Former President Barack Obama made his first public statement on Friday about the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Obama was asked by HubSpot founder, Brian Halligan, about his experience with The Queen during an interview on stage at the Inbound Conference. The 44th President replied with three stories:

"I was fortunate enough to know her, and you know, I always used to say that were only a handful of people that I met while I was in office--or afterwards--that are exactly the way you want them to be. The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, The Queen of England."

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Later, Obama told a story of a visit his mother-in-law and daughters made to England, There was no formal visit planned, but when the Queen heard they were in town, she invited the three over for tea:

The girls and my mother-in-law came through London probably my second year in office, and there was no expectation that they're going to be seeing her. Actually, Buckingham Palace reached out and she decided to invite them over for tea.

And so, I've got Malia who at that point is eleven, Sasha who is eight, and my mother-in-law who was a stay-at-home mom and a secretary for a bank--who lived on the south side of Chicago her whole life, sitting there with the Queen of England. And then she insists that the girls take her golden carriage, which I guess she uses for jubilees, on long a drive through the Palace grounds. None of this was ever reported. It was just something that she did quietly.

Finally, Obama told a story about an iPod he gave the Queen on his first visit:

"The gift thing was always a challenge because when you had these meetings with foreign heads of state, we exchanged gifts. I was aways like trying to say 'let's make sure they can actually use this gift.' So apparently, Her Majesty loved Broadway shows, and the iPod had just come out. And so our office we'll get an iPod and load it up with Broadway shows. The British tabloids thought this was entirely inappropriate. But I secretly think that she she used it quite a bit."

The stories are touching, but I think they reveal an important lesson in leadership. More importantly, they reveal the significance of leading well and being gracious.

Queen Elizabeth II inherited her title. She was 25 years old when she became the Queen, and it wasn't because she worked hard and earned her title, or because she was elected. She became Queen because her father--who was the King--passed away.

None of that is a knock on her, by the way. By all accounts, she was a dignified example of diplomacy and a steady steward of her title--picking up a country after the Second World War, and inspiring it for decades. 

But, she became a leader because she was the Queen. People curtsy when she walked into the room. She lived in an actual palace. Her leadership came from her title. That's obviously a unique situation compared with the rest of us. But, Queen Elizabeth II was beloved not because of her title, but because of her character and influence.

That's because leadership is about influence, and influence is about relationships. You might be the CEO, or the President, or the boss, but your leadership isn't about your title, it's about relationships. Even the President can't get anything meaningful done without Congress. Even the CEO can't get the company to move in any direction without finding people who believe in the same vision, and influencing them to execute on it. 

And yet, as the stories reveal, the Queen was exactly who you would hope she would be. She was the real deal, according to President Obama. She was also gracious, even when she didn't have to be, and even when it wasn't about getting good press.

By the way, being gracious to people might be the most important leadership trait of all. The best part is, it costs you almost nothing to be gracious to the people around you, and yet the result is that you lift them up. If the Queen can do that, so can the rest of us.