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Political Leadership Essay – Margaret Thatcher

Leadership is the concept that has long attracted people’s attention, especially the political leadership. Machiavelli’s famous book “The Emperor,” written in the XVI century, is essentially a book about leadership and government leader. Nowadays many leaders try to apply the ideas of Machiavelli to explain the phenomena of power and leadership.

In the interpretation of Machiavelli political leader is the Emperor, who unites and represents all the society, and uses any means to maintain public order and keep his dominance. Machiavelli developed practical advice for governors, suggesting an ingenious combination of cunning and strength, highly appreciated by Cromwell, Napoleon and many other prominent politicians.

One of the most prominent leaders in world politics in the 21 century was Margaret Thatcher. About Thatcher are written hundreds of books and articles, her extraordinary personality continue to haunt the minds of researchers in many countries. Due to such popularity of Margaret Thatcher, the enormous influence she has had on the British and global political processes, her personality was chosen for the study as an outstanding political leader.

The objective of the paper is to study the biography of Margaret Thatcher as a great leader of Great Britain, analyze her leadership behavior and influence, give a political portrait of Margaret Thatcher as an outstanding political leader of all time.

Margaret Thatcher as a prominent political leader and personality

Margaret Thatcher is one of the brightest and, probably one of the well-known political leaders in the history of the XX century. Her political and economic ideas, foreign policy, lifestyle changed the life of the country and Margaret Thatcher managed to turn Britain into one of the leading countries in the world politics in the XX century.

In modern political history of Britain, perhaps, there is no other such contradictory name, which cause so much dispute and often conflicting opinions, as the name of Margaret Thatcher. There are so many epithets on her behalf, as Thatcher is called “the most powerful woman in Europe”, a “great prime minister and a great woman,” “the most powerful man in NATO”, “iron man” and “Iron Lady”. The “Iron Lady” was the most domineering woman in the world within ten years. (Evans, 2004)

Thatcher reached the pinnacle of power elite, focused on male supremacy, and has achieved this only devoting her life to goal achievement and struggle. The concept of “Thatcherism” has become synonymous with the now generally accepted version of the British neo-conservatism and become a part of English political vocabulary.

Margaret Thatcher became the first politician of the “right wave”, made the beginning of the “conservative revolution” in the world, was the first woman as a political leader and prime minister of Great Britain. As a brilliant British political leader she managed to win three in parliamentary elections for times. She has established a record tenure as prime minister: 11 years, which is comparable with government of Roosevelt and de Gaulle. Twenty years ago, she was one of the most influential political figures in the world. (Evans, 2004)

The name of Thatcher causes in Britons strong feelings, leaving no one indifferent, and she enjoys great popularity outside the country. She is called the “greatest leader of the Century” (journalist M. Dobbs), “greatest politician” (Admiral Sir John Woodward), one of the greatest Prime Ministers, which ever had and probably ever will be in Britain”(Lord Wake), “an outstanding figure in the XX century”(Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus),”a giant among modern world leaders”, “a person of conviction, courage and principles “(Former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig),”outstanding woman” and “personality, which is a head taller than all the other leaders on the world stage”(Lord Howe Abereyvonsky) and many other. (Evans, 2004)

If to speak about biography of the future political leader, it is necessary to say that Margaret from childhood was very serious and hard working person, she had strong character and leadership abilities. At the age of 12 she began attending political meetings. She studied at Somerville – the best women’s college at Oxford, and her spare time Margaret devoted only to studying. The only thing that could tear her away from textbooks was her participation in the popular at the time political debates. Participating in them, Margaret honed speaking skills, learned to defend her beliefs among men. Later, at Oxford University, Margaret Roberts joined the Conservative Association. In 1947, Margaret Roberts received a bachelor’s degree and started working as a researcher in Mannington laboratory, however, all thoughts of Margaret were always about politics. (Campbell, 2000)

After moving to London in 1951, Margaret married Denis Thatcher, and also she was admitted to law school. In 1953 she gave birth to twins, who named Carol and Mark. The next years Margaret Thatcher worked as a lawyer, having become a great expert on patent and tax law, although this area of jurisprudence was closed for women in those days. In 1959, Margaret Thatcher took part in parliamentary elections and won – she was a member of the House of Commons being only 33 years old! Since then she was gradually moving up the political ladder, and in May 1979 became prime minister of Great Britain, gaining nearly 44% of the votes.

