Posts Tagged ‘Henry VIII’

This last post analyzing the quintessential leadership of Henry VIII will cover the last 11 years of Henry’s life. We will pick up here where we left off at the end of Quintessential Leadership Analysis of Henry VIII – Pt. 2 – 1525 – 1536.

After having Anne Boleyn executed in early 1536, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour. Jane was perhaps, if such a thing existed for Henry VIII, the love of his life. Jane Jane Seymour - Third Wife of Henry VIIIbrought all the qualities of quiet submission, calming influence, virtuous dignity, and careful circumspection that Anne Boleyn lacked to her marriage and to the throne. Her family, as Boleyn’s had been, became ensconced at the royal court once Jane became queen.

While Jane’s character seems to be beyond reproach, the same cannot be said of her two brothers, Edward and Thomas Seymour (who was executed by the Privy Council two years after Henry VIII’s death on charges of treason). The longevity of the Seymour brothers being installed at court shows how mercurial both they and Henry VIII were. Edward and Thomas were good at eliminating their competition, blaming others for mistakes, and twisting things to appeal to increasingly-mentally-unstable Henry VIII. They had no ethics, unlike Jane, who seems to have been quite ethical, much like Catherine of Aragon.

Jane was able to accomplish several important things during her brief tenure as queen. She worked hard to bring Mary I back to court regularly, which enabled Henry VIII and Mary to develop a stronger familial bond. Most importantly, she gave birth to a healthy, live male heir – the one thing that mattered most in the world to Henry VIII. However, the labor was difficult and prolonged, and Jane died on October 24, 1537, twelve days after giving birth to Edward VI.

There are two pieces of evidence that support that Jane Seymour held a special place in Henry VIII’s life. One was that Henry mourned her death for an extended period of time and did not remarry – although Thomas Cromwell was almost immediately searching for marriage prospects for Henry after Jane’s death – for three years. The second was that Henry was buried according to his wishes beside Jane after his death in 1547.

Thomas Cromwell pretty much ran the country during Henry’s period of mourning, and it was in this capacity that he both overreached his abilities and made old enemies greater enemies and made new enemies as well, including the Seymour brothers.

Cromwell was a true religious reformist and saw an opportunity to further the English reformation and strengthen the crown’s coffers by taking over and shutting down monasteries throughout England. A lot of these monasteries had financial and physical assets that made them wealthy, and Cromwell saw an opportunity to both push the religious reform and confiscate those assets for the crown. He assured Henry that there was little to no opposition to it.

Cromwell, aided by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, began a systemic pillaging campaign against all the monasteries. There was organized opposition when the campaign got to the northern part of England, but it was quickly and harshly suppressed by mass executions sanctioned by Henry at Cromwell’s suggestion.

Thomas Cromwell’s undoing came as a result of the marriage he arranged between the German Anne of Cleves and Henry in January 1540. Cromwell touted the beauty of Anne to Henry, while hoping that an alliance with Lutheran Germany would truly bring reform to the English church, but he clearly misread the fact that Henry was thoroughly a Catholic in his dogma and, in true unquintessential leadership fashion,  was just using the church and reforms to achieve his own ends and serve his own interests.

The Anne that Henry met was not the Anne that Cromwell had described to him, and,Anne of Cleves - Fourth Wife of Henry VIII after failing to find a way to void the marriage contract, Henry relented to marry her. However, the marriage was never consummated and was annulled in July 1540.

Henry VIII was generous with Anne of Cleves (she fared the best in life of all his wives) after the annulment, and gave her estates and an income for the rest of her life. Anne and Henry also became good friends and Anne had very close relationships with both Mary and Elizabeth. Anne was instrumental in Henry’s decision to reinstate both daughters in the legitimate line of succession after Edward VI, and she lived to see Mary I crowned in 1553, after Edward’s death.

Henry blamed Cromwell for the marriage fiasco and the enemies that Cromwell had accrued at court saw their opportunity to get rid of him.

Here is an unquintessential leadership trait that Henry VIII possessed. He was always susceptible – perhaps because of his own declining mental health – to believing stories of treason, corruption, and general dishonor. Henry was persuaded by Cromwell’s opponents that Cromwell was a traitor and Henry sentenced him to execution. Cromwell was beheaded, in what by all accounts was a botched execution that required several strokes of the ax before his head was actually cut off, on July 8, 1540.

