Mother Teresa may have built the most powerful, humanitarian organization of our time. In a new book, Mother Teresa, CEO, authorsRuma Bose and Lou Faust examine the leadership principles of the beatified saint and provide a practical guide to individuals and businesses alike striving to identify and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
Here, co-author Ruma Bose explains her life-long admiration of Mother Teresa, and what inspired her to write this book.
What made you join Mother Teresa in 1992?
When I was a child, my mom would tell me bedtime stories about this saint living in Calcutta. Each story held a lesson on the importance of faith and gratitude, service and love. Every night I looked forward to hearing the continued adventures of my "Super Angel." These stories have stayed with me to this day. Stories about saving disabled children in the line of fire, giving dignity to the dying and winning wars over hope. At 19, after a year of college, I was overwhelmed and disillusioned but still had a sense of idealism. The desire to find myself and the seduction of saving the world was calling me. So I packed my bags, and journeyed to Calcutta to meet my Super Angel - Mother Teresa.
What was the most memorable experience you had while in Calcutta?
At the end of my time with the Missionaries of Charity, I had the privilege of some alone time with Mother Teresa. She looked at me and said, "There are some people whose purpose in life is to make a difference to one person...then there are others whose purpose is to make a difference to their families, their communities or their countries." She paused and looked me in the eyes and said, "Then there are some people whose purpose is to make a difference to the world, and you are one of them. Go find your vehicle and don't give up." Those words ring in my ears every morning and I try to translate that meaning into the work that I do. Writing this book is one part of that.
How did you apply the lessons you learned in your daily life?
The wonderful thing about the Eight Principles in our book is that anyone of us can use one or all of them in our day-to-day life. For example, one of the principles is "Pay Attention to the Janitor." By that we mean, that each of us should treat each person, regardless of title or status, color or creed, with respect. This could be the clerk at the convenience store where you buy your morning coffee or the CEO of your company. It does not matter. As we say in our book, the title never matters, the person always does. That's how I apply the lessons in my life.
What inspired you the most about Mother Teresa?
Mother Teresa truly was an inspirational person not only to me, but to millions around the world. For me, there were really three areas of her life that inspire me to this day. First, the simplicity of her vision - to serve the poorest of the poor - is so clear and so compelling. This simplicity came through in every aspect of her life (the way she dressed, they way she spoke, the choices she made) and her organization - the Missionaries of Charity. Next, her unswerving commitment to her vision was truly inspirational. She faced and conquered many obstacles in building the Missionaries of Charity and did so over four decades. Finally, the grace with which she lived her life and did her work is something we all can admire and be inspired by in our own lives.
Why are the lessons of Mother Teresa more important now than ever before?
To answer this question I think all we need to do is read today's news. When we look at the devastating impact of world events over the past several years, be it the challenges in the Middle East, the impact of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, or the global financial crisis, the world is crying out for a message of hope and renewal. The eight principles we talk about in our book provide a framework for each of us, whether it is in our own lives or in our organizations, to lead that renewal on whatever level we are comfortable with.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about Mother Teresa?
That's easy! I am pretty short and when I met Mother Teresa, she was even shorter than I am! Seriously, though, for me the most surprising thing I learned was the power of simplicity and how, with a simple yet clear and compelling vision, Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity have helped change the world, every day, every hour, one person at a time.