Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Iron Lady


Tomorrow marks the final steps for Margaret Thatcher, an amazing woman of her time. Like or dislike her Thatcher was an extraordinary woman who was driven, passionate and focused with single minded determination.

She polarized a nation, in life and death, but history will treat her as a great leader of her time.
The influence she had for her time was far reaching creating major domestic reforms that altered Britain.

The Iron Lady ruled the UK for 11 years and remains the longest serving Prime Minister for Britain. She took over a rundown nation and produced a leaner government and prosperous nation by the time she left.  
She was tough, of that there is no doubt. The only female PM to date in Britain but interestingly she apparently found feminists annoying.  I recently read that her view on women wanting to make their mark on public life was simple:  The odds are stacked against women so they have to show they are better than the men.”  Many women would say that this is still the case today. Interestingly, she only ever appointed one female cabinet member during her time in power.

She was passionate on what she believed to be best for Britain; she built great relationships with her allies who underestimated at first but quickly gave respect. Her speech attacking the Soviet Union earned her the Iron Lady tag.  It was coined by Captain Yuri Gavrilov in 1976 in the Soviet newspaper Red Star, for her staunch opposition to the Soviet Union and socialism.
It is now a popular term to describe female heads of Government of which there are very few. The term simply means a “strong willed” woman. Perhaps many of us in business should also be nicknamed iron ladies.

It simply amazes me that in her death there are people who will celebrate her passing through burning effigies and singing childish songs. It shows a total lack of respect for the person and what she achieved.
Like or dislike her, one cannot ignore the successes she had over her 11 years; Falkland’s, privatisation that saw the emergence of brands such as Virgin, control of unions  to name a few.  Yes she perhaps could have been “softer”, but would being simply more appealing have gotten her the same results?

We talk about glass ceilings in 2013. I suspect Thatcher had layer of concrete ceiling to deal with which she tore down with her bare hands.
She fought for respect from her own party, the opposition and international leaders like Regan, Gorbacov and Kohl. To some she was the “Iron Lady” and to others she was simply “that bloody woman”. The response to Thatcher proves she had no qualms with being provocative through her cutting edge policies. She also used her femininity to her advantage. This fight for respect and lack of shame about her gender are admirable leadership qualities- other world leaders have done far worse.

I personally admire Thatcher’s qualities. They are qualities that enable you to shoot for the stars and actually get there. She will always be on my list of people to have around a dinner table.
Greatness is an uncomfortable quality. No matter what people say about her, Thatcher was great. She will be remembered not just for being a woman, but for the woman that she was.

Apparently what mattered to Margaret Thatcher was how history was going to judge her. I believe that history will be kind to her. We shouldn’t dare do otherwise.