Cromwell was the most capable, albeit ruthless and unscrupulous, chief minister that Henry VIII had, and Henry later regretted Cromwell’s execution, accusing his ministers of bringing false charges to him about Cromwell to secure his execution.

This is an example of unquintessential leadership as well. Henry VIII consistently blamed other people when things went wrong. He never took responsibility as the ultimate authority in England for decisions that brought consequences he later regretted. We see this trait throughout his life and throughout his rulership of England.

After Cromwell’s death, Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, and Edward Seymour became Henry VIII’s chief advisers, with Seymour handling the duties of chief minister.

It was just after Henry’s annulment from Anne of Cleves that he married Catherine Howard, the niece of Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. Catherine was much Catherine Howard - Fifth Wife of Henry VIIIyounger than Henry VIII, which by itself made marriage difficult. But she was also flighty, indiscreet in all things  (including her arrogant and contemptuous attitude toward Henry’s children), and promiscuous before her marriage and had affairs during her marriage – most notably with Thomas Culpepper, Henry’s courtier. These were the nails, so to speak, in her coffin.

She was executed by beheading on grounds of adultery on February 23, 1542. Culpepper had already been executed on the same charges in December of 1541.

After Catherine Howard’s execution, Henry turned his attention toward foreign matters. He had become suspicious of the French and saw them as a contributing factor in Scotland’s frequent insurgencies into the northern part of England. Convinced that Francis was reneging on the Franco-English alliance, Henry decided to break the alliance and form a new alliance against France with Charles V and Spain.

In 1543, Henry also married again. His new wife was Catherine Parr. Catherine and Thomas Seymour had been planning to marry, which Henry was aware of, so Henry sent Thomas out of the country before Henry and Catherine were married. CatherineCatherine Parr - Sixth Wife of Henry VIII seems to have been much like Jane Seymour in her circumspection, and she welcomed and was extremely close to all of Henry’s children, taking the responsibility for ensuring the further education of Elizabeth I and Edward VI. She outlived Henry and died after childbirth in 1548 during her final marriage to Thomas Seymour (they married in secret about six months after Henry’s death).

In 1544, Henry and Charles decided to invade France. England supplied the navy and Spain supplied the ground troops. Henry intended to regain the land that the English had lost previously to France in Boulogne. Conquest proved difficult and Henry’s sieges were abruptly ended by Spain signing a peace treaty with France. Unable to sustain an all-out war, Henry and the English army returned home.

By this time, Henry VIII was in full decline mentally and physically. His Henry VIII near the end of his lifegluttony and lack of activity since a wound in a jousting match that never healed and limited his mobility caught up with him and by the time he died in 1547, he weighed about 400 pounds. He became a virtual recluse and his mental health deteriorated further. It now appears that he may have suffered from a rare genetic disease known as McLeod neuroacanthocytosis syndrome, which may explain some of the severe physical and most of the severe mental decline Henry experienced as he aged. Whatever genetic factors contributed to Henry VIII’s mental and physical problems, however, cannot be blamed for his intrinsic lack of good and right character.

The two things that consumed Henry, when he was well enough, the last two and a half years of his life were his son and religion. When he died on January 28, 1547, he left a son who would inherit the throne – although his reign would be cut short by an early death in July 1553, which would throw the English monarchy and England into utter chaos until Elizabeth I took the throne in January 1558 – and he left religious reforms – an English Bible, for instance – that paved the way for the English and their descendants to be able to read the Bible themselves and reject the erroneous idea that any human and any religious organization must be the intermediary between humans and their God, a fight still being fought today almost everywhere, although not always as overtly or as obviously as within the Catholic faith, in the world of religion.

On the whole, though, when we look at Henry VIII’s life and reign, regardless of what physiological factors may have played a role, we see an unquintessential leader.

He lacked the ability to build trust and be trustworthy.

He never accepted his responsibility for anything, but instead blamed others when things went wrong.

He was arrogant and full of pride and made some very bad decisions in attempts to prove his superiority to his peers, both at home and abroad.

He lacked any self-control in his private life and his public life.

He had faulty discernment of other people, and allowed himself to be manipulated by every kind of deception and dishonesty at every turn, especially when it suited his needs, served his purposes, or otherwise fulfilled the selfish nature that characterized this man. For Henry VIII, the end always justified the means.

He truly, in the end, only cared about how people and things were useful to him. If they weren’t useful, they ceased to exist (literally, by execution, and mentally in his memory).

