Breaking the thin line women leaders walk.

March is Woman’s History month, and when it comes to powerful, controversial women, Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the UK and known to many as the Iron Lady, is on the top of the list.

In the announcement of Ms. Thatcher’s death in 2013 the AP wrote:  “The Iron Lady, who ruled for 11 remarkable years, imposed her will on a fractious, rundown nation — breaking the unions, triumphing in a far-off war, and selling off state industries at a record pace.” When former President Ronald Reagan died in 2004, the AP lead paragraph stated, “Ronald Reagan, the cheerful crusader who devoted his presidency to winning the Cold War, trying to scale back government and making people believe it was “morning again in America,” died Saturday after a long twilight struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.”

One could argue that both Thatcher and Reagan were doing the same things, just on different sides of the pond. However, I find it interesting that a woman enabling change is imposing, while a man is a cheerful crusader.  Words matter.

Was Thatcher a “imposing” because learned she needed to be act that way in a man’s world?  Or she was just born that way?  It is tough to know if the job made her the way she was or if she got the job because of the way she was. I wonder how Margaret Thatcher would have been viewed if she softened her tone. But, I wonder if a softer tone would have gotten her elected for 11 years as the Prime Minister. I wonder if a softer tone would have helped grow England’s economy.

No one will ever know the answers to these questions, and quite frankly it really doesn’t matter.  What I do know is that there continues to be a double standard and a very thin line in how women are judged in our world: women should be strong and confident, but not so confident their will is imposed on others. I am not sure if anyone can walk that thin of a line, so why don’t we just stop drawing lines?

My wish for all women leaders out there is to stop feeling like we need to keep a baby bassinet next to our office, be the perfect blend of sweet and resilient, keep a high powered job while still making it to soccer games, and somehow have time to make sure our make-up is absolutely perfect.  I am just as guilty as the next woman for putting these standards out there for myself and honestly, I am exhausted.

To be a good woman leader you don’t need to be the most empathetic person in the boardroom.   You just need to be a good leader. Just like the guy in the suit next to you. So let’s stop judging (myself included), and let’s just start leading.

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