Victoria's Secrets: 10 Lessons You Can Adopt From Herstory
If you are a fan of the PBS costume drama, “Victoria,” that just wrapped up season 3, then you know that this constitutional monarch who ruled the United Kingdom, Ireland and even became the Empress of India for a total of 63 years is one fearsome queen.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we are going across the pond and back in time to a woman who was not only the working mother of nine children, but also the longest ruling monarch in history– that is until her great great granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II passed her record.
Honoring the woman who ascended to the throne at 18 and stayed there until she was 81, we will look past her oddities and bow to her incredible resilience, strength, diplomacy and ability to rule family, country and home while wearing the most amazing outfits.
Know your history. This is Leadership Power Tool #1 as created by Gloria Feldt, Take the Lead’s co-founder and president. Victoria took this to heart, writing 2,500 words a day in her journal, for a total of 122 volumes of journals. She was careful to know where she came from, what she was doing and where she was going.
Take advice from multiple sources. As depicted in the PBS series, Victoria weighed carefully the advice of her prime ministers, including Lord Melbourne, and also Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, as well as her husband, Prince Albert. She also listened to the women in her court, sought their input and asked direct advice from her dressers. “I was fortunate to have wise minds who believed in me when I could not,” the Victoria character proclaimed in season 3.
Set a good example. While known for her high morals and criticized for prudishness, Victoria did leave history with the Victorian Era, known as one that lacked scandal at the highest levels. She inherited a messy kingdom with plenty of gossip and affairs and abuse. But she did not tolerate in her court people who were less than ethical, so it seems she would have been a proponent of #MeToo and #TimesUp, long before they were movements. They called hers the “family monarchy.”
Keep your life and work priorities. No, Victoria never had to worry a millisecond about childcare or expenses, but she did read to her children at night, bring them to public events and want them around her. She was not a proponent of breastfeeding, but she did have nine children and she did manage to perform her queenly duties before, during and after each delivery.
Hand out compliments and favors. Of course a reward could be a castle, but also a title or another form of reward and access. Victoria was knowns as a fair leader who said, “I lead by competition rather than conflict, the best part of human nature, not the worst.” She gave positive feedback where warranted, was not cruel, but was measured in her justice and thinking. She did speak plainly to all her male advisors and did not shrink in their presence. She stood up to sexists and naysayers and disagreed openly and acted quickly to respond.
Stay physically active. As if the nine children and the countries were not enough to be in charge of, Victoria was an active equestrian – at least until the later years of her life. She believed in exercise and fresh air, even if that just meant moving around the grounds of her many palaces.
Keep track of your social influence. If Victoria was around today, she would for sure be on Twitter and Instagram. Well aware of her waning and blooming popularity, Victoria used the public’s love of her to her advantage, and to the advantage of her husband, Albert. She supported him publicly for the Great Exhibition and the unveiling of the Crystal place in 1851, a project that was doomed until she intervened. She was cognizant of public opinion and quipped, “I want them to love me, otherwise, what is the point?”
Be stylish. Queen Victoria changed how women dressed in the 19th century and she was always exquisitely adorned. Her choice of white for her wedding dress was a first—dresses to that point were in many colors—and she wore a white lace dress with an 18-foot train and white satin shoes. She wore a wreath of myrtle and orange blossoms. The style forever changed what brides wore.
Maintain a happy family life. Victoria had a lot on her plate in terms of family, with her sister living in the palace, then her sister’s daughter, her mother and stepfather, and of course, her husband and children. She was highly supportive of her husband, making sure he felt her support for his innovations. “I married a dreamer, not a soldier,” she said to Albert. Though she wanted her children near her and could have been a little clingy to them, Victoria also made sure they had the best opportunities available.
Show your strengths and demonstrate your resilience. Victoria powered through multiple assassination attempts, and a culture that put women down routinely, dismissing her ideas and her influence. She was revered as a straight talker, someone who told the truth and someone who was very strong and unafraid to stand up for what she believes.
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com