As quintessential leaders, we need to observe and evaluate ourselves in light of the unquintessential leadership traits we see in Henry VIII. We need to be brutally honest and ask some hard questions as we look into our own mirrors of leadership.

Does the end justify the means for us? Are we willing to do or allow our teams to do anything, regardless of the ethics, the rightness, the morality, to achieve an outcome we want? If so, we’re being unquintessential leaders.

Do we practice or allow our teams to practice or allow ourselves to be influenced by any kind of deceit and dishonesty (presenting false information as true information, spinning information, angling information, omitting key or relevant information, or misinforming for any reason)? If so, we’re being unquintessential leaders.

Do we manipulate, allow our teams to manipulate, or allow ourselves to be manipulated to achieve an outcome we want? If so, we’re being unquintessential leaders.

Are our decisions made to serve ourselves or to serve others? Do we care about what we want more than we care about what anyone else wants or needs? Will we willingly and cavalierly sacrifice – or eliminate – anybody and everybody to satisfy our own wants and desires? If so, we’re being unquintessential leaders.

Are we always blaming everyone and everything else when things go wrong or don’t go the way we had intended or hoped, never taking any responsibility for our roles as leaders in making the decision? If so, we’re being unquintessential leaders.

Henry VIII should make all of us, as quintessential leaders, take a long, serious, and totally honest gut check to see if and where we are guilty of any of his unquintessential leadership traits and behaviors.

It takes courage, which it seems is hard to find in today’s society, to do a deep and honest moral inventory that actually looks at, actually admits, and immediately changes anything in our lives that reveals any unquintessential leadership traits and behaviors.

A lot of people in leadership positions today are cowards, much like Henry VIII was, who hid behind excuses, justifications, blame, and other people most of his life. Cowardice is the path of least resistance and a coward will find him or herself surrounded by plenty of company.

So I ask you, my fellow quintessential leaders, the same question I ask myself on a continual basis. Are you a coward or are you courageous?

Today’s post has been on my mind quite some time, as I’ve spent a lot of time observing, processing, analyzing how prevalent groupthink has become and how the majority of people, it seems, have adapted that as the norm, and, in the process, just checked their brains at the door.

It’s important to remember that the brain is part of the body and it must be exercised just as the rest of the body is exercised to stay sharp, to stay aware, and to be discerning.

It doesn’t mean that every thought we have is right. But how do you know for yourself what right and wrong thinking is, if you’re not thinking at all? It doesn’t mean that every conclusion we draw from thinking is feasible, doable, or practical. But, again, how do you know for yourself whether conclusions – yours or others – are feasible, doable, or practical if you’re not in the habit of thinking in objective terms about costs and benefits, pros and cons, and outcomes?

We are becoming a society that is content to let others do our thinking for us. And there are a lot of individuals and organizations that want to do our thinking for us. It seems that most of us prefer to just go with the flow and agree to whatever all the things we’re attached to in our lives tell us are right, good, and true. And that’s a very, very dangerous place to be.

As quintessential leaders, we must be on constant guard against groupthink and what it conveys about trust and trustworthiness. My book, Building Trust and Being Trustworthy, is an in-depth discussion of the components that make up building trust and being trustworthy. Get your copy today!

There is not a human being on this planet who can afford not to know and understand this subject. Too many people don’t. That is, in part, why we are seeing the dominance of  groupthink – enforced and accepted – and we are seeing a steep and rapid degradation in moral and ethical standards everywhere we turn.

As a refresher for those who may not have read George Orwell’s 1984 – a book that I also believe should be required reading for everyone on the planet – let me briefly define the idea behind groupthink.

Groupthink, generally, refers to a collective of people all thinking the exact same thing, with no deviation. The underlying desire and professed aim is harmony and unity, so to avoid possible disruption of that, individuals are discouraged and sometimes threatened from objective analysis and truth and proof tests of the accepted thinking.

Loyalty to the group is emphasized over everything else, including truth, and any questioning of the group thinking is seen as disloyal. Therefore, all creativity, all objective analysis, and all truth and proof testing is squashed and, if it occurs, the individual is deemed dangerous and untrustworthy.

The problem with groupthink is that when bad ideas, old ideas that didn’t work the first time around, wrong ideas, unworkable ideas, not-very-smart ideas, and untrue ideas come in, since no dissension, no checks and balances, no questioning is allowed, they become part and parcel of the working body of information within the group.

