Margaret Thatcher: Glass Ceiling Breaker & History Maker

With leadership comes controversy. Whether guiding ten people or tens of thousands, even the best leaders will have their admirers and antagonists. Margaret Thatcher, who recently left the world she impacted so greatly, experienced both extremes throughout her illustrious professional career.

Thatcher’s rise from grocer’s’ daughter to three-term reign as Great Britain’s Prime Minister has been well-documented in recent years. In ages past, it might have been called a fairy-tale: girl who sweeps the family store ends up dancing in ballrooms with world leaders and receiving the title of baroness. But Thatcher had no godmother in the wings waving a magic wand; her rise to fame came from old-fashioned ingenuity and gumption.

Like millions of girls entering adulthood in the 1980s, I admired Margaret Thatcher’s drive and determination. She not only smashed through the glass ceiling of British politics, but this ‘Iron Lady” also provided hope that barriers could be broken in other areas and dreams really could come true if you were willing to work for them.

As we point out in The Leading Edge, Thatcher was far from perfect. She slept very little, which possibly added to her short fuse with those around her. And balancing her professional and personal life was often a struggle—a critical lesson we’re confident she’d want today’s leaders to learn, sooner rather than later.

Friends across the pond have reported that Thatcher’s passing is currently receiving mixed reviews. Like many leaders, time will undoubtedly soften the critics and cause admirers to become even more sentimental. What matters in leadership is where the chips fall at the end of the day. Is the United Kingdom better off now than it was in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher first moved to 10 Downing Street? Did positive changes occur because a grocer’s daughter dreamed big dreams—and then dared to chase them?

Like many leaders before her, Margaret Thatcher carefully and competently wove her own vision for success. May the same be said of you and me.