Latest Stories

Women as transformational leaders


While working on my Review of Literature for my dissertation on women leadership in the mid 1990s, I came across a study by Patricia Lee Sky that focused on women as transformational leaders who seek to change individual citizens, their states, their societies, and the relationships among these.  Three women national leaders were cited as examples. They were Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway, and Mary Robinson of Ireland.  With the passing away of Margaret Thatcher early this week, I thought I should share how these three women exercised transformational leadership.

Thatcher demonstrated one type.  Her trade union reforms and privatization schemes reversed the collectivist trend in British politics and helped to restructure state and society. But she declined to alter the place and perception of women in the state or society. Her election as Prime Minister in 1979 was revolutionary, yet in the 1980s her presence at 10 Downing Street became the norm. When the conservatives who ousted her had to decide on her replacement, a British child was heard  asking, “But daddy, can a man be prime minister?”

Thatcher was brilliant, capable and powerful.  Internationally, she earned greater respect than any prime minister since Churchill. At home, she was the only prime minister in 160 years to win three consecutive elections. Yet, liberal women dismissed her because of her conservative politics. They argued that she was no friend to women, and not once did she appoint a woman to her cabinet. These are certainly legitimate criticisms. But even those who despise Thatcher’s politics can learn from her qualities as an individual leader and apply these to their own agenda: She never waffled on issues. She defined her position precisely and stuck to it to the end (sometimes the bitter end). She spoke brilliantly and extemporaneously. Criticisms never bothered her. Indeed, she loved a good fight and  never lost her control. It is her strengths women can learn from, and her strengths reflected leadership, not conservatism per se. She sometimes worked 19 hours a day, seven days a week. While many leaders seem to age in power, Thatcher seemed to look better each year. She left the country stronger than when she entered office.

For Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway, the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s provided her central inspiration.  She persistently championed feminist issues, campaigned for liberalization of abortion laws, and promoted the increased participation of women. As prime minister, she consistently seized the opportunity to put into practice the feminist principles. Megatrends for Women (1992) considers Norway as the “most feminized democracy in the world.”  Not only were the prime minister and almost half the cabinet female, the country’s three major political parties were all run by women. Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland led the Labor Party for more than ten years. Kaci Kullman headed the Conservative Party, Anne Enger Lahnstein led the Agrarian Center Party.  The three politicians in Norway were mothers with four, two and three children respectively. The idea that women must take part fully and equally in politics is widespread in Norway.

Mary Robinson ran for president in Ireland in 1990.  The nature of her campaign was significant in the study of transformational feminist leadership.  “…In a country on the move, the weak and the vulnerable tend to be left behind – forgotten. That’s why we need a President who stands up for justice for all…something I have been doing all my working life.”  On that simple, articulate platform, Mary Robinson, feminist lawyer with a Harvard master’s degree, won 52.8 percent of the vote, to become Ireland’s first woman president. Her stunning victory came through tireless campaigning, not much money and a tangible level of integrity. She is referred to as Thatcher’s antithesis.

In conservative, Roman Catholic and politically male-dominated Ireland, Robinson spoke out in favor of women’s rights and liberalization of laws against contraception, divorce and homosexuality.  To the shock of traditional politicians, people listened.

She attributes her success to the women of Ireland. She says, “Instead of rocking the cradle, they rocked the system.” The prestigious Financial Times concluded that it was “a victory for Irish women.” The president has no political power and is required to stay out of politics. But Robinson led “by force of character” and “achieved popular moral leadership.”

In November 1992, Irish women won 20 of the 165 seats available in the Irish parliament, up from 13 in the last legislature. The New York Times wrote that “Women in all parties point to the election of Mary Robinson as president in 1990 as the catalyst for the surge of women in politics.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Women , Women Empowerment

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. US teacher fired over comment on black president
  2. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  3. Filipinos, Dane re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  4. Magnitude-7.5 earthquake shakes Mexican capital
  5. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Massive infra spending set
  8. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  9. Easter crucifixions draw huge crowds
  10. Korea ferry captain arrested, divers spot bodies
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  5. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  6. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  9. Massive infra spending set
  10. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  5. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  6. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  7. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • Russia promises support to ending Ukraine crisis
  • Busted valve delays water interruption
  • Cardinal Tagle decries human ‘commercialization’
  • Religion builds bridges in ethnically split Cyprus
  • Iran general urges Tehran to make new UN pick
  • Sports

  • Vettel hoping for resurgence at Chinese GP
  • MLB pitcher donates $100,000 for Sewol ferry victims
  • Hamilton takes pole at Chinese Grand Prix
  • Duke’s Rodney Hood joining Jabari Parker in NBA draft
  • Phelps entered in 3 events at comeback meet
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • Myx TV premieres Asian American ‘docu-series’
  • A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show
  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Business

  • Fiat-Chrysler to produce iconic Jeep in China from 2015
  • US commerce secretary spells out economic facet of ‘pivot to Asia’
  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • DOH to continue tracking co-passengers of OFW infected with MERS virus
  • 5 Filipinos with MERS in UAE reported in stable condition
  • PH boosts MERS monitoring after UAE nurse scare
  • Canadians back PH plea to take back waste
  • We treasure our Sierra Madre
  • Marketplace