British possession that was continually at war with the British. Her treatment of Ireland stands as one of the very few instances when her sense and practicality lost out to her insistence on her divine authority. It also brought out in her a very unusual cruelty; she had no problem in ordering her commanders in Ireland to burn farms and starve the people into submission. None of it worked and, as is famously known, she died shortly after the Earl of Essex depleted the English treasury in a hopeless and badly managed attempt to bring Ireland under her control.

In those years, I would have advised this unusually intelligent sovereign to accept that the Irish were simply doing as the Netherlands were against Spain, and with her full support. They were declaring autonomy and, as she herself had desperately tried to advise Philip of Spain, she could not hope to hold onto them as subjects by force. I would have reminded her that nothing was as prized by her as the love of her people, and I would ask her how much control of the island meant, if taking it so violated her own greatest beliefs.

Then, I would have played the strongest card of all with this very economical leader. I would have stressed the massive expense in trying to secure a people in a place that yielded little to no profit to England. This is a leader who began her reign by making her bankrupt nation solvent, and she prided herself on this as the European powers went into extreme debt waging wars. A leader far ahead of her time, she despised war as unproductive and costly, anyway. This is how I would have tried to influence a leader as brilliant and as forceful as Elizabeth I.

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