From a servant leadership perspective, what was so great about Mother Teresa?
Was it her humility?
Was it her generosity?
Was it her compassion? Her perseverance? Her religious devotion?
No, no, no.
Mother Teresa certainly dedicated her life to serving the most marginalized people on our planet. She did so as fully as anyone who ever lived. By almost any measure – religious or secular – Mother Teresa was a saint.
But, as I see it, that’s not what made Mother Teresa so great as a servant-leader.
As I see it, what made Mother Teresa so great as a servant-leader can be summed up in one word: results.
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910, Mother Teresa joined a community of nuns, left her home in Macedonia and went to India as a missionary in 1929.
The story goes that Mother Teresa arrived in India with only five rupees (the equivalent of seven cents today) in her pocket.
For a while after arriving in India, Mother Teresa taught at a convent school. But the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that she soon left the school and devoted herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Kolkata. She started an open-air school for slum children and slowly expanded the scope of her work.
In 1950, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity. Missionaries care for poor people often neglected by others – abandoned children, refugees, the mentally ill, lepers, people with AIDS, those who are sick or dying.
Under her leadership, the Missionaries of Charity spread around the world. Today, some one million volunteers work with over 4,500 sisters to serve poor people in 130 countries.
Pretty good results, wouldn’t you say?
In 1979, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize. She died in 1997.
In 2010, the Indian government issued a five-rupee commemorative coin (pictured above) to celebrate Mother Teresa’s life and work.
From five rupees – seven cents today – to the good work done around the world by the Missionaries of Charity.
In a word: results.
That’s what I believe made Mother Teresa so great as a servant-leader.
What do you think? Do you agree with the way I see Mother Teresa’s servant leadership greatness? Do you see it differently?
Let us know.
As always, we appreciate your views. Thanks!
And download our latest ebook, Servant Leadership in the Workplace: A Brief Introduction. It’s free!
See what you think of this post: “Servant Leaders Play to Win”