Growth and Stability
Growth without rest, without stability, leads to the very malaise from which the world was so desperately trying to lift itself seventy years ago.
In 1952, King George VI died in his sleep, leaving his daughter Elizabeth to accede to the throne at the tender age of twenty-five. Her reign would last another seventy years. At the time of her coronation, Great Britain and much of Europe were still reeling from the aftereffects of two world wars. Queen Elizabeth II immediately became a symbol of hope for a nation, and the world, that desperately needed a new spring. Her reign coincided with the rebirth of her country, albeit in a new form, and over half a century of unprecedented global, economic growth.
Growth has been the defining characteristic of the world in which most people alive today have lived. Entrepreneurs dream of building the next trillion-dollar company. Governments are almost single-mindedly focused on the growth of GDP. Growth has become personal – there is an entire genre of books devoted to the subject. The indoctrination of growth is most evident in the U.S. It is the fuel that drives our nation's collective work ethic and innovation.
Yet growth without rest, without stability, leads to the very malaise from which the world was so desperately trying to lift itself seventy years ago. We are seeing evidence of this all around us. People are overwhelmed and tired. Stress fractures are revealing themselves in the foundations of our most important institutions. Nations are splintering. And the planet is beginning to tell us that it can no longer keep up.
If for nothing else, Queen Elizabeth II’s reign will be remembered for stability. She was a constant in a sea of unending change. A grounding counterforce to the incessant drumbeat of growth, as was the largely ceremonial and ritualistic nature of her role. In her passing, we grieve not just the queen’s death but the loss of stability that her consistent presence signified. It is unlikely that the loss will be filled by her successor or any one individual. Rather, a renewed call for stability must be met by each of us. Leaders must find ways to integrate the polarity of growth and stability in the organizations and communities they lead. Individuals, you and I, must strive to grow while simultaneously being at peace with who we already are and what we already have. Mastering this paradox is the path to a life well lived and to the sustainable growth of our communities, businesses, and planet. This will perhaps be the queen’s most important legacy.