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Leadership Effectiveness in the Film Elizabeth Report

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Updated: Mar 26th, 2019


The movie Elizabeth starts with the coronation ceremony of Princess Elizabeth who then becomes Queen. She is depicted as a warm hearted and blameless person who must take on the enormous task of leading her people. However, she steps up and rules England in the midst of plots by close allies to oust her, turmoil in the nation concerning religion and pressure from foreign nations.

The report will analyse her effectiveness based on the Dubrin model and then look at other theories on leadership effectiveness with regard to Elizabeth I’s reign. Lastly, the report will compare the usefulness of the model in leadership effectiveness assessment.


Dubrin’s model

Dubrin et. al. (2006) assert that leadership effectiveness needs to be analysed through three parameters and these include cognitive skills, personality traits as well as the behavioural approach. In the film Elizabeth is depicted as one who created a relationship with her followers.

In other words, she was empathetic towards them and sensitive to their needs. She displayed this when she struck a compromise with the religious leaders of her time thus illustrating that she had put herself in her citizens’ shoes.

She knew that her people valued spiritual connection rather than the supreme rule of law so she was able to alter her ambitions in order to satisfy this need in the population. Elizabeth 1’s sensitivity to her followers is what inspired many to get influenced by her and to follow her lead.

Indeed another personality trait that caused her success is emotional intelligence. When one is emotionally intelligent then one is passionate about task, one is self confident and visionary. Elizabeth the first was able to demonstrate her emotional intelligence through her self confidence.

She could keep her emotions in check even during trying times. Dubrin et al (2006) affirm that great leaders are always calm and predictable during a crisis. This leader had heard about plots to oust her from her throne and she responded to them in a very calm way.

For instance when she hears about Mary of Guise who is now allying with external forces i.e. the French in order to attack England, she uses her ally to tackle these issues. At the beginning of the film, Elizabeth appears to be this innocent and sweet lady.

However, if she had chosen to remain that way in the midst of all these planned attacks and plots then she would have lost the throne and England would be in jeopardy. Consequently, Elizabeth acts in response to her environment and thus secures the future of her kingdom.

She thought through these issues and knew that the only way she could deal with a possible dethronement would be to handle the instigators of the crime. Clearly, this was a crisis but she handled it in swiftly and calmly.

Elizabeth I was the daughter of King Henry the Eighth and his second wife. She was not wanted and her childhood had not been that great. In the film, one can see this from the fact that she has been jailed by her half sister Mary I who believed that Elizabeth was conspiring to dethrone her.

This is something that could have put Elizabeth’s spirits down but she did not let it get to her. Furthermore, she steps into a highly charged political environment dominated by men who each want to have their own way. These adversities would have caused her to lose enthusiasm for her role as leader of England. Elizabeth I never succumbs to these pressures.

She always remains enthusiastic and that was the reason why she managed to do so well during her reign. Dubrin et. al. (2006) explain that followers tend to respond well to enthusiastic leaders because they feed off that energy. Most will be motivated to act in accordance to their leader’s assertions because they will be switched on.

Similarly, Queen Elizabeth was enthusiastic about her tasks despite her circumstances before her inauguration and also when she started leading. This was definitely an aspect that contributed towards her effectiveness as a leader.

One ought to be a servant leader in order to be effective. This is a crucial aspect of the behavioural aspects of a leader (Luthans, 1992). Here, individuals need to think of their followers above everything else. They often make sacrifices on behalf of those individuals and also must display elements of honesty and appreciation of others.

In this case, it can be said that Queen Elizabeth I slipped when it came to this matter. At the end of the film, Queen Elizabeth takes up the persona of the Virgin Queen through her costume and make up. She is therefore sending the wrong message to her followers by claiming to be something she is not.

Elizabeth I had an affair with Dudley and this takes up an immense portion of the movie. As a servant leader, Elizabeth should have behaved in an ethical manner because effective leaders are honest. She is expected to say something and then follow through on it.

