Margaret Thatcher: A Realise2 Strengths Profile
Posted by: Alex Linley
Last week saw the funeral of Lady Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister and the first woman to be elected to the position. It’s fair to say that Lady Thatcher divided opinion, in death as in life, and also fair to say that she changed the face of Britain irrevocably through her leadership and politics.
What might have been the strengths profile of this ‘grocer’s daughter from Grantham’, who was born in the same town I spent my formative years, and hence always loomed as a presence that was larger than life as I grew up? (Not just the serving Prime Minister, she also happened to have been born in the shop I went past every day on the way to school…)
In this blog as part of Realise2 month on The Capp Blog, I offer my informed speculation as to what Lady Thatcher’s Realise2 profile might have been.
Lady Thatcher’s realised strengths are probably headed by her Drive (for which we included her as an exemplar in The Strengths Book), and complemented by her Work Ethic, Persistence, Detail, Courage, Personal Responsibility and Moral Compass.
She had a ferocious capacity for work that allowed her to master the details of every brief, coupled with the courage and determination to do what she believed was right. Others may not have agreed, but as well as know, she was not for turning!
For learned behaviours, I would speculate that Lady Thatcher may have profiled for Centred, Judgement, Order and Strategic Awareness. These are all things she clearly demonstrated, but which one might consider were not the same integral part of her psychological make-up as her realised strengths.
For example, consider her address to the Conservative Party conference just hours after the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, and you can see how Centred would shine through when she needed to call on it.
Lady Thatcher’s weaknesses are perhaps easily recognised, and in many ways, the counterpart to the intensity of her strengths: Empathic Connection, Humility and Service. As speculative as this profile may be, it’s nonetheless noteworthy how these weaknesses are the antithesis of the feminine stereotype that – as the first female Prime Minister, and indeed, one of the first female MPs – she needed to overcome.
Yes, reputedly she did serve tea to the Cabinet when meetings went on too long, but contemporaneous reports suggest that even this was a subtle power-play manouvre rather than a reversion to feminine type.
For unrealised strengths, my speculative profile becomes even more speculative – primarily because unrealised strengths are, by definition, not fully in view. As such, I have drawn from the strengths that I consider Lady Thatcher demonstrated when she needed to, although perhaps not as frequently over time.
These include Resilience, Counterpoint, Action, Resolver, Prevention, Efficacy and Narrator – all of which we can identify in her character, but which are perhaps less consistently on display than her realised strengths that I identified above.
Taking the picture of this Realise2 profile overall, we see someone with a remarkable drive and desire to get things done, zealous in her beliefs, and unforgiving of dissent or disagreement in her pursuit of what she believed was right.
These were the characteristic strengths that allowed Margaret Thatcher to achieve what she did; ultimately, they were probably also the strengths that, overplayed, led to her downfall. The optimal balance of strengths for strategy and situation is exceptionally difficult to maintain, with the result that rarely do leaders last any length of time through changing epochs.
Lady Thatcher was one of the exceptions who proved the rule.