As a contributor to the Patheos Book Club, I recently read Mother Teresa, CEO by Ruma Bose and Lou Faust. The book can be categorized as a business and leadership book that aims to provide practical advice for effective leadership. In fact, Bose and Faust believe their work provides “Unexpected Principles for Practical Leadership”—so the subtitle implies. I must admit that I was highly skeptical of the book when I first heard about it. Somehow, Mother Teresa and “CEO” don’t seem like the right pairing of words. It’s not that it isn’t true, of course. Most of us have heard of Mother Teresa and her successful founding, expansion and leadership of the Missionaries of Charity. My concern was that a business/leadership book would undermine one of the foundational drivers of Mother Teresa’s incredible work—her love of God.
I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a non-religious book that didn’t gloss over Mother Teresa’s spirituality. It may not highlight it too much, but when it does it does so with respect. It was made all the more interesting because of Bose’s own experience volunteering with Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. Bose, and her mentor and co-author Faust, weave in their own experiences as leaders to make the book a more insightful read.
There is nothing wholly unexpected about the principles presented in this book. In my experience, most books in the same vein tend to rehash the same principles using new names for them or adding very little to what’s already been said. To Bose and Faust’s credit, this book IS unique and presents these common leadership principles using Mother Teresa’s work and leadership as a foundation. Perhaps, that foundation is what Bose and Faust were referring to when calling these principles “unexpected.”
There are two principles in the book that stood out to me the most: Discover the Joy of Discipline (Chapter 5) and Communicate in a Language People Understand (Chapter 6).
Discover the Joy of Discipline
I have struggled with self-discipline for as long as I can remember. As a kid I was well-disciplined—I didn’t act up and I followed the rules. But, self-discipline is a whole different ballgame. I’ve lacked discipline in certain areas. There are certain tasks and goals that require a great deal of discipline. I didn’t become the pianist I wanted to be because I lacked the discipline to practice several hours a week to learn new pieces and get better. Procrastination got the better of me in college and, while I got great grades, a little more self-discipline on my part may have changed the course of many of the steps I’ve taken since then. Bose and Faust write that “[i]n leadership, as in life, discipline is about doing” (66). From Bose we learn of the grueling and demanding schedule Mother Teresa followed each day, one that required “tremendous discipline” (66). There are doers and there are followers, Bose and Faust make it clear that Mother Teresa was, very much, a doer. If something needed to get done, no matter how small the task, it would get done.