What Can We Expect From Christine Lagarde?


Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s replacement Christine Lagarde is the first female head of the IMF. All signs indicate that she’s more than just a “tough mom.”

According to the LA Times, French Finance Minister Lagarde was chosen over Mexican candidate Agustin Carstens after Obama endorsed her yesterday. A former lawyer, she’s appeared on Forbes’s list of the world’s most powerful women. She’s also the first non-economist to head the IMF. Both developing countries and European ones hope she’ll help heal Europe’s debt crisis — most immediately, she’ll need to deal with Greece’s fiscal woes.

In an interview earlier this month with the Huffington Post‘s Elisabeth Braw, Lagarde gave her thoughts on female leadership:

I have to be careful here, because I’m known to have complained about too much testosterone, particularly in trading rooms. But it goes back to a point that is critical to me about the IMF: diversity. If you only have one gender represented, it’s a weakness. You strengthen an organization by making it more diverse, gender-wise, academically and geographically.

And on her goals for women around the world, she said,

Women have a legitimate concern. Look at the salary scale, and the differences between men and women’s status, yes, there is a big difference. I hope that those differences blur to the point were women can actually have the choice. I’m not suggesting that all women should have a professional career or consider it the ultimate achievement. What I would hope is that the workplace is sufficiently hospitable so that you can decide whether you want to have children, raise them until the age of six and then come back to work, and not suffer as a result of that.

In a more recent post, Braw said of Lagarde,

She’s the kind of woman who knows how to manage with just the right mix of firmness and femininity. […] She reminds me — no offense, Madame — of my excellent elementary school teacher, who would lovingly teach us handwriting and the names of Joseph’s brothers — and if one of us misbehaved, she’d call out “I’ll shoot you at dawn!”

She also compares the new chief to “Nancy Pelosi and EU Vice President Viviane Reding — both mothers of several children — who use a ‘tough love’ management style instead of instead of bullying staff into submission,” and calls her a “tough mom.” But Lagarde is more than the IMF’s Mama Grizzly. She makes it clear that she feels her job is as much about strategy as it is about keeping the peace. When asked if she could prevent another worldwide financial crisis, she said,

Yes. In fact, that’s part of the IMF’s job to identify where bubbles are forming. Of course, countries have to listen to the IMF, too. Before 2008 there were reports by the IMF warning about a collapse. That’s why, in addition to skilled staff, the IMF needs a Managing Director who is politically astute and tell governments, “watch out, something is boiling here.” The IMF shouldn’t just be only the fireman. It should also be an alert system.

She’s also a straight-talker. When asked if she’d gotten any management advice from the embattled DSK, she replied simply, “No.”

France’s Christine Lagarde Is Chosen To Lead IMF [LA Times]
Lagarde From A Woman’s Perspective [Huffington Post]
Christine Lagarde: “I Don’t See The IMF As The Bad Cop” [Huffington Post]
France’s Lagarde Named New Head Of I.M.F. [NYT]

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