Queen Elizabeth II’s success as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch may be attributable to the communications advice she inherited from her mother: ‘Never complain, never explain.’ Central to the crown’s longevity has been knowing how much daylight to let in on the magic of majesty.
In contrast, Meghan and Harry have done a lot of complaining and a lot of explaining. From the couple’s move to take legal action against the tabloid press, to Harry’s frank admissions concerning his mental health, the Sussexes have not practised the traditional royal reserve.
This week’s announcement, that they are stepping back from public life as senior royals, has been a continuation of the theme. A seemingly impetuous and emotional statement was clumsily released without regard for convention or coordination. Lost in the affected outrage at the couple’s self-interest however, was a more strategic decision to disintermediate the traditional UK media.
Coverage of the royal family is an anachronism in the digital age. Governed by a rota system between media, in which outlets agree to syndicate content, royal correspondents play the role of professional curtain-twitchers, trading in approved gossip. The Sussexes’ decision threatens to disrupt this monopoly, and it comes as no surprise that the howls of outrage have been most intense from the media outlets with the biggest commercial interest in perpetuating the status quo.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the couple’s decision to pursue a private life, their move to ape celebrity culture and disrupt the tired conventions of royal reporting, is smart and refreshing. Time will tell whether the magic of monarchy will be enhanced by it, or whether the rest of the Windsors will be soon competing with the Kardashians for Insta followers.
Ghosn with the wind
Carlos Ghosn’s recent escape from custody in Japan to Lebanon has all the hallmarks of an elaborate Hollywood film script, complete with private security contractors, rogue jet operators and accusations of a conspiracy against the former Nissan CEO.
As the mastermind behind the carmaker’s return to profitability, Ghosn tore up the rulebook and made organisational changes that defied Japanese business and cultural norms. His push for a deeper merger with Renault was met with heavy resistance as local executives sought to defend their national brand from a complete French takeover.
Certainly the former Nissan executive’s boldness of action and willingness to use the court of public opinion have made it harder to decipher whether the case against him is valid or whether his exuberant leadership style was simply at odds with Japan’s consensus driven culture.
Many successful CEOs in the Anglo-Saxon corporate world have been non-natives. From Antonio Horta-Osorio at Lloyds Banking Group to Sundar Pichai of Google, US and UK companies have seemingly happily accepted leaders from abroad. In any case, large companies defy national boundaries and make a virtue of their global presence and culture. Others, including Anshu Jain at Deutsche have fared worse and found national old boys networks close in on them in times of difficulty. Does Carlos Ghosn’s fate highlight a new strain of corporate ‘nativism’?