Indeed good leaders should never be satisfied with simply telling people what they expect to hear but they need to walk the talk. Leaders’ words should always match their deeds so when Elizabeth proclaimed herself as the Virgin Queen of England then she was being hypocritical. In this regard, she was ineffective because she did not exercise servant leadership (Bennis, 1989).

Cognitive skills are a crucial part of leadership assessment as laid out in the Dubrin model; one must posses problem solving skills in order to forge ahead as a leader. Elizabeth came into power at a time when England was viewed as discontented. The country was grappling with religious problems and was faced by various threats to the throne.

Queen Elizabeth the First was able to handle these problems successfully and thus guaranteed peace and stability in her country. She was excellent at solving problems. Other rulers would not have thought of the creative solutions that she proposed and implemented with regard to the religious matters.

She also solved the ruling question by choosing to stay unmarried. If she had accepted proposals by the French suitor or the Spanish one, England would have to surrender to French or Spanish rule. If she got married to someone in England then she would have immediately relinquished her throne.

Queen Elizabeth therefore made the best decision by refusing to get married to anyone hence proclaiming herself as the Virgin Queen; married only to England. These sharp problem solving skills are what led to her success and remembrance.

Another cognitive skill that that makes Queen Elizabeth I stand out is her imagination and creativity. Dubrin et al (2006) explain that effective leaders need to be willing to experiment. In the film, this element comes out when one looks at the Queen’s management of her relationship with Philip the Second of Spain.

At the time, Philip was a Catholic and yet her country was going through this great Protestant reformation so she knew that acceptance of the proposal would be detrimental to her countrymen. On the other hand, she could not just let go of him because this relationship could be of use to her.

At the time, there were negotiations going on with the French concerning political matters. England needed to have an upper hand in these negotiations and Elizabeth I came up with the perfect solution. She kept the Spaniard suitor at arm’s length so that the French could think that Spain was on England’s side. She was creative about this problem and it proved to be effective for her. One can definitely learn from such a leader because she managed to use her imagination in order to secure the future of her country with their adversaries (Draft, 1999).

In terms of behavioural approaches to leadership, Queen Elizabeth was transformational because her leadership was strategic, and she made positive changes in England (Bass & Avolio, 1994). She knew that in order for England to move forward, she needed to instate uniformity of leadership.

Nonetheless, she could not do this without the senior clergy’s involvement so she articulated her vision to them and this eventually contributed towards their support. She was not naive enough to think that people would simply obey her blindly.

Queen Elizabeth felt that the only way to end the conflict arising from religious differences would be to convince stakeholders. By talking to them about her idea, she got them to be conscious of the other points of view. Furthermore, she stimulated their minds to think of others’ interests rather than their own. Instead of just focusing on what each side could accomplish out of the impasse, Elizabeth caused them to imagine what the country would achieve.

In other words, they now started considering the long term implications of their tasks. They also saw that change was needed sooner rather than later. These were all elements of transformational leadership. A transformational leader usually articulates a vision for the future as Elizabeth did. He or she also thinks about problems in new ways and encourages innovation as was the case with the Queen. Transformational leaders are charismatic and often cause others to be respectful or proud of them.

These were all qualities that she possessed especially with regard to the religious issue. Transformational leadership also requires support from the concerned individuals. This implies that one should always recognise and encourage followers.

This aspect was not just illustrated when Elizabeth I needed to convince them about religious uniformity, it also came out when they were going to implement the policy. The Bishops of the Anglican Church started facing hostilities from parliament through the House of Commons.

They needed to have support from a higher authority and Elizabeth stepped in to assure them. Transformational leaders always encourage their followers and empower them in order to achieve their goals (Avolio, 1994). This was definitely an important element in bringing out her effectiveness.

As one goes through the film, one soon realizes that Queen Elizabeth the First refrained from making sweeping measures in her group of council members. She appeared to work hand in hand with people who were already appointed in the previous era. In fact, the film does not make any reference to fresh changes in memberships of councils.

