“The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers”

Drucker (1998 cited in Edwin 2006 p.340)

Margaret Thatcher exhibited certain personality traits in her political persona such as aggressiveness self-confidence, dominance pragmatism ambition and a strong moral belief of how things should be. Klenke (1996)


Trait Theory and Directive Leadership
People who have been labelled as great or effective leaders have very different qualities. (Doyle and Smith, 2011) Margaret Thatcher demonstrated an ability to navigate a cut-throat world of British politics. (Wade, 2002) According to Doyle and Smith (2011) Directive leadership is characterized by leaders taking decisions for others - and expecting followers or subordinates to follow instructions. In comparison the former Tory Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken stated MT’s relationship with her colleagues never involved her exerting power over the cabinet. (Morton, 2012) Margaret Thatcher has said; “I shan't be pulling the levers there but I shall be a very good back-seat driver”. (igreens.org, 2006)

Autocratic Leadership
Lewin(1939) identified 3 key styles of leadership which are;

Autocratic Leader
Democratic Leader
Delegate (Laissez Fair Leadership)

Margaret Thatcher in the Iron Lady could be described as an Authoritarian also known as an Autocratic Leader, Lewin(1939 cited in Wilson2010). Autocratic leaders, tend to be controlling in nature and strive for Authority and Power.

In the film the following Autocratic Leadership traits are demostrated:

  • Clear direction.
  • Little or no input from the general population .
  • Clear divide between leader and population.
  • Little time for group decisions.

Autocratic Leaders and the ‘Charisma Theory’
“Autocratic leaders, perhaps typified by Britain’s Iron Lady, are feared for their ‘do as I say’ style of management and complete intolerance of dissent but grudgingly admired for their ability to get things done, albeit with much grumbling in the ranks” inside.housing (2009). This could support the ‘telling’ style described by Hersey and Blanchard (1977) which is characterized by giving a great deal of direction to subordinates. <(Doyle and Smith, 2011)> Margaret Thatcher has said; “I don't mind how much my Ministers talk, so long as they do what I say” (igreens.org, 2006).

“Mrs Thatcher still has a devoted band of followers. And circumstances can make all the difference - in a crisis situation people tend to prefer strong leadership and quick decisions” inside.housing (2009). Max Weber brought the idea of ‘charisma’ to the realm of leadership. He suggested leaders with ‘charisma’ are followed by those in distress. He argues that these leaders are seen to have special talents that can aid situations. However leaders with ‘charisma’ can be turned against as quickly as they were followed, sometimes this is because situations are not resolved or something happens in which the opinion of a person changes negatively. This can result in the destruction of a leader (Doyle and Smith, 2012)

Charismatic Leadership
General characteristics of charismatic leaders include self-confidence, strong vision, ability to articulate the vision, and willingness to make radical changes. Robbins (2008)

Social events are important for the emergence of charismatic leader. Blau (1963)

An early example of this charismatic leadership style as displayed after winning the 1979 election where she stated;
“Where there is discord, may we bring harmony.Where there is error, may we bring truth.Where there is doubt, may we bring faith.Where there is despair, may we bring hope"

Transformational and Transactional leadership:
Burns(1978) speaks of :
  • Transformational Leadership styles

  • Transactional Leadership styles

yuppie.jpgIt could be argued that Margaret Thatcher exhibited a Transactional style of leadership. This is based on the idea that a leader forms a relationship with the members of the group based on rewards. These could come in the form of recognition and praise. For example the capitalist and ‘Yuppie’ culture of the 1980s.

Alternatively, if relationship was to become strained reprimands could be issued. For example;
“In what must be her last big effort to build a Cabinet in tune with her economic thinking, the Prime Minister yesterday dropped three Cabinet ministers, including the hostile Sir Ian Gilmour. Sir Ian Gilmour published a blistering statement, saying he had been dismissed because he disagreed with the Government's economic policy, and making plain his intention to campaign in the party and the country for a change of course.” Haviland (1981)

A Situational contingecy/ Task orientated leader
A Situational contingency Task orientated leader results from the interaction of leadership style and situational favourability, Fiedler (1967)

A Situational contingency Task orientated leader results from the interaction of leadership style and situational favourability.

Difference of Opinion and the Contingency Approach
The ‘contingency approach’ suggests effective leadership is dependent on a mix of factors these include:

  • The structure of the task
  • Position power
  • The relationship between the leaders and followers (Doyle and Smith, 2011)

“Margaret Thatcher is a person who arouses strong feelings, within her own party and in other parties, among the general public, not least among her own cabinet colleagues” (King 1985: P.86). It could be suggested MT did not meet all the factors associated with an effective leader in relation to the Contingency Approach as; “There were big disputes between MT and her closest colleagues over Britain's relations with the European Community (EC).” (Margaret Thatcher Foundation, 2012) Charles Moore describes Margaret Thatcher's relationship with her colleagues as strained. Stating she was arrogant, not polite and difference of opinion in relation to EU is why they eventually voted her out. (Youtube 2011)

“I love argument, I love debate. I don't expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that's not their job”. - Margaret Thatcher. (igreens.org, 2006)

Leadership style and Social Climate
Through out history it could be suggested that the political leadership style that is most powerful and effective is a general reflection of society’s current social and economical climate. For example; in times of unrest and discontent i.e. in a recession, autocratic leaders will use this as an opportunity to strive and gain authority and control. This is a view that is supported by an article published by I
greens.org, 2006
which makes the following statement;


“She came to power in May 1979 on the back of the so-called ‘winter of discontent’ six months earlier, when trade union unrest had shut down public services, paralysing the nation. The British economy was corporatist and uncompetitive. Inflation was in double figures and accelerating. Public expenditure was out of control” (Igreens.org.2006)
“Unless we change our ways and our direction, our greatness as a nation will soon be a footnote in the history books, a distant memory of an offshore island, lost in the mists of time like Camelot, remembered kindly for its noble past”. - Margaret Thatcher (igreens.org, 2006)