Barack Obama just told a touching story about the Queen of England, an iPod and a golden carriage. It’s a great lesson in leadership

Former President Barack Obama made his first public statement on Friday about the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Obama was asked by HubSpot founder Brian Halligan about his experience with The Queen during an interview onstage at the Inbound Conference. The 44th president responded with three stories:

“I was lucky enough to know her, and you know, I used to say that only a handful of people I met when I was in the office — or after — are exactly the way you want them to be. The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, the Queen of England.”

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Later, Obama told a story about a visit by his mother-in-law and daughters to England. No formal visit was planned, but when the Queen heard they were in town, she invited the three over for tea:

The girls and my mother-in-law were passing through London, probably my second year in office, and there was no expectation of seeing her. Buckingham Palace reached out and she decided to invite them for tea.

And so I have Malia who is eleven at the time, Sasha who is eight, and my mother-in-law who was a stay-at-home mother and a secretary for a bank – who lived on the south side of Chicago all her life, sitting there with the Queen of England. And then she insists that the girls take her golden carriage, which I think she uses for anniversaries, on a long ride through the palace grounds. Nothing of this has ever been reported. It was just something she did quietly.

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Finally, Obama told a story about an iPod he gave the Queen on his first visit:

“The gift thing was always a challenge because when you had these meetings with foreign heads of state, we exchanged gifts. I often tried to say ‘let’s make sure they can actually use this gift’. So apparently Her Majesty loved of Broadway shows, and the iPod was just out. And so we’ll buy an iPod in our office and stuff it with Broadway shows. The British tabloids thought this was completely inappropriate. But I secretly think they used it quite a bit .”

The stories are touching, but I think they reveal an important lesson in leadership. More importantly, they reveal the importance of leading well and being courteous.

Queen Elizabeth II inherited her title. She was 25 years old when she became queen, and it wasn’t because she worked hard and earned her title, or because she was chosen. She became queen because her father – who was the king – had died.

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None of that is a knock on her, anyway. In every way she was a worthy example of diplomacy and a steady steward of her title: she picked up a country after World War II and inspired it for decades.

But she became a leader because she was the queen. People bowed as she entered the room. She lived in a real palace. Her leadership came from her title. That is, of course, a unique situation compared to the rest of us. But Queen Elizabeth II was loved not for her title, but for her character and influence.

That’s because leadership is about influence, and influence is about relationships. You may be the CEO, or the president, or the boss, but your leadership isn’t about your title, it’s about relationships. Not even the president can get anything meaningful done without Congress. Even the CEO cannot move the company in a certain direction without finding people who believe in the same vision and influencing them to execute it.

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And yet, as the stories reveal, the Queen was exactly who you would hope she would be. She was the real deal, according to President Obama. She was also courteous, even when it wasn’t necessary, and even when it wasn’t about getting good press.

Besides, being merciful to people is arguably the most important leadership quality of all. The best part is that it costs you next to nothing to be merciful to those around you, and yet the result is that you lift them up. If the Queen can do it, so can we.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.

This post Barack Obama just told a touching story about the Queen of England, an iPod and a golden carriage. It’s a great lesson in leadership

was original published at “https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/barack-obama-just-told-a-touching-story-about-queen-of-england-an-ipod-a-golden-carriage-its-a-beautiful-lesson-in-leadership.html”

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