Historical records illustrate that when Queen Elizabeth was elected to the throne, she did not carry out sweeping reforms of the Privy Council. In other words, she just chose a few members who would assist the former ones in carrying out their roles.

She built a trustworthy team of Councilmen by selecting individuals who could carry forward with work done by others yet at the same time retained the best of the former team. This illustrates that leaders need not alter things as soon as they ascend to power.

They can look at how things are functioning and then instate changes slowly. The Queen’s manner of choosing a team actually serves as a good example of what effective team building should really be. This is illustrative of the situational leadership model.

Here, an effective leader is one that selects the best leadership style depending on the concerned group members and their readiness. These last two factors will determine whether leadership behaviours will either be task centred or relationship centred.

When group members are unwilling, unable and insecure then leadership behaviours should be highly directed. In this case, the Council did not fall in this category. When group members are willing followers but unable and confident then leadership behaviour should also be directive but this time more explanatory so that members can understand.

Elizabeth 1’s team also did not fall in this category. If group members are able but unwilling or are insecure then a leader should not be directive. Leadership should be participative so that decision making and idea sharing are facilitated. In other words, one should work on the relationship aspect more the task based aspect.

Queen Elizabeth’s group members did fall in this category. She therefore won their support by facilitating participation. It should be noted that she did not delegate all the responsibilities and decisions to the Council because the members were not all willing.

Most of them thought that she was not ready to perform as a Monarch so she needed to win their support. On the other hand, she could not hand over everything to them. The Queen was therefore an effective leader because of the manner in which she chose leadership behaviours.

In this case, it can be asserted that she considered the confidence, ability and willingness of her team before she could choose her approach in just the same manner as it is outlined in the situational leadership model (Judge et. al., 2002).

Application of other theories on leadership to the film

Aside from the Dubrin model of leadership effectiveness, one can also utilise the normative decision model to assess leadership effectiveness in the film. The model attempts to lay out what should happen and what actually occurs within the decision making environment.

In this model, leadership is assumed to improve if the concerned leader involves members of the group or if the leader is more participative. However, that is dependent on the effects of the decision. If the decision will heavily impact followers then one should reconsider one’s level of involvement in it. When Elizabeth made the decision to unify the church, she was aware of the fact that this matter would heavily impact the church and other citizens.

Consequently, she needed to get input from them. In terms of this parameter, she therefore did not do this effectively. In this model one also needs to think about the importance of gaining commitment from those being led. If this is vital then one should not decide on one’s own.

Queen Elizabeth should have obtained the clergy’s opinion on the matter and then made the decision on religion. She did this independent of them and only went to them after she had made her decision privately. One can say that she impeded the possibility of getting one hundred percent commitment from these group members.

However, this issue of the importance of getting commitment from team members can be overridden by the likelihood of getting commitment from the group if one chose to make the decision by oneself. Elizabeth I knew that she would still get support from the clergy if she made the decision by herself.

Consequently, she was effective in this regard because she took a risk and went on and followed through. Effective leaders should also consider how important team competence is before they can consult or delegate decisions to them. In this case, Elizabeth I knew that the clergy were not capable of coming up with a selfless decision so it would have been wrong to give them those powers.

It is likely that they would not have struck a compromise since they would mostly be interested in pushing their agenda. In this regard, the Queen was right to make the decision on her own. According to the Normative decision model, Elizabeth I was right in making the religious decision on her own because; it was likely that she would get commitment from the team, the team was not competent enough to make the decision on their own and the decision was going to be very crucial to the success of the clergy.

These reasons are more compelling and greater in number than the reasons that would have led her to be more participative in making this decision (Vroom and Yetton, 1973).

Vecchio (1987) explains how situational leadership theory is useful in assessment of leadership as well. According to adherents of this theory, one should choose to be either task centred or relationship centred depending on the circumstances. One can analyse Elizabeth’s effectiveness based on these factors.

