Saturday, 6th May 2023, was marked in history’s calendar as the day Charles III was crowned King of the United Kingdom. King Charles has officially taken on perhaps the most daunting leadership position in the world. But what skills make a successful leader?

Whilst Charles’ position is unique, in a time when businesses must navigate an ever-changing landscape, the beginning of this new era is an excellent time to reflect on the qualities needed to lead successfully. With that in mind, HR Review spoke to business leaders to get their advice and perspectives as they discuss the skills and qualities essential for leadership, and how they translate to the royal realm.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown

As the Prince of Wales, Charles has spent his entire life preparing for the day when he would take on the mantle of king. Whether it be seating the throne, or heading the boardroom, the challenge of proving oneself can be daunting.

Bruce Martin, CEO of Tax Systems, shares his experience of entering a leadership position. “Having made the move from CFO to CEO last year, I can begin to imagine how Charles is feeling in the lead up to his Coronation – except he’s got the whole world watching! There is no qualification that solidifies you as a capable CEO – or King – so I don’t know if anyone would ever feel totally ready and prepared to step into such a role.”

Charles was always destined to become King, which brings added pressure of visibility. This is something Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla, highlights. “The title of ‘King’ is one that Charles has been destined for since the day he was born – he has been waiting and preparing to take it on for his whole life. There is always a lot of pressure and attention on someone taking on a leadership role, but Charles has the whole world watching.”

However, when reflecting, Martin also shared some advice. “What I have learnt over the past year is that it is all about authenticity. You can’t simply slip into the shoes of your predecessor and be someone that you aren’t. It is important to establish your own leadership style as soon as possible and be transparent about it. Set out how you are going to be different and set the tone for how you envisage taking the business – or in Charles’ case, the monarchy – forward.”

Winning hearts and minds: The leadership challenge fit for a king

One of the biggest challenges for King Charles III is also reflected in business. How can leaders win the hearts and minds of people from different backgrounds with increasingly different expectations from their leaders?

Marco Fanizzi, Corporate SVP & GM at Commvault International, who recently relocated from Italy to London, highlights the importance of understanding diversity in thinking and modernisation, both internally and externally. He suggests that King Charles should listen and learn from younger generations, connecting with them on shared values and inviting them on a journey to improve the world. “Charles has been thrust into the ‘CEO role’ much later in life than his mother was, and the popularity polls are showing that there is a distinct lack of understanding and support around what he stands for”, says Fanizzi.

“My advice is that he listens and learns first of all. He is passionate about causes that younger generations also feel very strongly about… peace, justice, youth, and the planet. He now needs to really understand how he can communicate that, connecting with young people and inviting them on a journey with him to improve the world we live in.”

Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, agrees with Fanizzi, highlighting the importance of building a team as a leader. “Firstly, successful leaders are able to craft a transformative vision and share it with a sense of passion, helping their team or country understand what they do and why it matters. Mobilising teams to execute the vision and sustain momentum is critical to effectively communicating a unified purpose. A truly effective leader identifies how best to develop, coach and motivate all team members, empowering everyone to obtain the best outcome.”

There are clear lessons in business that King Charles can take from both Fanizzi and Nowakowska’s insights. By understanding the importance of having a motivated team, listening to feedback and connecting with younger generations, Charles can lead the monarchy into a new era of relevance and relatability. Like in business, effective leadership in the monarchy requires a willingness to adapt to changing times and understand and resonate with diverse audiences.

The modernity of today is the tradition of tomorrow

The role of tradition and modernisation has been a topic of discussion not just within the monarchy but for organisations too.

As Hugh Scantlebury of Aqilla explains, “It’s important that King Charles should establish himself as a distinct leader, but continuity is key to stability. Charles has already proved a desire to maintain tradition whilst continuing to modernise the monarchy. The initiatives that he has implemented ahead of the coronation are evidence of this. For example, The Big Lunch encourages community cohesion and The Big Help Out promotes engagement in local issues.”

This is confirmed by Bruce Martin of Tax Systems, who acknowledges this while offering the King some advice. “My advice to him would be that it is okay to be different and that change is a good thing. In today’s modern times, people are looking for accountability from their leaders. They want to feel listened to, that their voices are heard, and that what they say is being acted upon by those in charge. And, if it is not possible to act on it, then this should be communicated transparently.”

But whilst tradition is valued, ensuring it is modernised is vital. As Agata Nowakowska of Skillsoft concludes, “to successfully navigate rapidly changing work and business environments, leaders must constantly update their skills and capabilities so they, and their respective organisations, can evolve and grow. For the new King, adopting this mindset will help set his reign up for success.”

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.