Ferguson and Thatcher Provide Contrasting Lessons in Leadership; Barrie Kennard, Director of Leadership and Management Wales on How Different Styles of Management Deliver Contrasting End Results

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 8, 2013 | Go to article overview

Ferguson and Thatcher Provide Contrasting Lessons in Leadership; Barrie Kennard, Director of Leadership and Management Wales on How Different Styles of Management Deliver Contrasting End Results


Byline: Barrie Kennard

AS DEMONSTRATED by the outpouring of public emotion, both positive and negative, after her death, everyone had an opinion on the late Margaret Thatcher. Love her or loathe her, Thatcher's reign as leader of this country divided a nation and her passing reignited a passionate debate around her legacy.

Much has been written about the impact of her decisions and policies and this debate will rage on into the future. Whether you were pro or anti-Thatcher, it's difficult to deny that her no-compromise approach to leadership defined a generation.

So steadfast was she in her views that the prospect of disaffecting huge swathes of the population with her actions did little to temper her decision-making process. Thatcher will always be remembered as one who did as she, and she alone, thought was best, irrespective of the consequences. This approach alienated her from much of society and ultimately led to her political downfall. It's one thing for a leader to have courage in their convictions and this is often to be commended. It's quite another, however, for a leader to convince themselves they are infallible.

Leaders are expected to make difficult decisions on behalf of their organisation - it comes with the territory. In most cases, it is an ability to take the right actions in challenging situations that sets the good leaders apart from the bad.

There's no magic formula for making the "correct decision" and one can rarely be certain that any course of action will have the desired effect. There are, however, a number of processes and leadership principles which, if followed, can significantly increase the likelihood of securing a positive outcome.

The first step to getting it right is to carefully consider the impact of any decision on your stakeholders. In Thatcher's case, her major stakeholders were the UK public and many of her decisions did not take into account their negative impact on society. Leadership is about people and leaders must consider the social implications of their actions.

Of course, you can't please all of the people all of the time and every regime will have its detractors.

The key to successful leadership is the ability to ensure that any action is considered, well-advised and ultimately always in the stakeholders' best interest, whoever they may be.

Leaders, by their very definition, are chosen to lead people and to do this effectively they must have compassion and understanding or they risk being ostracised from their cohort. The true skill of a leader is in his or her ability to be considered in their actions while not being afraid to make difficult decisions.

A major challenge for any leader is how best to effectively assess the potential impact of a decision or action. …

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