Margaret Thatcher’s 5 Steps To Achieving Greatness

by | Apr 8, 2013

I was saddened to hear of Margaret Thatcher’s passing.

The first woman elected to lead a major Western democracy, Thatcher served as the British Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. Whether you agree with her politics or not, the Iron Lady was an influential leader and a staunch champion of freedom and democracy during the Cold War.

Do you want to achieve greatness? The life of Margaret Thatcher provides five steps to becoming a leader who can inspire others and change the world.

1. Work Harder

If you want to achieve greatness, you have to have the ambition and dedication to succeed.

That means you have to work harder towards achieving your goals.

From a young age, Thatcher cultivated a strong work ethic. She took elocution lessons, and at ten years old she won a poetry reading contest. The teacher told her how lucky she was, but the young Thatcher quickly replied, “I was not lucky. I deserved it.”

Before entering the political field, Thatcher worked hard at her studies and distinguished herself in school. She won a prestigious scholarship to study chemistry at Oxford where she was tutored by Dorothy Hodgkin (Hodgkin was an eminent scientist who advanced the technique of X-ray crystallography and would go on to win a Nobel Prize in chemistry).

While in college, Thatcher juggled her chemistry studies with her membership in the University’s Conservative Association (she was soon elected president of the association). After graduating, Thatcher worked as a research chemist, though she continued to nurture her political ambitions. Of course, we all know how those political ambitions turned out.

Thatcher once noted: “I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near.”

2. Raise The Bar Higher

Thatcher had accomplished much by becoming a research chemist. But she wasn’t satisfied.

In the 1950s, she decided to study law, passed the bar exam, and became a barrister, specializing in tax law. She didn’t stop there.

In 1959, she was elected to Parliament. In 1970, Prime Minister Edward Heath appointed her Secretary of State for Education and Science. In 1975, she was elected Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons. By 1979, Margaret Thatcher had become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Ultimately, you’ll never know your potential for greatness if your dreams are small. Strive for more, and you will accomplish more.

Don’t be content with saying, “I did my best,” but ask yourself, “How can I do this even better?”

Do great work, and you will achieve greatness.

In the words of Margaret Thatcher: “One only gets to the top rung of the ladder by steadily climbing up one at a time, and suddenly all sorts of powers, all sorts of abilities which you thought never belonged to you — suddenly become within your own possibility and you think, ‘Well, I’ll have a go, too.'”

3. Quitting Is Not An Option

Thatcher was not an overnight political success. At twenty-five years old, she ran as the Conservative candidate for the safe Labour seat of Dartford. She faced defeat two years in a row in 1950 and 1951. She could have given up on her political dreams, but, as she would later remark, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

In the end, Thatcher’s perseverance paid off. Nearly eight years later she was elected to a political office.

Thatcher’s experience demonstrates that the road to success is not always easy. Often it is long and arduous. You must have the determination and relentless drive to keep working towards your goals, even when success seems very far off.

Thatcher stated, “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”

4. Stand Up For Your Ideals

People who change the world for the better are not those who pursue fame and riches. They are the ones who fight for a cause they believe in, who have the courage to unflinchingly stand up for their ideals.

Thatcher noted, “If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”

Thatcher refused to back down from her conservative economic policies, though they won her many enemies even within her own party. Thatcher’s advice to young future leaders?

“Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.”

5. Take Action

Thatcher once observed, “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s a day you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.”

What are you waiting for? Don’t just fill up a notebook with a list of all of the things you want to accomplish. Start accomplishing them today.

In the words of Thatcher: “Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.” 

This morning, President Obama remembered the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, stating: “Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history—we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will.”

Do you want to shape the currents of history? Begin working to create something you can contribute to the world. Train yourself to dream bigger, think positively, and have the determination to never give up on your dreams. Don’t choose the easy way out by compromising your beliefs, but seek to live your life as an inspiration to others.

What steps will you take today so you can achieve greatness tomorrow?

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