No way to be a lady

Apr
12
2013
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
0
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Last week, as you know, Baroness Margaret Thatcher died, and here in the UK, where I live, there’s been mourning and partying in equal measure.

What there hasn’t been so much of is reflection on why Thatcher was such a bully, even to her closest allies — a trait that ultimately led to her downfall — and also what it might mean to be effective female leader today, just two-plus decades later.

I bring this up because I had the opportunity to attend a launch of Jane Noble Knight’s book The Inspiring Journeys of Women Entrepreneurs, hosted by Gina Lazenby, who invited a group of mostly female entrepreneurs to meet, eat and chat about exactly what feminine leadership looks like in 2013.

Last week, as you know, Baroness Margaret Thatcher died, and here in the UK, where I live, there’s been mourning and partying in equal measure.

What there hasn’t been so much of is reflection on why Thatcher was such a bully, even to her closest allies — a trait that ultimately led to her downfall — and also what it might mean to be effective female leader today, just two-plus decades later.

I bring this up because I had the opportunity to attend a launch of Jane Noble Knight’s book The Inspiring Journeys of Women Entrepreneurs, hosted by Gina Lazenby, who invited a group of mostly female entrepreneurs to meet, eat and chat about exactly what feminine leadership looks like in 2013.

 

The über-male

Thatcher, no doubt, was a product of her times. In order to break through the glass ceiling and achieve what she did in the late 1970s she had to be über male — the ultimate eat-or-be-eaten leader. She had to shout down her opponents and cut the knees off anyone, even her closest allies, who stood in her way. She had a radical vision to drag Britain out of post-WW11 stagnation, and she thought she could only accomplish it by swinging the biggest and most threatening handbag.

That style of leadership did, of course, achieve a great deal in certain regards, but it is also accounts for the state we find ourselves in today — a financial busted flush, high unemployment, higher inequality than ever.

The end of the team

This is what the ultimate self-serving leader-of-the pack mentality brings forth: the breakdown of all signs of our willingness to work together as a team. It was no accident that Thatcher once remarked, ‘There is no such thing as society.’ Thatcher didn’t believe in a social contract. She was a devout proponent of the Adam Smith model that we do best for society by looking out for number 1.

What blindsided Thatcher is she didn’t follow her logic through. If we all work for ourselves, as she did, there comes a point, as it did with her, where cooperation breaks down and everyone goes for your throat.

I have deep admiration for a woman with such a single-minded vision who could get on so capably in a largely male world, but the trouble with Thatcher is the fact that other than using those good old manipulative female standards like flirting or crying when suited her to get her own way, she rarely drew upon the feminine qualities that would have made for true transformative leadership.

The classic Thatcheresque leader believes that leading requires carrying the biggest metaphoric stick: speaking the longest or the loudest, covering all shows of weakness, disconnected from the rank and file, alone there at the top.

Thatcher believed, as so many leaders believe, that winning means winning over somebody else. So what is the alternative?

Another kind of female

After dinner at Gina’s we broke into groups and tried to identify exactly what we mean by feminine leadership. We talked about numerous ways that a new ‘feminine’ leader may emerge, who could manage to lead while maintaining the social Bond. I’m distinguishing here between ‘feminine’ and ‘female’ in the sense that I’m talking about archetypical traits that are classically seen as yin (feminine) or yang (masculine).

What we mostly came up with is that a feminine leadership leads from behind by being a spaceholder of sorts, offering a safe container where all members of the group can flourish. He (as we’re not just talking here about girls, but about The Feminine) or she encourages collaboration, seeks consultation, acts as a facilitator or ideas generator, draws upon the natural human desire to Bond and empathize, and celebrates the journey, not the destination.

More than anything else, the best term I could use to describe it is surrender: to a position as a vehicle of service; to connection, whatever it takes; to the process not simply the bottom-line results; to the whole and not simply an individual, particularly yourself.

That would be my idea not only of a great modern leader but a great modern lady. Pity that Thatcher didn’t get the chance to be the latter.

 

 

 

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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