In the last few days two powerful female business leaders have been in the media. Margaret Thatcher who has died and Karren Brady, Managing Director of Birmingham City Football Club who was interviewed on TV by Piers Morgan. The two share a remarkable achievement – they both made it big in a male-dominateed environment where the glass ceiling is alive and well; these two well and truly smashed it. Margaret Thatcher did it in the 1970s and achieved the position of Prime Minister when in those days it was truly unthinkable that a woman could do so. Six years before she achieved that role she was seen telling a little girl on TV there would not be a woman Prime Minister in her lifetime. Even by today’s standards it was a miraculous achievement. She then went onto shape the country giving many people standards of living that they would not have had if it hadn’t have been for the Iron Lady. Karren Brady began her rise at the tender age of 23 working her way up in the tough mans world of football. It seems to me that these two female leaders both demonstrate traits that have made them successful.
Vision and Focus
Both leaders had a clear vision. Thatcher’s was to make the country strong and properous again after years of strife with the unions that had brought the country to it’s knees. At the time her vision was very ambitious. Whilst some may have questioned whether it was attainable, through her drive it became a reality. She was strong and did not turn away from achieving her goal despite the many obstacles. Her famous phrase “the lady is not for turning” demonstrated her resolve not to be dissuaded from her chosen course of action, which had the country’s interest at heart always. Karren Brady’s vision was to turn an ailing football club into a strong and properous going concern. She took the team into the top league with a healthy bank balance and turnover of £50m having persuaded David Sullivan a millionaire to buy and let her run the club. With her resolve she knew she could do it.
Both women had to be dominant in their field. Thatcher notoriously dominated her male colleagues in the Conservative party and even had voice coaching to lower her voice so that she spoke more like a man to increase that dominance. Karren Brady in her own way has had to have “balls of steel” to dominate in the world of football. Both women have had to have tenancity to achieve their goals.
Both Thatcher demonstrated and Brady demonstrates a healthy level of self-confidence both believing in their ability and skills. Thatcher may have appeared nervous on many occasions, which is another reason why the voice coaching was brought into play to hide her shrilly female voice when she was giving speeches. Thatcher took risky decisions which would affect the country and Brady took risky decisions related to the football club that could have cost her millionaire boss millions, but for both women the risks paid off as they held their nerve. They took responsibility for their actions whilst moving everyone forward.
Innovation is key as a business leader and both women were bold to create and carry out new plans challenging the status quo constantly. Thatcher closed down many unprofitable mines, diminished the power of the unions and sold off the publicly run utilities. She gathered a top team of politicians around her that supported her decisions getting rid of the nay sayers she had initially brought together. Brady collaborated with others recognising the need to form win/win situations.
Thatcher and Brady were dedicated to the job in hand. They put this above all else in their lives. Whilst both had husbands and a family their job came first. Brady went back to work after three weeks of having her first baby due to the dedication she had. Thatcher entered politics when her her twins were very young and when most women gave up work when they married and had a family.
Whilst the two women had and have very different personalities in their own way they have achieved great things in a male environment with history that can never be altered and they act as superb role models to other women.