Mother Teresa and Me: An Interview with Ruma Bose
As a little girl, Ruma Bose fell in love with Mother Teresa through the colorful stories her mother told her every night about the "Super Angel." Years later, when she learned that the Saint had survived a heart attack, a 20-year-old Bose packed a bag, flew to Calcutta and showed up on the Mother Teresa's doorstep, determined to meet one of her heroes.
Now, nearly twenty years later, Bose, a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman, is drawing on her experience with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity for a new book on leadership principles called Mother Teresa, CEO: Unexpected Principles for Practical Leadership. (Visit the Patheos Book Club for more on this book.)
Bose spoke with Patheos' Deborah Arca about the inspiration for her book and how she strives to live out the "Teresa Principles" in her own life every day.
The title of your book, Mother Teresa, CEO, has got to have more than a few people raising their eyebrows.
It really all depends on how you define CEO. What I'm talking about in the book are the leadership principles that are used to execute on a plan and reach a stated goal. For me, there is no question that Mother Teresa was the Chief Executive Officer of the Missionaries of Charities.
I wrote this book to share the principles that made Mother Teresa so successful in her mission, not only to help business leaders, but also to help readers understand that they are also the CEOs of their own lives.
In fact, in the last chapter, you ask the reader: "What are you the Mother Teresa of?" You seem to be making the point that you don't have to be a saint to be an effective leader.
You don't have to be a saint to be a great leader, but I believe you do have to be a great leader to be a saint.
I think that when people read the book there are three key takeaways. First, you don't have to be a saint to begin to make these principles a part of who you are and how you interact with others. Next, look for the simple solution. As Mother Teresa taught us, there is amazing power in simplicity. Finally, act with grace and humility. These three messages are core to what I believe Mother Teresa's leadership teaches us.
You also speak to Mother Teresa's leading by example as a key aspect of her leadership style.
If there was rubbish on the floor, she wouldn't ask someone to pick it up. She would pick it up herself. She woke up at 4 am every morning and took a time of silence. She was compassionate and loving to everyone around her. Her simple mission of serving the poorest of the poor was translated into every aspect of who she was - from the way that she dressed, to the way she spoke, to the way she lived and served.
Although Mother Teresa was a Catholic missionary, she would say: "If a Hindu is a better Hindu, or a Muslim is a better Muslim, or a Buddhist is a better Buddhist as a result of my example, then how can I be upset about that?" She transcended religion. I'm Hindu, I'm not Catholic, but she had such a tremendous impact in my life and I hold her in the highest regard.
Deborah Arca joined the Patheos team in 2009, after more than ten years of managing programs for the Program in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of music/theatre programs for children, and a music minister.