With The Iron Lady hitting our screens and reeling in the Oscars, one can’t help thinking that Margaret Thatcher was one of the greatest political entrepreneurs of the 20th century. Like her, or loathe her, Thatcher is perhaps our best example of how someone rose to, and consolidated her power, thanks to her communication skills training.
From a starting point of very weak communication ability, Britain’s only female Prime Minister knew she needed to improve her voice and her overall image if she was to succeed.
Thatcher wisely recognised the power of her voice as a political tool. She began to work on her vocal image after the critic Clive James compared her voice to a cat sliding down a blackboard! The young Margaret Thatcher had a totally disempowered voice. Her voice was light, her pitch was way too high, and she sounded totally non-assertive.
She certainly did not have a voice that would be acknowledged, or taken seriously, in a totally male-dominated and controlled parliament.
Thatcher, who realised the importance of voice in winning public votes, took proactive steps to lower her pitch and to speak with more authority. Under the guidance of The National Theatre, she embarked on vocal training that dramatically lowered her vocal pitch. The results were astounding. As a result of her voice coaching, Thatcher now sounded like an empowered leader and she came to possess a voice that would be taken seriously by the world. Thatcher improved her articulation which made her sound more professional, precise and assertive. She also developed a ‘statesman-like’ vocal style and worked on her general image.
It’s all in the voice
Thatcher’s vocal make over was completed and paying huge dividends by the late 1970s when her nickname ‘The Iron Lady’ was coined in 1979 by the Soviet Red Army newspaper, Red Star. Instantly recognising the phenomenal marketing boost to be gained from such a strong image and epithet, England’s first female Prime Minister referred to it in a famous speech, declaring in her powerful new voice: ‘I stand before you tonight in my Red Star chiffon evening gown, my face softly made up and my fair hair gently waved, the Iron Lady of the Western world!”
The only female British Prime Minister underwent one final vocal adjustment once she had consolidated her power. Once she had proved her strength and used her new more assertive voice of power to win the public vote, she then learned how to soften her vocal tone.
Thatcher lowered her volume and sugar-coated her voice with softer dulcet tones to portray an image of being warmer and more caring. This softer “Mother cares” voice was an even more strategic and successful negotiating tool. The People bought in to it.
Like Margaret Thatcher, all entrepreneurs need to develop their voices and communication skills to learn to speak with more confidence and greater conviction to achieve buy-in from clients and their own staff. If a lone woman standing up against an ultra-conservative male-dominated parliament could do it, so can you …