And bad groupthink becomes badthink and the derailing of the entire group has begun.

Individuals in this environment, such as Orwell’s Winston Smith, know that their mental – and these are rarely, if ever verbalized, and when they are, they are verbalized very, very carefully (if you watch The Tudors, think of how Thomas More handled a groupthink he was not a part of – I would definitely take the same road he took until I was left no choice, as he was not, and then I’d lay it out as concisely and concretely as it has been written and rewritten in my thinking ) – reality checks, proving, testing for truths are very dangerous and that elimination – whether literally with their lives or symbolically by being cast out and banned from the group – is inevitable. There is no other outcome at some point. It’s an accepted fact.

Why is groupthink such a powerful card that some people in leadership positions want to play? Why do they play it? What does it say about trust and trustworthiness? What does it say about respect?

Groupthink is imposed because of fear. Fear of losing power, fear of losing stature, and fear of being proven wrong. It is imposed as a means of complete control. It says to those its imposed upon that they are not trusted and they are not trustworthy. It also says they have no value and, therefore, are not worthy of any respect.

However, you’ll never hear those reasons stated out loud. Instead, you’ll hear words like “loyalty,” “unity,” “collaboration,” and statements about “being on the same page.” There is always a certain amount of coercion and guilt that accompanies these words and statements that play on the emotions of a species – that’s us humans – who have a strong desire for connection and attachment to other humans. And the possible deprivation of that is why groupthink is so powerful for a lot of people and why society accepts it, in general, hook, line, and sinker.

There are way too many examples of groupthink and its repercussions in our society that is literally saturated with it now to discuss them all here.

Marissa Mayer - CEO - Yahoo!But the story about Marissa Mayer’s banning of telecommuting at Yahoo! this week encapsulates groupthink in such as way that it put the icing on the cake of my thinking about this subject for me. I’ll give a few examples of why.

One of the banes of groupthink is the reintroduction of archaic and unfeasible ideas from the past repackaged and remarketed as “new and fresh” thinking. It really shows outdated and stale or no thinking, and it shows the absence of quintessential leadership.

I’ve read widely on this decision by Mayers and have been thinking about it a lot with my own professional background in technology. It makes no sense for a lot of reasons.

Yahoo!’s business, as are all high-tech companies, is encompassed by mobile computing – having the technology to do whatever you need to whenever it needs to be done. Its benefit is specifically what she is banning in this memo.

The everybody-has-to-be-in-the-same-physical-location-or-nothing-will-get-done is not only an archaic idea, but it also has been proven untrue.

Telecommuting workers, on the whole – if you’re lazy telecommuting, you’ll be lazy at an office – are more productive and contribute a higher yield of results to companies because they’re not in an office, going to meetings all day, answering inane phone calls and emails all day, listening to their coworkers talk – and much of that talk is not about work – all day.

Meetings can still take place, face-to-face, with current and emerging technology, so nothing’s lost if someone needs that face time. To say otherwise is dishonest. I say that because I’ve heard this as the kingpin argument too many times and it’s simply untrue.

But the meetings tend to be focused and shorter and not the colossal wastes of time that most meetings in the office are when all the disorganized thinkers who also have a penchant and need to talk out every single random thought in their heads take over and kill productivity for hours at a time.

Telecommuting also represents a huge reduction in overhead for companies and for employees. For companies, it means less equipment, less office space, and less office consumables, which represents a significant cost savings and a better bottom line. Employees save money and time – that they can spend working – by not having to drive, often, long distances to an office. Employees are also eligible for tax benefits by having and maintaining a home office. It’s a win-win situation.

Mayer’s contention that Yahoo!’s employees will be more collaborative, more innovative and more productive by all being in the same physical location is badthink.

The reality is that if employees aren’t productive, collaborative when the need arises, and innovative as telecommuters, then they will not be productive, collaborative, or innovative anywhere else. That’s a skill set issue, not a location issue.

But what Mayer misses in this edict is the lack of quintessential leadership that has been in Yahoo! for years. If those in leadership positions don’t communicate vision, don’t develop and communicate strategies and goals, then all the employees basically end up doing their own thing, whether they are working from home or working at the office.

Instead of Mayer taking ownership for her responsibility as CEO – and admitting the lack of quintessential leadership in the past – she is essentially blaming Yahoo!’s problems on the employees. That is badthink and that is unquintessential leadership.

