Build loyal opposition

by Marguerite Granat on April 18, 2011

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Are you a new leader without experience in managing others?

Have you been caught by surprise-unprepared for your new role.

 What do you do?

This was the case for the young Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII, who never thought that one day she herself would be in her father’s shoes. As you all know-King Henry went through great extremes to ensure his daughters would never be Queens.

What could she do to build respect with a group of men who believed that women were inferior and by no means to rule alone?

How would she build a loyal following from a country that was mostly Catholic while she Protestant?

What could she do to move forward powerfully?

Rather than eliminating everyone who had previously sat on her sister’s Privy Council (the closest advisers to the Monarch), she kept people who were competent even if they had opposing views by objectively assessing them against a predefined set of criteria. For instance, she looked for people who had particular talents, had integrity and truly cared about the well being of England.

Steps Elizabeth took: 

  1. Assess the current members against this criteria objectively
  2. The new members she brought in were extremely talented
  3. When removing incompetent people from her Privy Council she ensured she protected their reputaion-saving face

This is what Elizabeth accomplished with her good judgement:

  1. Her advisers represented a diversity of perspectives-it was balanced and inclusive
  2. They all knew what was expected and performed in most cases extremely well
  3. Everyone was focused on what was best for England
  4. Despite their open disagreements-the group of advisers were all moving in the right direction

In essence she built a team with people who opposed her and were loyal at the same time. Something that only a true leader can master. Hats off to you Elizabeth I-wherever you are….

Photo Credits, Lisby1

  • Bruce Kneuer


    While not every new leader may face the challenges which Elizabeth I faced, the steps you outlined can be a valuable approach to helping with a transition into leadership. Another example that came to mind as I read your post was that of Abraham Lincoln, as detailed in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals:
    The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

    Reminds me of Lincoln book

    • Marguerite Granat

      Bruce, thanks for your perspective. The book seems very powerful. Do you have anything to share about how Abraham Lincoln selected his team?

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