Long before Sheryl Sandberg’s statistics on the abysmal representation of women in top leadership roles moved into open conversation, Margaret Thatcher offered inspiration to women beyond the boundaries of the United Kingdom. Defying convention from her earliest career, Margaret Thatcher served first in the sciences (chemistry) and law, before entering the realm of politics.
Mrs. Thatcher stepped onto the world stage at a time predating the instant global dispersion of Internet news. I admit to viewing her solely through visible world events available via the selective lens of network television, with more limited awareness of the decisions being made in her national political arena. I resonated with her strength, her clarity of conviction, her firm resolve, and her wit. I watched her navigate corridors of power at a pivotal time in history, as a friend to the United States and as a world leader. She was captivating. She was riveting. She represented possibilities for those of us who could envision a future with more female leaders.
When the news hit of Baroness Thatcher’s passing, I sought out on-line boards, intending to comment on my admiration and share what I felt was a loss. I discovered posts reflecting the divisive nature of two extremes. Recognizing I was seeing what I had not personally lived and the passionate demonstrations of both sides expressing the merit of their views, I decided to pause and reflect. My ruminations followed three lines of inquiry:
Leadership takes courage. Gender issues aside, to step forward into a highly visible role, especially when “times are tough,” requires strength, commitment and a measure of “thick skin.” Conflict breeds naysayers regardless of the path chosen; we each have an opportunity to lead from conviction when hard choices must be made and demonstrate determination to stay the course or adapt when each are appropriate. Adding the dimension of gender involves facing an additional layer of critique that, frankly, male counterparts never have to experience. Additionally, during times of challenge, leaders may need to select from amongst options that hold little appeal. It’s easy to second-guess alternate courses of action for any leader with the luxury of hindsight. I believe Margaret Thatcher led from a courageous core, stood authentic to her convictions, and served her nation and our global community well in a time of transition. I believe she continues to serve as an aspirational role model. And I hope I am able to accomplish some fraction of her legacy in my own life’s sphere of influence.
Personal judgment. I attempted to contemplate my own response to the passing of an individual I might find detestable—a harsh term that seems to mirror the vitriol of some of the posts on Margaret Thatcher. Would I be on the “ding, dong the witch is dead” end of the spectrum? Or, could I achieve a “how sad for the family, and now we can move on” mentality? Positive posts flow easily regarding individuals we agree with; people who represent positions of fundamental difference often challenge civil discourse—something I value.
Affairs of State. Here’s my final observation regarding the passing of the Iron Lady . . . in reading about the public funeral, I was not surprised at the attendance of Henry Kissinger. In contrast, I agreed with the press assessment of the current administration’s decision to send no notable U. S. representative as a clear Obama snub. How difficult would designating a person to pay our national respects have been? Mrs. Thatcher was a friend to our nation in an amazing point of history; we missed an opportunity to acknowledge her contributions.
As a last comment, look at the image of Margaret Thatcher speaking. Tellingly, there is only one other female, on the far right. All politics aside, this was an amazing woman.
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IMAGE: Margaret Thatcher speaking September 29, 1983. White House Photo, accessed via margaretthatcher.org. Copyright waived by US Government.
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