Another aspect of groupthink in the Yahoo! example comes from Mayer’s “one-size-fits-all” perspective. That is not only a foolish perspective, but it is an unquintessential leader perspective. Mayer is clearly an extrovert. She thinks like an extrovert. She acts like an extrovert. And she expects everyone in Yahoo! to think and act like an extrovert.

Mayer gets her energy from interaction with other people. She took only two weeks of maternity leave when her son was born last year and got back into the office, where she was surrounded by a lot of people. And that’s fine, because that’s what extroverts do.

However, with her faulty groupthink – which is believing all her employees will be energized by all the people around them 10-12 hours a day – she doesn’t realize that an inordinately high percentage of people in technology are introverts. Introverts get drained quickly of resources by a steady and continuous stream of people interaction and it reduces their productivity, innovation, and collaboration.

So here’s an example of the result of badthink. The introverts who are forced to come into the office now will not be roaming the halls, sharing lunches with their colleagues, or all the other random “here’s-a-spark” encounters that Mayer envisions happening when everyone’s onsite. Instead, the introverts will hole up in their cubes, earbuds and iPods engaged, and work alone. If they venture out for food, drink, and bathroom breaks, they will choose times when they are least likely to be hung up, and the food and drinks will come back to the cube with them.

And they’ll be somewhat less productive, somewhat less inclined to spend extra time working on projects, and very unhappy. What will most likely happen at Yahoo! because of this new rule is that they will lose some of their best employees, who will go to other high-tech firms who recognize the value of telecommuting.

Mayer will be left, then, with the same telecommuters who didn’t work when they were at home, but now they’re in the office not working, and she’ll also be left with a lot of disgruntled employees, who would normally be good workers, with morale issues because even if they haven’t telecommuted, they always knew it was an option if something unexpected came up, and now they’ve basically been told “come to the office or else.”

Groupthink is something that we as quintessential leaders must be aware of, must resist, and must ensure is not how we lead our teams. It’s a subtle enemy. It’s a dangerous enemy. It’s a destructive enemy. 

This post will do a quintessential leadership analysis of Henry VIII during the years between 1525, when Anne Boleyn came on the scene and Catherine of Aragon became an inconvenience, and 1536, when Anne Boleyn was executed.

It’s important to note at this point that although Catherine of Aragon produced only one child – Mary I – during their marriage (she had several miscarriages, as did Henry VIII’s Catherine of Aragonother wives, which now seem to have been scientifically linked to Henry VIII himself, who may have had a rare blood type known as Kell positive), up until 1525, she and Henry VIII seemed to have had an amiable marriage, in spite of Henry’s philandering.

Anne Boleyn, who often carries the lion’s share of the blame for what happened to Catherine and in England during the next 11 years, was in fact only a single factor – although perhaps the tipping one –Anne Boleyn in what led to the tumult and upheaval within the royal family, the country, and the church during that time.

Several factors had an impact on why Henry VIII suddenly reversed himself on the legality of his marriage to Catherine in 1525 after they’d been married for 16 years (their marriage would not be annulled by the Church of England until 1533, but Catherine of Aragon never accepted the decision and maintained that she was Henry’s wife and the queen until her death from natural causes in 1536).

The French monarchy, the Holy Roman Empire, Thomas Wolsey, and Henry’s and Wolsey’s enemies at court were major players in where English international relations were in 1525 and how they were quickly thrown up in the air and changed dramatically within a year.

By 1520, France and the Hapsburg dynasty were becoming the powers to be reckoned with in Western Europe. In 1520, eager for a Franco-Anglo alliance, Thomas Wolsey arranged a meeting between Francis I, the king of France and Henry VIII at Field of the Cloth of Gold in the Netherlands in 1520.

Henry and Francis were very much alike in their educations, interests, and athleticism. They were also both extremely competitive. In addition to the political purposes of this meeting, tournaments had been arranged to show off the skills and abilities of the two young kings with the agreement that they would not compete against each other.

Henry broke the agreement – an act of unquintessential leadership that he became well known for – by challenging Francis to a wrestling match in which Henry emerged as the loser.

As a result, no alliance came out of the two-week meeting and relations with France were definitely worsening.

Not long after the Field of the Cloth meeting, the ever-scheming Wolsey, whose greatest aspiration was to be a pope, decided to throw England’s lot in with Charles V, who was at the time the king of the Hapsburg dynasty.

