The “Iron Lady” starring Meryl Streep opened nationwide this week. As expected, Meryl Streep did a wonderful portrayal of the political (and personal) life of Margaret Thatcher. After seeing the movie, I was reminded there is much to be learned from Margaret Thatcher. Before I begin, let me say, that yes, I was about 2 years old when she first became Prime Minister. But, as a woman who is on a quest to improve her confidence in public speaking, I have taken note from the greats of the past.
Agree or Disagree with her leadership style or political stance, Margaret Thatcher was a force to be reckoned with. The “Iron Lady” is not necessarily known for her public speaking, but one cannot deny the fact that she used speaking as a platform to not only catapult her into the Parliament, but also make her the first female Prime Minister in England.
As a speaker and a leader, Margaret Thatcher had to command attention in a room dominated by males and in a society dominated by sexism. She had to make her voice heard, when many people didn’t want to see females in a position of power. Margaret Thatcher is a woman that females (and males alike) can learn a thing or two from:
#1 Dress the Part: Margaret Thatcher had a look. Generally, she wore a blue professional business suit and a string of pearls. She also wore handbags that became an iconic symbol of her leadership. Her attire showed that she was to be taken seriously as a political figure. Consider having your own look with colors and accessories that are both professional and tasteful. It doesn’t always have to be one look, but having those consistent elements for a given role helps.
#2 Hold on to Your Core Values: Margaret Thatcher wasn’t called the “Iron Lady” for nothing. This term came about from her unwavering commitment to her values and the values of the conservative party. As a speaker and leader, you should bring out your own unique voice and personality. Use that as your personal style.
#3 Get a Coach: Initially, some people thought her voice was too high pitched and screechy. As a result, her media advisor sought to polish her appearance and speech. She ultimately deepened her tone, carried a thought with one breathe, and began to speak with authority. You may not need to go as far as hiring a voice coach, but organizations such as Toastmasters may help you become a better speaker.
#4 Pull at the Heart Strings: When speaking, you notice that Margaret Thatcher was extremely adept at riling up her constituents and injecting emotion into her speeches. She made a connection between what she was saying and her audience members. When speaking, understand what motivates and moves your audience. Then tailor your speech accordingly. Use relatable stories and examples. Find parallelism between your speech and their lives.
#5 Be Prepared: Margaret Thatcher researched and practiced many of her speeches. Being prepared shows that you know what you’re talking about, increases your credibility, and can potentially decrease your nervousness.
What other tips can we learn from the “Iron Lady” or other female political leaders both past and present?