Lessons from Lagarde

What We Can Learn From Power Player Christine Lagarde About How Truly Powerful Women Behave

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Christine Lagarde Former Managing Director of IMF

Image Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen

” It’s become my brand in a way you know, speaking the truth even though it was not politically correct “

Christine Lagarde

Christine Lagarde’s presence as Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund meant the presence of a female power player on the global financial and economic scene. Her welcome in 2011 included working to prevent the overwhelming debts of countries like Greece and Italy from triggering a global recession. Mission accomplished. But she didn’t stop there. That was just the beginning- great exploits were still ahead, and tough times were yet to be overcome. And she did. 

When Lagarde announced that she would step down as head of the International Monetary Fund, women across the world paused for a moment of silence – then celebrated her next move. Nominated to take the helm as President of European Central Bank, her resignation was simply part of the process. Her parting at the IMF is bittersweet for many, but her role at the ECB will allow her to remain a constant force on the global financial scene and a power player on the economic landscape. 

What can we learn from Christine Lagarde? Lots. However, a few distinct concepts resonate. 

1.  Powerful women champion other women.

Ranked as third on Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful women, Lagarde is known for taking up the right and cause of women. Read any Lagarde quote, listen to any Lagarde speech, and you’ll find women being heralded at the center.

“When women do better, economies do better, ” she said in a 2013 interview with Vikram Chandra for

She has used her voice and her position to serve as a torch-bearer for women’s equality on a global scale.  Lagarde understands the power of being the face and voice of those who stand behind her. 

Christine was also quoted as saying,

“All stakeholders must participate in the gains and losses of any particular situation.”  

Although the context was different, the concept is still the same: supporting “her” is supporting you. Sabotaging “her” is sabotaging you.  Celebrating “her” is celebrating you. As a woman, when “she” loses, we all lose. When “she” wins, we all win- regardless of who “she” is.   

2.  Powerful women stand for truth. 

When faced with difficult situations, we speak the truth- even when it’s not popular. We stand for what is good, what is right, and what is ethical. We live in a way that honors our mothers and leaves a legacy for our sons and daughters. Despite circumstances, we stare down injustice and step forward in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition. 

“It’s become my brand in a way you know, speaking the truth even though it was not politically correct,” Lagarde told reporter Lara Logan in an interview for CBS in 2011.

Kudos, bravo, and encore, madame. 

3.  Powerful women don’t shrink. 

A few years ago, I was asked by a university outside Washington, D.C. to give a seminar which included a body language primer.  My talk led to an internet search for photos to use as an illustration. The now-famed photo of Christine Lagarde standing full akimbo while in a conversation with Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was front and center.  The photo made headlines because of the powerful nonverbal cues that were more than apparent in Lagarde’s unabashed akimbo moment.  She didn’t shrink. Neither should you. 

4. Let go of your ego. 

In eastern philosophy, ego means “I.” In and of itself, “I” is not bad. It is the over-emphasis on “I” or self that is problematic. History has shown that it’s the preoccupation with self that produces society’s megalomaniacs, Machiavellians, and narcissists.  

“You know, when I sit in meetings and things are very tense and people take things extremely seriously and they invest a lot of their ego, I sometimes think to myself, ‘Come on, you know, there’s life and there’s death and there is love.’ And all of that ego business is nonsense compared to that.” 

In layman’s terms: get over yourself. 

In his article, Dr. Steven Stosny, Ph.D., founder of Compassion Power in suburban Washington, D.C. listed the characteristics of an inflated/defensive ego as follows:

  • I have to be right; others have to be wrong
  • I have to be more; others have to be less
  • I have to be respected more than others
    It’s not my fault; everything bad is everyone else’s fault
  • My way or the highway.

Which leads me to my next point. 

5. Men shouldn’t be women’s enemies; they should be our allies. 

Men don’t have to lose in order for women to win. We don’t have to erase them for us to be seen, or silence them for us to be heard – not good men….

Lagarde is a once married mother of two sons and is currently in a committed relationship with French businessman Xavier Giocanti. She obviously has no unconquerable gripes with the male race and neither do I. 

In a letter to French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, concerning her role in his cabinet she wrote,

 “Use me as long as you wish and as long as it suits your action and [cabinet] make-up,” she wrote. “If you use me, I need you as my guide and supporter: without a guide, I risk being ineffective, without support, I risk lacking credibility. With my immense admiration, Christine L.”

Men don’t have to lose in order for women to win. We don’t have to erase them for us to be seen, or silence them for us to be heard -not good men….

Enough said.


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