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What The Queen Taught Me About Unconscious Bias

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As I sat on the couch this week watching the Queens funeral, I was transfixed by the pomp and ceremony of it all.  There’s no doubt the Pom’s know how to create a sense of occasion.  

Here we were, witnessing history.   

This is going to be one of those moments we will talk about in years to come and ask, “where were you when you heard the Queen had died?”   

I will always remember the gorgeous Airbnb in Brunswick Heads in Northern NSW – because just like when the twin towers came down… I was on holidays. 

How about you?  Where were you when you learnt the Queen had died?  

I will also remember my surprise at the degree of sadness and loss I’ve felt. 

Not just for the 70 years of this amazing woman’s life of leadership and service – but also for the pure fact that here was a woman ahead of her time, excelling in her leadership role long before it was common for women to have a place at the leadership table.   

She came to leadership not by choice but through duty.  At just 21 she was thrust into a role so few of us would want, let alone excel in. Yes, she has made mistakes – but haven’t we all.   

What struck me most while I watched her funeral, was my disappointment as I realised we are unlikely to have another female monarch for at least the next 3 generations.  Our new King and the next 2 in line were all on display for us to see. All men. 

And here’s the lesson for me.   

My own unconscious bias… towards a preference for a Queen rather than a King as the head of the monarchy.   

We’ve got so accustomed to the style of leadership the Queen brought to the role. For 70 years we’ve seen no other leadership style.  We’re become comfortable and familiar with having a woman in the role.   

Is it possible the new King – a man – will do a great job too?   

Probably.  

However right now, I’m having a hard time seeing Charles as the head of the monarchy.  Not only because I don’t warm to him.  I don’t see him having the same caring touch, poise, grace or sparkle of the queen – all qualities I’ve come to expect from the Crown.   

But we are going to have to let go of what we’ve come to expect and allow him to Lead His Way.  His leadership style will be different.  He will bring not only his own strengths, passions and quirks – but also the male perspective.   

Just like any new leader – we need to give him a chance to find his way.   

Which brings me back to unconscious bias. 

As we strive to bring more women to the leadership table – we need to be aware of the unconscious bias that is undoubtedly playing out each and every day in workplaces across the globe.  Until recently, senior leadership roles were almost exclusively held by men.  We became comfortable and accustomed to the style of leadership they brought to the table – just like we became accustomed to the style of leadership Queen Elizabeth demonstrated over such a prolonged period.   

Today, as I’ve pondered the Queens final farewell as she was finally laid to rest, I’ve been shocked by my own unconscious bias, and it’s left me wondering about the degree of impact unconscious bias continues to have on hiring managers around the world.   

I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

 

 

Image source:Steve Parsons/Pool Photo via AP

 

 

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