According to Fielder (1967) one should adopt a task motivated style only when there is a low degree of control in the situation. Here, the relationship between the group and the leader is poor and the tasks involved are poorly structured. One instance when these situations existed was when Elizabeth wanted to pass the uniformity Act.

She had a poor relationship with herself and the bishops that were incarcerated. Therefore, she needed to use a task based approach. The only problem is that she did not identify the rights tasks- incarceration was not the right way to go; this made her ineffective. On the other hand, one should go for a relationship centred style when intermediate control exists.

This means that the situation should have a combination of both unfavourable and favourable traits. In the film, such a situation occurred when Elizabeth needed to deal with the two foreign suitors. She had moderate control over these two individuals and needed to motivate them on relational basis.

She kept one suitor at arm’s length so as to triumph in peace negotiations with France. She therefore adopted a relationship approach and this worked well for her; Elizabeth I was effective in this regard. The socio independent leader should be taken on when control is really high. This occurred when the Queen heard about the betrayal of her cousin. She did not consult with anyone and needed to act socio independently.

In the Path goal leadership theory, Robert house claims that leaders need to motivate subordinates. In other words, they must stress the relationship between the path used to achieve a goal and the goal itself (House, 1996). Leaders ought to do this by relating organisational goals and the needs of subordinates.

Queen Elizabeth was able to do this when convincing the clergy about the need to have a uniform religion across England. She illustrated to them that the country’s success was at stake and since living in a peaceful environment was an important goal for the clergy then Elizabeth I was effective in this sense.

In this theory, leaders are also expected to look at the characteristics of a certain situation and then modify their behaviour in accordance. Queen Elizabeth I exercised this principle because she was always rethinking her strategies depending on the situation under consideration.

When obstacles came her way, she always reacted to them very promptly by eliminating them. Also, at the beginning of the film, she starts as a very warm and innocent individual but when she analyses the people she has to work with, she soon realises that she has to be tough with them so she uses a different approach when handling them. She was therefore effective in these terms.

As one looks at the kind of leadership in the film, it is critical to think about gender and how this relates to leadership since the main character was a woman. Studies carried out by Heilman et. al (1989) illustrate that followers tend to hold certain stereotypes about female leaders.

Some of them believe that male leaders are more effective than female leaders. However, this does not necessarily imply that the leaders’ actions will be affected by followers’ expectations of them. Elizabeth I illustrated this when she rose to the occasion and defied her team members’ expectations of her. Eagly & Johnson (1990) examined the leadership styles of a number of women and found that they were more interpersonal than task oriented.

Men were found to be more directive and autocratic while their female counterparts were found to be more participative and democratic. They also found that female leaders tended to be more transformational than transactional. In other words, women motivated their subordinates more than did the males. On the other hand, men were focused on current needs of their followers and were not as engaged in motivation as women.

These findings were affirmed by Druskat (1994). On the other hand, Komives (1991a) claimed that there were no major differences between the genders. In the film, it can be asserted that Elizabeth I also fitted in the profiles of the former mentioned writers in gender differences. However, in order to know whether she was effective in applying transformational leadership, one must look at the environment she was leading (Avolio, 1994). In her case, it was appropriate to use such a method.


The Dubrin model derives some of its qualities from trait theories of leadership and although these theories are quite effective in their simplicity, the model’s major weakness lies in the fact that some leaders can possess a set of traits but may not always be effective.

This means that direct linkage is absent in this scenario. Also, the model incorporates behavioural aspects of leadership but the problem with this approach is sometimes the situations may be too many to accommodate. This model places a lot of focus on individuals in executive positions especially because they are the ones who have the capacity to transform an organisation.

Consequently, other members of the leadership team may not find it easy to use the model in order to assess whether they are effective or not in their respective capacities. Also, the model does not include decision making leadership goals/ organisational goals and gender contributions to leadership.

This is the reason why the normative decision making model, contingency model, gender theories and the path goal theory are also imperative in assessment of leadership effectiveness since they accommodate other facets of leadership.


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