Margaret Thatcher – An icon of Courage
Today the world lost one of the most iconic, formidable and courageous leaders of the 20th Century. There are many things the world came to admire about Margaret Thatcher, the daughter of a shopkeeper whose sense of purpose to make a difference paved her way to the highest rungs of power in the United Kingdom, and the world. Of them all, what I admired most was her courage.
Thatcher once said, “You can’t lead from a crowd.” She certainly didn’t. However it would be a mistake to think that she didn’t have moments of doubt, nor fear the wrath she would face by standing up against the powerful unions of 1970’s Britain. However her conviction to stand by her principles over-rode her fear of the consequences for doing so. When many might have cowered, she stepped forward. When many may have watered down their stance, she held firm to hers. And when many might have succumbed to pressure from powerful peers to walk an easier path, less frought with conflict and confrontation, she continued straight along the only path she saw would create the changes Britain so needed.
Of course it’s easy for we lesser mortals to think she was made of something different to us. More steel (or at least psychological teflon), less fear. She did, after all, earn the title “The Iron Lady” for a reason. However the traits that marked her leadership, and indeed her life, are as available to the rest of us. We just aren’t as committed to strengthening them. The truth is that we all possess the ability to act with courage, bounce back with resilience and persevere with determination. Most of us just haven’t found a big enough “Why” to put in the effort, take the risk and make the sacrifices involved.
At the core of all that made Margaret Thatcher Margaret Thatcher – a brand name in her own right – was an unwavering commitment to live a life that mattered – to make the difference she could. That was her “Why.” Nothing was ever handed to her on a plate. In the chauvinistic chambers of 1960’s and 70’s British government, a woman daring to become a leader was not only an anomaly, it was, for many, laughable. Who on earth did this shop keepers daughter think she was?
One of the many lessons her life and legacy has for the rest of us is not to let our own inner voice of “Who do you think you are to do that?” get the better of us. Both metaphorically and literally. Too often it does. Had Margaret Thatcher ever given power to those voices of doubt – which I am sure she had – the world would have missed out on the leadership, the influence, and the contribution of one remarkable women.
In today’s workplace, in today’s world, people who are willing to commit themselves to making a difference – and to stand their ground, persevere and risk the ridicule and wrath of those around them – will be those who will leave a legacy long after they have gone.
As the world mourns the loss of an extraordinary leader – and a true icon of courage – I think we owe it to ourselves to pause, reflect and ask ourselves where we need to dig a little deeper into our own reserves of courage in order to live a life that truly matters and leaves the world better of because of not just what we did, but who we became by doing it.