A leadership lesson from Mother Teresa


Was Mother Teresa of Calcutta a leader? And if she was, are there any lessons we might want to learn from her?

Usually when we think of ‘leadership’ we think of business, politics, or the military but Mother Teresa of Calcutta chose a very different sphere from any of these. She chose to work with the poor, starving, and disabled people of Calcutta — people who were shunned by everyone, “a burden on society”.

But look at what she achieved.

On September 10 1946, travelling by train to Darjeeling, Sister Teresa “received an inspiration”: a message that told her to leave the convent school that she was running and go to live among the poor and help them. She started out with no income and had to beg for food and supplies, for a mission nobody believed in, in the post-war poverty of 1946. But by the time of her death in 1997 she had built an organisation that operated 610 missions in 123 countries. Could you have done that?

To achieve all that she had to be a pretty tough leader.

If you want to find out more about how she achieved so much with so little you can research it for yourself. But I want to focus on just one question:

What was the core belief that kept her inner leader focused to achieve the goals that she had set herself?

One poem Mother Teresa wrote seems to lay this out pretty well.

The language might be different from the language you or I would use but the sentiment is the same as we discussed on Tuesday, and it is applicable in any field.

To achieve whatever goal you have set yourself, the leadership lesson we can all learn from Mother Teresa of Calcutta is that once we are clear on what is the priority for us, then we should simply “do it anyway”.

The Churning’s Inner Leadership is all about getting clearer on what that priority is for each of us, and finding more ways to put it into practice, more inspiringly.


Mother Teresa’s ‘Anyway’ Poem:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centred;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.


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