The world has been fascinated by Queen Elizabeth I for centuries, and the list of books about her and her reign are as plentiful as raindrops in a summer shower.
It is doubtful, however, that the Virgin Queen has previously been held up as a model for business leadership. Axelrod has done it in bang-up fashion, much as he did an earlier book, Patton on Leadership, a handbook found on many executive desks these days.
Why not? The "Good Queen Bess," as some of her subjects called her, was a woman in a man's world. She referred to herself as frail, but she had the heart of a lioness and the determination of a tiger. She had vision that went beyond her times and beyond the imagination of her people.
Queen Mary's reign was a disaster and gave credence to the idea that women were not only weak, but unfit as monarchs. When Elizabeth came to power, she had to invent new methods for governing England. The nation was weak and virtually broke. It had no standing army, no efficient police force, a few battered ships, and a crumbling infrastructure. In order to get revenue, the crown had to implore Parliament, which was suspicious of the queen, and loath to increase taxes on an already overburdened populace.
By dint of patience, determination, and clever rule, Elizabeth managed to bring prosperity to England. The merchant fleet grew as the country looked outward in the world for new markets and new territories. The British influence abroad grew by leaps and bounds.
Axelrod's chapter headings highlight some of the lessons of Elizabeth's leadership: Acknowledge everyone. Never forget to be human. Bestow a smile. Work the crowd. Stand for those you lead. Always consider the middle course. Get out to the front lines, and so on. Most politicians learn such things early on, but a good many would-be business leaders never do.
Elizabeth I was a most remarkable woman and a fitting leadership model even today, as Axelrod makes abundantly clear in this fresh and readable new appraisal of her life.
Lloyd Armour is a former newspaper editor.