The former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, died last week. She was the only woman to have held that prestigious and powerful position in the UK, and she earned the title, “Iron Lady” because of her strong leadership style.
The life summaries and tributes to her make it clear that she was not a “Mr. Nice Guy” kind of leader, instead she often alienated people into “love her or hate her” opposing factions. No matter what opinion I may have on Mrs. Thatcher’s political career, I can learn leadership lessons from her life.
In some of my early leadership experiences, I was very self-conscious, with a profound desire for people to like me and to agree with my decisions. I believed passionately in our vision and mission and wanted others to enthusiastically join with me to achieve our goals. I often took criticism very personally, and I felt that rejection was against me and my character, instead of against the idea or process. Mrs. Thatcher clearly understood that does not work for leaders:
“If you just set out to be liked,
you would be prepared to compromise
on anything at any time
and you would achieve nothing.”
I have learned – the hard way – that I will never please everyone with my decisions or plans. People are very different in their preferences and perspectives, and often have completely opposite, conflicting ideas about how to move a project forward.I need to listen carefully to the differing opinions and weigh out their value, but then I must make the decision I believe in. My leadership goal cannot be to please people, but rather to lead by convictions.
“I am not a consensus politician.
I’m a conviction politician.”
At the end of the day, I may only be able to say that given the knowledge, experience, and guidance that I had at the time, I made the best decision I could. No matter the outcome of the decision, when I am swayed to do something I do not truly believe is right, I am often haunted by regret. Whenever I choose to lead by conviction, I have peace in the end.
Do you struggle with wanting to please others? What helps you live by conviction?
A few other places to read about Margaret Thatcher…