Mother Teresa, CEO: Unexpected Principles for Practical Leadership
“Mother Teresa lived and breathed these principles every single day of her life to grow her enterprise. Perhaps, the key take-away from Mother Teresa’s work is that it’s all about the fifth principle: discovering the joy of discipline that leads to understanding and appreciation of all the other principles.”
Can you guess what organization founded by a single entrepreneur in 1948 grew to become one of the largest enterprises in the world? Is it Caterpillar? General Electric? Sony? No, no, and no.
It is Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
The authors, Ruma Bose and Lou Faust, team up to analyze Mother Teresa’s leadership traits in an attempt to discover what was it that made her so successful.
Ms. Bose spent time in the Missionaries of Charity in the early 1990s and observed Mother Teresa in action. Mr. Faust, Ms. Bose’s mentor, is a businessman with over 30 years of experience in emerging growth company consulting and in global operations management for a large financial services company. They make an interesting combination of authors who distill the magic of Mother Teresa’s leadership style into a comprehensive list of management principles. They are:
1. Dream It Simple, Say it Strong
2. To Get to the Angels, Deal with the Devil
3. Wait! Then Pick Your Moment
4. Embrace the Power of Doubt
5. Discover the Joy of Discipline
6. Communicate in a Language People Understand
7. Pay Attention to the Janitor
8. Use the Power of Silence
Each of these principles comprises a chapter within the book. Each of the chapters starts with an actual experience with Mother Teresa or a story about her activities. From the experience(s) explored, a leadership principle emerges. Then that principle is illustrated in an actual business situation.
For example, take the seventh principle: “Pay Attention to the Janitor—Everyone has value.” The authors state: “One reason Mother Teresa touched people so deeply was that she made them feel heard and valued. She understood that at the most basic level, we all want to feel valued in what we do, whether by our families, our friends, or our colleagues.”
The authors then ask: “How do you make people feel valued?” The Mother Teresa way: “Pay attention to them! Acknowledge who they are. Ask them questions. Know their names. If you are a leader in your organization, take the time to remember the names of all the people you meet.” In the world of business, this is translated as treating everyone with respect, focusing on the person not the title, and making everyone feel valued. According to Mr. Faust, the business mentor, this principle when implemented will pay dividends in the form of superior customer service, productivity, loyalty, investor interest, and increased sales.
This is an easy book to read, but after careful digestion of the principles, hard to implement in practice. You get the feeling that there is nothing new here. It seems that you have heard of many of these principles before—perhaps in corporate training, a college class in leadership styles, or other “top ten list” advice-type books. But maybe this is the point. We know these things will lead to success in our minds, but how well do we implement them in practice? Mother Teresa lived and breathed these principles every single day of her life to grow her enterprise.
Perhaps, the key take-away from Mother Teresa’s work is that it’s all about the fifth principle: discovering the joy of discipline that leads to understanding and appreciation of all the other principles.