How to coach a royal CEO

For some senior leaders, this could be the role of a lifetime. The Prince and Princess of Wales are advertising for a CEO to join the team at Kensington Palace, symbolising an era of change for the royal family.

Just like any new role within a complex, multi-stakeholder environment, there will be a period of adjustment and culture shock.

But for the CEO of Kensington Palace, they will also be dealing with high levels of public scrutiny and media interest from their very first day.

As a former C-suite leader and accredited executive coach at Ezra, I have worked with many leaders of high-profile organisations, but I found myself thinking about this exceptional position and wondering: how would I coach a royal CEO?

And what lessons can we take from this into other leadership environments?

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Many leadership positions require a fine balance between striving for positive change and not rocking the boat when dealing with tradition, procedure and highly visible people.

While each situation is different, the key to succeeding in these environments lies in building a sense of what we call fellowship with your colleagues and key stakeholders.

So, what is fellowship, and how does a new CEO build it effectively in such a unique and high-pressure environment?


When tradition meets innovation

I always advise C-level executives to give themselves time to listen, observe and analyse in a new role.

In this unique role, the first priority should not be about making your mark.

Kensington Palace will have strict procedures in place to protect the institution and its staff, and building trust, rather than shaking things up, will be vital to making the role a success.

Rather than entering with a change mindset, the new CEO will need to have the influence to facilitate meaningful changes from the inside while maintaining a sense of order and intentionality on the outside.

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Kensington Palace can be seen as having one foot in the past with its many traditions dating back hundreds of years.

However, the young royals have made a concerted effort in recent years to bring the institution into the future, with the development of a digital first strategy and heightened social media presence.

The new CEO will need to be comfortable living halfway between these two worlds, fluently shifting from one to another and fluidly making sense of the unique mix. 


The new face of leadership

According to the job description, William and Kate are looking for a 'servant leader', and no, this is not someone to lead the team of servants.

A servant leader means understanding that your own success is also your team's success, and being 100% dedicated to empowering your team.

Leaders today are letting go of the legacy mindset of leading from the front, and instead are focused on collaboration between themselves and their team.

This is a key element of fellowship – understanding the benefits of learning from others in the organisation who may have different skill sets including those that are more junior.


No (or low) egos allowed

I admire the fact that Kensington Palace has mentioned "low ego" in the job advert.

Ego is one of the top polluters standing in the way of good communication, relationships and collaboration – which inhibit the development of a true sense of fellowship between a leader and their team. 'Do you know who I am?' and 'I am above this' are reactions that have no place in today's leadership.

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Leaders can lower outbursts of ego and improve self-awareness by reflecting on their actions and reactions through coaching.

The core principle of coaching starts from the idea that one cannot change others, only themselves, and by doing so, influence others to change too.

Authority should never be imposed as it comes from earning respect and trust. The foundations to build long-lasting trust within a team are communication and a high level of transparency, which includes showing vulnerability, as well as demonstrating a genuine interest and empathy for others.

Surprisingly (for some leaders), fellowship also comes from your team feeling heard.

The new Kensington Palace CEO has a big job on their hands. Like other leaders today, they will need to inspire fellowship, establish authority and build influence.

Hiring an exceptional leader is a power move, which will enable Kensington Palace to flourish as an organisation in a new era of management.

The successful candidate for this high-pressure role will successfully build fellowship through trust and respect, ultimately setting the stage for merging institutions steeped in traditions with modern leadership practice.

 Marion Gamel is master executive coach at Ezra