(After defeating Pope Clement VII in Rome in 1527, Charles and Pope Clement became allies. In 1530 Pope Clement VII crowned Charles as the Holy Roman Emperor, so Charles’ ties to the Roman Catholic Church were not only strong and close, but unbreakable, and he could exert a lot of influence over papal decisions.)

Charles V was also the nephew of Catherine of Aragon and his allegiance to his aunt was unquestioning.

In the 1520 meeting that Wolsey arranged between Charles V and Henry VIII, they agreed to form an alliance against France, with Charles providing the land power and Henry providing the sea power. In addition, Mary I was betrothed in marriage to Charles V, which strengthened the bond of the alliance.

Charles led a very successful campaign against France, capturing Francis I in the first battle in 1525. This was also the year that Anne Boleyn came to court.

The same year Henry named his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, as heir to the throne, and gave him the titles and lands that would ensure his succession. The move infuriated Catherine, who believed Mary should be the heir to the throne, and perhaps initiated the bitterness that consumed her, understandably, the rest of her life.

Even though Henry had a male heir in place, he still wanted a legitimate male heir to succeed him. This driving desire brought out other unquintessential leadership traits in Henry that would be present the rest of his reign: changing the rules when they didn’t suit him, bullying, and trying to force everything to go the way he wanted it to and if it failed, blaming anyone and everyone involved and eliminating them by arrest on false charges and execution. The bloody period of Henry VIII’s reign was about to begin.

Anne Boleyn had already caught Henry’s eye. However, she refused to become his mistress and indirectly told him the only way Henry could have her was if Anne was his wife. Eager for a legitimate male heir and convinced, probably accurately, that Catherine would never be able to give him a male heir, Henry sought a way to dissolve his marriage to Catherine so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

Citing “new ecclesiastical understanding” based on Leviticus 18:16, Henry met with Wolsey and told him that God had cursed the marriage and he wanted Wolsey to go to Pope Clement and have it annulled. Henry used the issue of not knowing whether the marriage between Arthur and Catherine had been consummated (it is unlikely it was and Catherine maintained that it had not been, in which case the scripture wouldn’t apply), but passionately said that piety and obedience to God left him no choice but to end the marriage.

Wolsey was a shrewd politician and understood the position Henry was putting himself and Wolsey in politically and religiously and tried to talk Henry out of divorcing Catherine. Henry, showing another unquintessential leadership trait, refused to listen and demanded that Wolsey obtain the annulment. 

Pope Clement VII, at first, simply ignored Wolsey’s request. At the time, he and Charles V were enemies, and he knew that granting the annulment would have serious consequences for Rome. Henry kept pushing Wolsey and Catherine began a campaign of her own to save the marriage by sending surreptitious messages to Charles asking him to intervene.

When Charles heard that Henry wanted to divorce his aunt, while he did not intervene then with the pope, he immediately ended his engagement to Mary and took a wife. When Henry found out, he ended his alliance with Charles and entered into an alliance with France against him.

Meanwhile, Wolsey was between a rock and a hard place. Pope Clement, who had by now been captured in Charles’ defeat of Rome, had given him the authority to have a convocation of the cardinals in England to get the facts together, but had denied them any authority to make a binding decision. 

The struggle between the pope and Wolsey and Henry, who by 1528 had declared, in another unquintessential leadership stance, the sole and supreme religious and political law in England. While Henry didn’t directly, at this point, say the church in Rome didn’t have any authority over him, he certainly implied it. Henry began to take his case to the citizens of England, hoping to gain mass support from his subjects. 

He had two big obstacles. One was the sheer power the Catholic church had over aspects of the average Englishman’s life. The church was the center of English life. The second was Catherine’s popularity among the people, and the sense they had that she was getting a raw deal from Henry.

Obstacles like these never deterred Henry. As an unquintessential leader, he just bulldozed over everything that stood in his way, doing whatever he wanted to get the outcome he wanted. He certainly lived by the motto that “the end justifies the means.”

Wolsey continued to unsuccessfully try to obtain the annulment. Finally, Henry got fed up with his failure to do so – and because Anne Boleyn didn’t like and didn’t trust, for good reason, Wolsey and urged Henry to get rid of him – and had him arrested in November 1530 on charges of treason. Wolsey died of apparently natural causes – but who knows? – on his way to his trial on those charges later that month. Had he not, there is absolutely no doubt he would have been convicted and executed.

