“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It is not a day when you lounged around doing nothing. It’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”
No question, she had a lot of supremely satisfied days. That quote has sat on my desk for years, and I only wish I lived up to it more often. Margaret Thatcher was an absolutely amazing leader. While I will never say anyone was “the best ever”, I will say she sits squarely in any Top Ten List.
If there is one trait above all others Lady Thatcher had, it was conviction. She had a vision, a plan, a mission, and she was absolutely committed. Leadership means a great many things, but in the end it is the ability to inspire people to reach new heights, to take them beyond where they are and take them to a level previously unattained. As Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher knew exactly the direction she wanted to go, she had a very specific vision of the world and her country, and she was without question committed to that vision. She was The Iron Lady; it was a fitting moniker.
However, with that conviction went a very pragmatic side. To her critics she was cold, unwilling to compromise, uncaring. While she never wavered in her convictions, she was very pragmatic in meeting her goals. She knew that relationships, working with others, bargaining and shared visions were the key to real, long-lasting change. For all of her rhetoric and staunch committment as a “cold warrior”, when Gorbachev came onto the scene she realized she had a partner with whom she could work to truly bring about change. Though her goals never changed, she was pragmatic in working with the Soviet leader to help bring an end to the Cold War. Commitment without pragmatism is just being stubborn. Not sacrificing the vision while working with others is real leadership.
Clear, concise and compelling. Leaders are by nature great communicators, they are able to relate to an audience, to convey a message. There is no question, Lady Thatcher was all that…just google some of her quotes…amazing.
Though there are many, many things I have always admired about Lady Thatcher, one of the most treasured leadership, and quite frankly life lessons, I have gleaned is that she never took things personally. It seems so simple really, yet it is so terribly important. The Falklands War put the “special” relationship with the United States and especially her friendship with President Reagan under extreme pressure. She accepted that the United States, and even her personal friend, would not support her and the UK in their mission. It was a bitter pill, yet she understood that it was not personal. The Falklands War passed and the US/UK and Reagan/Thatcher relationship returned to normal. There were no hurt feelings, no grudges, no recriminations. It was just business. It was not personal. A leader has to put aside their own needs and even at times their own feelings, hurt or otherwise, and remain focused on the bigger picture.
Lastly, Lady Thatcher was just that, a lady. She carried herself with a poise, a confidence, a grace; she had a presence that a great leader must posses. She was clearly bright, witty and by many accounts warm. She was able to utilize humor and direct language in such a way that made one see her as a leader first. Obviously she was a woman in a male dominated profession, yet she never saw that as an issue. The Lady had class…you could just tell.
In the final analysis, when you are compared to Winston Churchill, you must have done something right. Take away the political, social, and economic policies and just look at the person, their accomplishments and their legacy; Margaret Thatcher certainly is in that category of great leaders. She was ahead of her time in many ways, yet she was also the absolute right person, in the right place, at absolutely the right moment. However, what made her such a great leader is truly timeless. Her conviction, her vision, her ability to relate that vision, to give and take without ever sacrificing her convictions. Those are the benchmarks of great leadership.