Such a leader was Margaret Thatcher – the first female prime minister in British history. In the world she is known as the “Iron Lady” because of her unbreakable will, authoritativeness, the desire for authoritarian rule … She held high public office longer than anyone in the twentieth century, with the exception of Winston Churchill.

If we look at the leadership of Margaret Thatcher. we can find a link with some ideas that are expressed by Machiavelli in his work “The Prince”. Namely, he presented many ideas that constituted the original system of practical management of a true leader of the state.

In general, leadership theories N. Machiavelli contains four main provisions:

  • the power of indigenous leaders lies in support of his followers,
  • subordinates must know what they can expect from their leader, and understand what he expects from them,
  • a leader must possess a will to power and actions;
  • the governor must be always an example of wisdom and justice for his supporters. (Machiavelli, 1995)

Machiavelli wrote that the power is always on the side of the leader when he takes into account the psychology of people, who knows the peculiarities of their way of thinking, moral habits, strengths and weaknesses, and that the actions of people, along with other qualities, are ruled by ambition. Much of this was inherent in leadership of Margaret Thatcher.

Characteristic of the political leadership of Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher openly declared her political right ideas and views. Moreover, she spoke not only about the party and its cohesion, but rather about how to bring the country out of crisis and offered concrete programs and measures necessary. Freedom of private initiative and enterprise, laissez-faire in the market economy, limiting government spending – these words, spoken confidently and clearly, produced unexpected effect: those who have recently made fun of inexperienced lady, now became her supporters and followed her with applause. The party felt that a new leader was ready not just to regain power, but also to realize what many have already started to forget – the ideals of conservatism. (Evans, 2004)

Margaret, as an indomitable personality, has survived many battles on her way to the top of the party. Thatcher has found a real opportunity to lead the nation and finally carry out her plans for the benefit of the UK. Margaret was going to make drastic changes with confidence of autocratic leader. (Campbell, 2000)

When Margaret Thatcher first became prime minister, England was in terrible condition, Britain’s economy was in crisis. In the first five years of Margaret Thatcher there were three serious crisis one after another. Firstly, there was the struggle against inflation; then there was the threat of international humiliation from the Latin American military dictator; and in 1984-1985 there was the last great battle of the class war, when the miners went on strike throughout the country and British Energy was on the brink of total destruction. In each case, there were a lot of powerful, haughty and arrogant critics of the prime minister, and every time Margaret Thatcher turned to be right. When the passions and emotions left behind, her achievements became obvious.

It should be noted that the hallmark of Thatcher was even the uncompromising perseverance in carrying out her line. Having created her views and policy, she wanted by all means to implement it. The political significance of such a line she saw was that the broad population had confidence in the constancy of the basic settings of “Thatcherism.” (Evans, 2004)

It is necessary to mention the internal politics of Margaret Thatcher, to raise the question of her style of work and leadership style. She has many qualities that, regardless of her political positions, characterize her as an outstanding leader. We must note the fact that reveals her political style: Thatcher did not want to lose initiative in the parliament, in danger of losing influence in the country, so she was meticulously preparing for her meetings. Especially seriously Thatcher prepared answers to the questions to the Prime Minister, and during the debates she usually showed her characteristic offensive or even aggressive pressure and persistence. The huge advantage of Thatcher before her political opponents inside and outside the party, of course, was that as party leader and as Prime Minister she had a powerful position in the Party and State, and skillfully used that position. (Campbell, 2000)

But despite all her triumphs, Margaret Thatcher was not loved within the party elite, maybe because of the irritation that usually occurs when men are governed by a woman, at times very harsh and unpleasant woman. In addition, initially a tough program to fight inflation over time has been reduced, and in 1987 inflation began to grow again. The old question of how to control inflation stood up again. High-ranking officials in the government said that the only way out was to peg the pound to the legendary stable German mark; besides, that could generally improve relations with the European Economic Community. But all this would mean the loss of independence, and Mrs. Thatcher was convinced British nationalist and a supporter of the Atlantic alliance with the United States. European “ideals” were strange to Thatcher, and closest advisers of the Prime Minister treated the plans for unification of European finance extremely hostile. Her last three years in power, which occurred at the end of the unification of Germany, were complicated by a raging controversy over the idea of a “united Europe”, resulting in that Thatcher was forced to resign. (Campbell, 2000)

