In any learning process, there is a tendency to go to extremes before finding middle ground. Take driving, for example. Most teens start by driving very, very slowly, learning when to accelerate and when to put the brakes on. Then there is a time when we all want to experiment with speed, until either fender hits fender, or a ticket is handed by an unsmiling policeman.
Most of us then find the safe space of the middle ground where fast and slow are dependent on the territory.
So it is with all relationships. Sometimes a hug is perfectly timed, in other situations a metaphorical “right to the jaw” is called for. In all partnerships, all life happenings, it is all in the timing.
Margaret Thatcher was a woman leader who had a great sense of timing. She was strong and gracious. She entered the territory of male domination early on and set the stage for women to follow, to learn the art of push and pull.
I am reminded of a Margaret Thatcher story: she was disappointed with her cabinet, one she felt was weak and unwilling to take stands. Her frustration came out at a dinner, so it has been told, when the waiter taking meal orders asked her “Chicken or Steak” to which she replied “Steak please”. Next question was “And what about the vegetables”. She looked up and said “Oh, they will have steak also”.
We are now in an era where the fine art of timing is even more important because the world is moving so fast. There is not the luxury to ponder, to hesitate. As women, we need to become experts in timing, when to hug and when to hit.
Patterns of behavior handed from generation to generation have kept many women in the “hug” category. Often, the extreme of “hit” has been indiscriminate. This is a major learning process for men as well as women, and what we can learn from leaders like Margaret Thatcher is not so much about policy perspectives as about the push and pull of power.
The most important learning for leaders is how to find that magic balance.