By 1531, Henry had moved further toward openly questioning the authority and the power of the pope and the Catholic church. He sent all the evidence for the divorce and the ensuing cardinal convocations with papal restrictions to the leading theological scholars at all the major universities in Europe to ask for their opinions. They were all in agreement that Pope Clement had exceeded the limits of his power and authority.

He also had English theologians developing reforms to the church in England, which included non-papal and non-Roman authority but only English authority – with the ruler as the head of the church – and he took the legal arguments to Parliament to adjudicate in December of 1531. Parliament also agreed that the pope had abused his power.

Pope Clement obviously was not happy with these developments and warned Henry of excommunication if he continued. However, Henry barged forward.

Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s chief statesman and an ardent supporter of the English reformation (a position that led him down a path similar to Wolsey’s in actions and made him a hated enemy of those in the English court who did not want to break with Rome), called a meeting of the English bishops in which he charged them with treason because of their loyalty oaths to the pope which conflicted with their loyalty to Henry.

The bishops realized the untenable situation they – and their lives – were in, and when they were brought to court to face the charges at Henry’s request, they offered Henry money and pledged their loyalty to him as “the supreme head of the Church of England.”

Henry took the bishops’ pledge to Parliament in January of 1532 and demanded that they produce official legislation that codified the pledge of loyalty to him, while keeping Catholicism as the official faith of England. This precipitated the final break with Rome.

In 1532, Thomas Cromwell engineered a meeting between English church officials and Parliament from which a conclusion was reached that an appeal to Rome about the dissolution of Henry and Catherine’s marriage was not necessary. The result was an English conclave of the bishops and Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which the decision was made to allow the divorce of Henry and Catherine.

This resulted in the immediate severance of the English church from Rome, Henry being excommunicated, and the door opened for his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Catherine, however, continued to appeal to Rome, as a Catholic in good standing, until her death to intervene and restore the marriage. The bridges that Henry burned made her appeal fall on deaf ears.

In January 1533, with a new/old (Henry never gave up his Catholic beliefs and the Church of England stayed essentially Catholic in theology and look and feel, much as it does even today) church in place with Henry as its supreme leader, Henry and Anne were married.

Another unquintessential leadership trait that Henry had now becomes more apparent: the chase appeals to him far more than the conquest. By all accounts, the marriage was tumultuous. Henry began cheating on Anne almost immediately, and she, unlike Catherine, but very much like Henry, was strong-willed, opinionated, and not afraid to fight with Henry. Anne also made many enemies at court because she was  a strong person, so there were many people eager for a chance to undermine her and get rid of her.

Perhaps Anne’s worst fault, in Henry’s eyes, was that she didn’t give him a legitimate male heir. The marriage produced a daughter, Elizabeth I, in September 1533, who in the end succeeded Henry VIII, but not without her own wild and crazy ride to succession, but if there were any other pregnancies, they ended in miscarriage.

Anne’s enemies in court, sensing Henry’s disillusionment with her, began badmouthing her to Henry as early as 1534. Another unquintessential leadership trait that Henry had is that he listened to and believed them because it would give him an excuse to get rid of her and marry again in hopes of producing a legitimate male heir.

On May 2, 1536, Henry had Anne arrested on charges of adultery (unproven) and witchcraft (also unproven, but the highly-charged superstitious mindset that had developed during the Middle Ages and cast a long shadow over human thinking until the 18th Century, was very much alive and well), among others.

Anne was executed by beheading 17 days later on May 19, 1536. That this is unquintessential leadership should go without saying.

In the next post, we’ll do a quintessential leadership analysis on the last 11 years of Henry VIII’s life and reign.

This begins the series of posts that will do quintessential leadership analyses on historically-significant people in leadership positions. Today’s post will look at the early  years of King Henry VIII of England.

And just to get the levity out of the way, while I was thinking about this and refreshing my memory on some of the details, I was amused by how many times the scene from the movie, Ghost, where Patrick Swayze sings “Henry the 8th” to Whoopi Goldberg until she agrees to help him, drifted in and out of the serious research I was doing. It’s a very funny scene, and obviously, quite effective from a cinematic standpoint.

But on to the the real Henry VIII and the quintessential leadership analysis of the first part of his life.

Henry VIII was born in 1491, one year before Christopher Columbus, under the patronage of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, would begin the series of voyages that would change North, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean islands forever…and not for the better.

