I got a few emails last night about how I should comment on Margaret Thatcher’s death and her qualities as a leader. I was reluctant to do so as there is little I can add to such a well covered topic. My first thought was that I would rather write a piece on the leadership qualities of Annette Funicello who also died yesterday. But I figured I could make her story a cautionary tail for those who aspire to leadership positions.
The press have gone out of their way to characterize Margaret Thatcher as a great leader. Words like conviction, tough, disciplined, focused, determined, strong are used all over the place to describe her. There is a lot about Margaret that would characterize her a great leader.
Her lack of leadership capabilities in one major area was her downfall though. She was great at setting a vision, getting results, inspiring people (although she did not earn their love and affection). She was very skilled at managing down as her personal staff will attest.
But she was lousy at managing out. Her role in the British system was “Primus Inter Pares” Unlike tother political systems where the party elects the leader, in Britain, it is the caucus and tradition holds that the Prime Minister is, “First Among Equals.” (At least this is how the other cabinet members see it.)
She had a habit of running roughshod over cabinet members, the caucus and civil servants. As John O’Sullivan describes in the Globe today, she Kicked Up and Kissed Down. This is what eventually ended her reign, her inability to manage out.
Your followers will put up with rough leadership as long as you are producing results but the minute that ends, you’re toast if you’re no good at managing out.