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Jamie Lawrence


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Top five Margaret Thatcher quotes and what they say about success


Since former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died on April 8, commentary has been flowing in from around the world. Much of it has been positive, paying tribute to a passionate and dedicated leader who had the interests of Britain in her heart. There has been criticism as well, of a rigid and unwavering leader who ruled with an iron fist and did not suffer fools gladly.

Whether you were or weren’t a fan, you can’t deny she achieved formidable success despite considerable backlash, both within her own party and externally. She came out with some cracking quotes in her time – many of them shine a light into just how she managed to get what she needed and wanted.

For today’s business leaders, these quotes provide relevant lessons for future success

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

Through training, self-reflection and experience, people can become good leaders, but only others can elevate them to greatness. If you have to prove to people that you’re as strong, powerful and forward-thinking as you really wish you were, they’re going to have a hard time believing it. The best leaders are those that make their own self-development a labour of love and commit to leading the company in the most effective, nurturing way. That’s the path to being a great leader.

“I love argument, I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job.”

Businesses that are run on fear of those at the top are one decision away from failure – all it takes is one poor decision or idea that no-one speaks out against and the company is on a slippery slope to oblivion. Successful businesses recognise that people are paid to think in the best interests of the company and that if that brings them into conflict with those at the top, that should be admired rather than stymied. Companies can be melting pots of differing viewpoints, ideas, knowledge and skills – but what’s the point of building a talented workforce if people are scared to speak up?

"Nobody would remember the Good Samaritan if he had only good intentions. He had money as well."

Ethical organisations will define success in the future as consumers demand to do businesses with companies that care. Overly profit-driven businesses will dry up, but at the same time, companies can’t exist on ethics alone. Finding the right balance is a major task for businesses – the right combination of ethics and sustainable profit is a force to be reckoned with. In the future, neither one will work by itself. But together, they can drive growth, success and engagement as long as they remain aligned.

"We can do business together.”

Such a simple phrase, but reflective of an important attitude. Sometimes there are two businesses that have nothing in common. But for most, there will be a way to create added value that couldn’t be achieved working alone. And in a world where competition is increasing, businesses must grab any competitive advantage they can. This quote is simple reinforcement of an essential attitude – never be defeatist and always look for an edge.

“If my critics saw me walking over the Thames they would say it was because I couldn’t swim.”

Some people are impossible to please. Detractors especially so. Jealous people even more. One of the most important qualities of success is separating constructive criticism from personal attacks and vindictive comments designed to sow the seeds of doubt. Constructive criticism is essential – no person is an island and all have their own biases, flaws in logic and skill gaps. But some people talk only to be mean, and at these points you need to maintain focus and remain strong – after all, what is success other than deflecting negativity and following through with your goals and desires?

Image copyright: Chris Collins, Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

3 Responses

  1. Better a state funeral ……

    … than to be hung as a war criminal. A shame that no accountability was sought for the consequences of firm decisions. Cadets are children, there were 400 of them aboard the Belgrano which was outside the exclusion zone and heading away from the Falklands when the submarine commander was ordered to "Sink it"!

    Go on? Much has been made of her breaking of the power of unions, thus destroying the notion of ‘community’. Hoo-rah for the unity of the financial institutions!

  2. A Clear Vision

    These are five memorable quotes from a passionate woman.  When it comes to leadership, there is no precise template and certainly no formula for creating universal agreement.  However, one thing that is absolutely vital is a clear vision on which we are totally focused and in which we have fundamental belief.  Without this, those whom we lead can never truly embrace the goals.  Whatever our views on Margaret Thatcher’s beliefs, she had the clarity and conviction that inspired many people around her and across the world.  As leaders, we need to have the courage to stand by our convictions and face the consequences.


    Karen Hunter is the Managing Director of

  3. Thatcher – Actions speak louder than words

    Just in case some have forgotten (or were not around at the time):

    1. She supported the retention of capital punishment
    2. She destroyed the country’s manufacturing industry
    3. She voted against the relaxation of divorce laws
    4. She abolished free milk for schoolchildren ("Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher")
    5. She supported more ‘freedom’ for business (and look how that turned out)
    6. She gained support from the National Front in the 1979 election by pandering to the fears of immigration
    7. She gerrymandered local authorities by forcing through council house sales, at the same time preventing councils from spending the money they got for selling houses on building new houses (spending on social housing dropped by 67% in her premiership)
    8. She was responsible for 3.6 million unemployed – the highest figure and the highest proportion of the workforce in history and three times the previous government. Massaging of the figures means that the figure was closer to 5 million
    9. She ignored intelligence about Argentinian preparations for the invasion of the Falkland Islands and scrapped the only Royal Navy presence in the islands
    10. The Poll Tax
    11. She presided over the closure of 150 coal mines; we are now crippled by the cost of energy, having to import expensive coal from abroad
    12. She compared her "fight" against the miners to the Falklands War
    13. She privatised state monopolies and created the corporate greed culture that we’ve been railing against for the last 5 years
    14. She introduced the gradual privatisation of the NHS
    15. She introduced financial deregulation in a way that turned city institutions into avaricious money pits
    16. She pioneered the unfailing adoration and unquestioning support of the USA
    17. She allowed the US to place nuclear missiles on UK soil, under US control
    18. Section 28
    19. She opposed anti-apartheid sanctions against South Africa and described Nelson Mandela as "that grubby little terrorist"
    20. She support the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and sent the SAS to train their soldiers
    21. She allowed the US to bomb Libya in 1986, against the wishes of more than 2/3 of the population
    22. She opposed the reunification of Germany
    23. She invented Quangos
    24. She increased VAT from 8% to 17.5%
    25. She had the lowest approval rating of any post-war Prime Minister
    26. Her post-PM job? Consultant to Philip Morris tobacco at $250,000 a year, plus $50,000 per speech
    27. The Al Yamamah contract
    28. She opposed the indictment of Chile’s General Pinochet

    29. Social unrest under her leadership was higher than at any time since the General Strike
    30. She presided over interest rates increasing to 15%
    31. BSE
    32. She presided over 2 million manufacturing job losses in the 79-81 recession
    33. She opposed the inclusion of Eire in the Northern Ireland peace process
    34. She supported sanctions-busting arms deals with South Africa
    35. Cecil Parkinson, Alan Clark, David Mellor, Jeffrey Archer, Jonathan Aitkin
    36. Crime rates doubled under Thatcher
    37. Black Wednesday – Britain withdraws from the ERM and the pound is devalued. Cost to Britain – £3.5 billion; profit for George Soros – £1 billion
    38. Poverty doubled while she opposed a minimum wage
    39. She privatised public services, claiming at the time it would increase public ownership. Most are now owned either by foreign governments (EDF) or major investment houses. The profits don’t now accrue to the taxpayer, but to foreign or institutional shareholders.
    40. She cut 75% of funding to museums, galleries and other sources of education
    41. In the Thatcher years the top 10% of earners received almost 50% of the tax remissions
    42. 21.9% inflation.
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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

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