It was a remarkable but unplanned coincidence around the Christmas holiday period of 2012. Margaret Thatcher, 88, George H. Bush, 89 and Nelson Mandela, 99 all found themselves in hospital to receive medical attention. Mandela went in to treat a stubborn lung infection, Bush the Elder to treat a fever and other ailments as reported by foxnews on Bush hospitalization and Thatcher was hospitalized to remove a growth on her bladder. The Iron Lady, as she was nicknamed by a Soviet Defence Ministry newspaper in 1976 even before she became prime minister, had 2001 and 2002 suffered mild strokes. Even though two out the three leaders are alive and may yet live on for many more years, they are, however, enfeebled by age and are facing a countdown in the closing stages of their lives.
In a way, however, and no matter how much we still want the two remaining leaders with us, I think their next step may be their final one, that is the ultimate step of all, death. The question now is who is next? Not will they die? Yes they left power a long time ago, and so their final departure may not have the same dramatic impact their exit from office had, but there is no doubt that much more than their countries, the world will be sad to see them go. They were not just iconic, prescient, briliant and charismatic, Mandela and the late Thatcher including Bush Snr more so the breadth and content of their administration, and the continuing relevance of their policies, ideas and styles have combined to imbue them with freshness and permanence that belie their age and health. Thatcher left office 22 years ago, Mandela 13 years ago, Bush Snr 19 years ago. But it seemed like only yesterday.
The health of the two remaining leades will be monitored closely and carefully by both analysts and doctors; the analysts because of the relevance of the leaders to the health of their countries; the doctors because of the personal health of the two leaders themselves. Clearly, the more important of the two types of health conditions is the relevance of the leaders to their countries’ wellbeing. Leaders are seldom measured by their personal longevity, but by their longevity in office, or more appropriately, the quality and impact of their policies, and sometimes, too, their ideas. The two leaders may be observed in terms of theatre play, as observed by former US President, Nixon, many years ago, “When the curtain goes down on a play, members of the audience file out of the theatre and go home to resume their normal lives. When the curtain comes down on a leader’s career, the very lives of the audience have been changed, and the course of history may have been profoundly altered.” This observation is true of Mandela, the late Thatcher and Bush Snr.
What then should potential young leaders learn from them?
I hope potential and serving leaders alike should be able to learn a thing or two about leadership from those who have personified leadership so inimitably and so daringly. Of the three great leaders, Mandela is probably the most solid and respected, Thatcher the most impactful and iconoclastic, and Bush the most measured and influential. Thatcher was not just the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th century, she remains the first and only woman to have occupied that office. She understood Britain, that understanding helped her to project British confidence and power brilliantly. More of Thatcher can be found on BBC history Nigerian leaders, World leaders and soon to be, should imitate the three former leaders, in being solid and respected, like Mandela; having impact to people’s lives like the late Thatcher and being influential like Bush Snr.</> With each passing day, week, month, and year, the two remaining leadership icons gets closer to their final step in life. As we watch and learn from Nelson Mandela, George H. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, let us know that one day one or both will be next. So who will be next?
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