Christine Lagarde: Facing down worldwide recession

Thrust into the breach during one of the worst economic crises in decades, Christine Lagarde, the new head of the IMF, has become one of the world's most powerful women

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Lagarde: Big one, big one, because she was courageous, because she was strong, because she was very determined. She didn't suffer fools gladly. She was a role model.

Lagarde's ambition and drive were evident from the start. When she applied for her first job with a Paris law firm, she was told her credentials were impeccable, but there was one thing she should know.

Lagarde: 'Don't expect partnership in this firm.' So I said, 'Why?' And he said, 'No, you'll never make partnership because you're a woman.' And I looked at him and I said, 'Oh yeah? Well, I'm gone. Thank you very much.' And I just fled.

Logan: You ended the interview?

Lagarde: Oh yes, of course. I packed up and went.

Her self-confidence wasn't misplaced. Lagarde quickly landed a job in the Paris office of Baker McKenzie, one of the largest law firms in the world. Just fourteen years later she moved to Chicago to become its first female chairman - a French woman, at 43, running a major American law firm. Then, while at the very top of her profession, her country came calling.

Taking a significant pay cut and wading into unfamiliar waters, she returned to Paris to join the government, eventually becoming the first woman to serve as France's finance minister in 2007. For President Nicolas Sarkozy, Lagarde's appeal was her Americanness: her near-perfect English, great Rolodex and no nonsense style.

Logan: You got yourself in trouble sometimes speaking too plainly.

Lagarde: Yes. I did. It's become my brand in a way you know, speaking the truth even though it was not politically correct.

Logan: I want to ask you about the speech you made on July 10, 2007. Do you know what speech that is?

Lagarde: No, what would that be?

Logan: Well, that is when you said, that France is a country that thinks...

Lagarde: Oh, yes. I know what it is. I know, I know, I know, I know, I know...

It was her first speech as finance minister and she was trying to get her countrymen to work harder. But she dared question the value of a favorite French pastime: thinking. "France is a country that thinks too much," she declared to the National Assembly. "We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come. Enough thinking, already. Let's roll up our sleeves."

Lagarde: I'm glad that I gave that speech. But it was groundbreaking and it was shocking for a lot of the French members of Parliament, especially on the left. Because it was not the sort of language they were used to.

Logan: You were trying to motivate people.

Lagarde: Yeah. I was naïve, you see. I was trying to communicate that on a very broad basis. And clearly I was pushed back, brutally, in Parliament.

Logan: People were horrified?

Lagarde: I was praised in the U.S. and heavily, brutally criticized in France.

When the 2008 financial crisis hit, Lagarde was highly critical of her U.S. counterpart, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, for his decision to let investment bank Lehman Brothers go under.

Logan: Did you feel that you'd been left out of the loop, that you would have some kind of warning.