However, even her political opponents had to recognize the unusual nature of her personality, and that she has left a deep imprint on the social and political life of the country. Now, after a considerable time, it seems that the views of Mrs. Thatcher on European affairs (these views were articulated in her classic speech in Bruges in 1988) were likely to be correct. The introduction of a common currency did not bring the expected prosperity, and attempts to conduct a single European foreign policy resulted in an open farce. Reforms, which she began in the early 1980’s and which were so vehemently criticized then, these days are defined as the “politics of common sense.” (Campbell, 2000)

It is necessary to note that one of the major contributions of Margaret Thatcher in the country was economy reconstruction. First of all, Margaret Thatcher refused the old models of state regulation of the economy, and tried to implement a new one: it is decentralization of economic management and reduction of the state apparatus (during her reign she cut the central ministries to a minimum). Relying on the initiative and independent citizens, Thatcher stated: “Whoever is willing to work more than others, should receive the greatest reward and retain it after taxes.” (Evans, 2004)

Thatcher’s ability to appeal not only to reason, material interests, but also to the feelings, moods, the British established her reputation as a “populist” leader. But on the other hand, she was called “iron Lady” because of her hard manager to govern and supervise. But this is obvious trait of the real leader, which was explained by Machiavelli, who wrote that “when the higher social good is placed on the scales – the order and stability – the emperor should not fear being called cruel. Worse, if he from excessive indulgence allows for growth of disorder, looting and violence.” (Machiavelli, 1995)

Thus, having studied the main aspects of the political leadership of Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain, we can conclude the following: at that time Conservatives needed a candidate, full of energy, and with Margaret Thatcher they hoped for the revival of the party, as well as the whole England. The choice fell on Thatcher precisely because she was the most convincing candidate, the person who had the most leadership abilities. She was strong and strong-willed, and strived to goals with persistence, and in the elections for Prime Minister she showed tenacity and uncompromising will. And, having achieved this position, she showed her best political talent.

Thatcher has left her post in 1990, surrounded by universal respect, and she deserved it. After retirement she wrote a book “The Art of governance.”


Based on the said above it is necessary to note that in her political life Margaret Thatcher was more successful than many other leaders of the Western world. But the most important and indisputable is that her reign marked the increase in the personal role of the Prime Minister, and not just in the process of making political decisions, but also in their implementation, as well as in foreign politics.

She became a woman having the most power in the political world of that time, thanks to a titanic effort and a decent respect to labor, her unshakeable integrity, as well as the spirit of ambition and the wonderful gift of oratory. Thatcher from her childhood tried not to be equal to men. She often said: “I try not to notice that I’m a woman. I look at myself as a Prime Minister”. And she was completely busy with politics through all her life: “I never slept more than four or five hours a day. Anyway, my life -it’s my job. Some people work to live. I live to work.” (Evans, 2004)

The secret of success of Margaret Thatcher is that she set herself ambitious but achievable goals, that she behaved like an experienced fighter who can not just risk, but who knows where the risk was justified, appropriate and necessary, and where it was tantamount to political adventurism. As Machiavelli wrote that a smart leader is the one who weights all the circumstances and consequences of his actions. And the circle of the analyzed circumstances must be large enough to clearly understand the simple message: “there is virtue, which leads to death, and there are flaws, having learned which you can achieve security and prosperity”. (Machiavelli, 1995)

She was an unusually strong personality with leadership abilities, and thus successfully ruled the country for many years. Therefore, Margaret Thatcher referred to as one of the most influential and powerful leaders of the world’s political history.


Works cited:

Campbell J. Margaret Thatcher: The grocer’s daughter. Jonathan Cape, 2000
Evans, Eric J. Thatcher and Thatcherism. Routledge, 2004
Machiavelli, N. The Prince. Translated and Edited by Stephen J. Milner. 1995
Nunn, H. Thatcher, Politics and Fantasy: The Political Culture of Gender and Nation.
Riddell P. The Thatcher Era and it’s Legacy. Oxford, 1991, p. 231.
Sampson A. Who Runs This Place? The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century. London, 2004, p. 47.
Young H. One of Us: A Biography of Margaret Thatcher. London, 1989.