He was the second son born to Henry VII, the first monarch in the Tudor dynasty. Henry VII came to throne after defeating Richard III (whose remains were recently discovered) in 1485 during the Battle at Bosworth Field. As a side note, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays is The Life and Death of Richard the Third. It, however, must be read in the context of when it was written – during Elizabeth I’s reign – so the portrayals are very favorably skewed toward the Tudors and very harshly skewed against the Plantagenets, of which Richard III was the last ruler.

Being the second son of Henry VII, who by all accounts was the exact opposite of Henry VIII in every way except the obsessive paranoia that plagued both men (Henry VII seems to have always been very paranoid, while Henry VIII became more paranoid in the last half of his life), Henry VIII started life with the prospect of being a simply a prince, since his older brother, Arthur, was heir to the throne. 

In many ways, in hindsight, it’s because of Henry VIII’s birth order that his formal education included so little government and economics, consisting primarily of what we now call liberal arts: languages, literature, music, and art. That is also what probably gave him the air of being a “Renaissance Man.” Henry VIII was very intelligent and very gifted. He was an accomplished author and musician. He was also a gifted athlete. He had a passion for gambling as well. These were the things that Henry VIII enjoyed and loved to spend his time doing.

Great for a prince, probably (I think of Prince Charles of England now as an example), but awful for a king. And some of these interests and proclivities were what made him dangerous – and an unquintessential leader – as a king.

Henry VIII was also a devout Roman Catholic, very knowledgeable on liturgy and theology, and authored a best-selling book in Europe denouncing Martin Luther and supporting the church in Rome. Paradoxically, Henry VIII Henry VIII as a young manwas also very handsome as a young man and, even before his marriages, had begun to be a womanizer. Like so many things in Henry VIII’s life, his professed beliefs and the contradictory behavior showed an unquintessential leader at the very core. It also, and this became more apparent throughout his life, showed a complete lack of self-control – also an unquintessential leadership trait.

Henry VII arranged a marriage early on for Arthur with the youngest daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Catherine of Aragon. The young couple married in 1501, but Arthur died five months after they were married.

After Authur’s death, Henry VII offered Henry VIII, who was 10 years old at the time, to Ferdinand and Isabella as a husband for Catherine, who was five years older, when he was old enough. These were political marriages and with Spain still at the top of game in Europe, Henry VII wanted to ensure peace and prosperity for England by a continue alliance with Ferdinand and Isabella. The logic was pragmatic: it’s unlikely, although not impossible, that a ruler will initiate a war against a country where one of his children is the spouse of the ruler.

Ferdinand and Isabella agreed.

When Henry VIII was eligible to marry Catherine at age 14, he rejected the marriage at the insistence of Henry VII, mainly because Isabella had died and Spain was not as politically strong nor as valuable to have as an ally. However, after Henry VII’s death, beginning a long series of unnecessary “in-your-face” decisions in opposition to his late father, Henry VIII married Catherine. It was a decision that would, in time, change the course of English and European history forever.

Henry VIII’s early reign showed many unquintessential leadership traits (although, some stayed the same throughout his reign, others replaced the younger ones as time went on). One that stayed the same was his method of dealing with people – all people – who were either inconvenient or got in his way. He simply got rid of them. The first two people he had executed were two of his father’s advisors, Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley.

Other unquintessential leadership traits became apparent in the way Henry VIII governed – or, more precisely, didn’t govern – early on. For some time after ascending to the throne, Henry VIII lived much the same life he lived as a prince, devoting most of his time to doing the things he enjoyed and following his passions. The unquintessential leadership trait that emerged was handing all the governing responsibilities over to a single person – Thomas Wolsey – who both quickly started consolidating his own power and making a lot of enemies. The fractious and dangerous environment of Henry VIII’s court began here. Henry, when he finally did decide to take complete control (another unquintessential leadership trait), used this to his advantage, encouraging and instigating the constant atmosphere of fear, intrigue, suspicion, and lies that led to death that characterize his reign. None of this was quintessential leadership.

He was a spendthrift all his life. His tastes were lavish, excessive, and his need for instant gratification quickly took the English coffers from the economically-stable position that Henry VII had left them in to a constant need for cash infusions throughout Henry VIII’s reign, which ended with him and England deeply in debt.

In part II of this look at Henry VIII, we’ll pick up at the point where his marriage to Catherine became inconvenient.