Margaret Thatcher was an indisputably polarizing political figure in the UK. Her passing, however, reminds both proponents and critics of her policies how well she fostered consensus and utilised team building in her leadership approach.
There’s no doubt that Margaret Thatcher’s passing this week gave rise to a revisiting of her tenure as Prime Minister of the UK in the 1980s. Even three decades after the Thatcher era, there is little consensus over whether her domestic and international policies were helpful or hurtful to Great Britain. Just recently, with the rise of tensions in the EU and renewed wariness of Germany’s role in steering the euro through its fiscal crises, Thatcher’s position of Germany (she never trusted them — even post-WWII) – as well as other international policy positions, are being debated and questioned. The same can be said for her domestic fiscal policies, which some believe have come to bear on the UK’s current fiscal issues.
However, a growing majority of Britons and citizens of the world alike see Thatcher’s legacy as a quintessential leader, as well as someone who knew how to team build at a time when the world remained perpertually poised on the precipice of World War III.
For Ronald Reagan and the United States, the ideologies between their own governmental system and that of the Soviet Union was clear-cut. However, in Europe, where Socialism began to take root in continental Europe, Ms. Thatcher had the daunting task of finding consensus between American policy and that of France, Germany, Italy, and other European players, while at the same time positioning the UK to succeed encouraging a hegemonic change in Russia. In the end, the players who brought about the end of the Soviet Era in Russia — Thatcher, Reagan, Gorbachev, and Pope John Paul II — could not have been a more disparate group of individuals and politicians. Yet, it can be argued that it was Thatcher’s leadership style that united this “team” of political players, and managed to bring the world out of the polemic cold war.
So, what is the team building takeaway from Margaret Thatcher? Even if you’re a staunch member of the Labour Party and detest Thatcher for her economic approach, is there something to learn from her leadership style?
If anything, Thatcher teaches corporate leaders, executives, and managers the importance of identifying areas of consensus, and then doing what it takes to exploit those areas in order to gain in productivity and success. Whether a manager is managing a group of team members, or an executive is seeking to find a middle ground among his or her executive staff, the ability to find a common denominator is key to effective team building.
Managers often make the mistake of assuming that employees are all driven by the same goals. We’ve written several times here on the blog that this is simply not the case; even team players see their role in the team as a means to an end for their own individual goals. This being said, it is imperative that we as leaders in our own small corners of the world learn how to manage personalities and ideologies the way that Thatcher did. It is the first step in effective team building.
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