Mother Theresa CEO? New Book Teaches Lessons In Success From An Unexpected Source (EXCERPT)

Ruma Bose

Leading the success of your own company can be easier than you think (and possible without hacking anyone’s phone).

In a new book — “Mother Teresa, CEO: Unexpected Principles for Practical Leadership — by Ruma Bose and Louis Faust III, the author takes a closer look at how an iconic public figure who made her dream come true (and ultimately changed the world in the process).

And, more importantly, how those same steps can lead to success anywhere for anyone.

Through a simple dream, speaking the goal through words and action, and a clear vision, Mother Teresa far exceeded her goals and transformed the lives of those around her.

Sounds simple enough?

Read excerpts from the book’s first chapter below.

Excerpted with the permission Berrett-Koehler Publishers from “Mother Teresa, CEO: Unexpected Principles for Practical Leadership” Copyright © 2011 by Ruma Bose and Louis Faust III

…Mother Teresa is one of those humans who had a simple dream that profoundly changed our world. Her dream was helping the poorest of the poor. She began with that vision, then developed a clear plan for making it come true.

…At the time of Mother Teresa’s death, 40-seven years after she started the order, she was operating 594 missions in more than one hundred countries, with over one million coworkers.4 She was a PR magnet and had raised and deployed billions of dollars in capital. Her human impact and track record are unsurpassed to this day. Mother Teresa’s vision timelessly lives on. She became the vision and an iconic symbol of service to the poor. It took her 20 years to realise the beginning of her dream, then a lifetime to achieve it and let the world hear it—simple, loud, and clear.


Great business leaders, like Mother Teresa, start with a simple vision they can evangelize internally and externally. Simplicity and strength of message are essential. The vision needs to be set up early, even before you start your company. Mother Teresa had the vision of serving the poorest of the poor before she founded the Missionaries of Charity. Her personal vision became the vision for the organisation.

Your vision comes from your lived experiences and beliefs. 20 years of exposure to poverty taught Mother Teresa the importance of serving the underserved in particular ways. Can you imagine the young Bill Gates setting up an organisation like the one Mother Teresa did? It would have been terribly difficult because Bill Gates did not have her direct understanding of poverty. However, he was at the right spot to start a company in what he did understand that grew 30 per cent yearly for over two decades; then he donated much of his wealth.

As a leader you should ask yourself, “What are you a Mother Teresa of?” A simple vision can create the momentum to build or move mountains, as Mother Teresa did.

To identify a personal vision requires introspection. We need to listen to ourselves, determine by our actions what we value, and take the time to understand who we truly are or what we are trying to be. Once we understand our core values, the key is to distill those values into a simple vision.

Dreaming It Simple

Simplicity makes a vision powerful. Mother Teresa was crystal clear about where she would focus her organisation’s resources: at the lowest level of the poverty pyramid. We all have roles to play in the world, as individuals and in our organisations. A person’s world may be focused on family, community, work, or a cause. Once you understand personally what your role is, you can begin creating the road map to align all aspects of your efforts. “Simple,” however, does not mean “oversimplified.” When crafting the visions for their organisations, many leaders go through a lengthy, collaborative process. The result can be a “kitchen sink vision” that tries to address current management buzzwords but does not reflect the true core of the company…

Saying It Strong

“Saying it strong” speaks to the constant need for a leader to consistently speak with passion and conviction about her vision for her organisation. She also must act in ways aligned with that vision. A well-articulated vision cannot realise its transformational potential if it is left in a corporate planning binder on the CEO’s shelf, never seeing the light of day until the next year’s planning process, if then. The Missionaries of Charity were there to serve the poorest of the poor, and they lived their lives in the simple manner of those they served. Mother Teresa understood her customer, and this was reflected in everything she did: her simple attire of a white sari with three blue stripes, reflecting her vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience; her simple living quarters; and her even simpler way of life. She lived the values she preached. This alignment between vision and action enabled people to believe in her and gave her the authenticity to support the worldwide growth of the Missionaries of Charity.

RUMA’S STORY: When I first met Mother Teresa, she was already famous throughout the world. Whether you were from New York City, a village in Brazil, or the countryside in Cambodia, you knew who Mother Teresa was. Yet the simplicity of her conduct stood out immediately. The moment you met her, you knew this was a visionary who was living to serve the poor. Her environment, her clothing, her language, her demeanor all said, “I am serving the poorest of the poor.” The message was simple, loud, and clear. Mother Teresa did not have to use a lengthy or formal process to roll out her vision to the Missionaries of Charity. She simply led by example, living a life consistent with her vision. By living what she believed, she inspired others to follow her. She articulated a vision for her organisation, then talked about it and acted on it every possible moment. In other words, she dreamed it simple and said it strong!


You as the leader have the ultimate responsibility to determine the purpose and vision of your organisation. What is your vision? Can you state it clearly? Is it simple? Do you believe in it? Do you live it? Does it motivate you every day? Has your organisation incorporated it into the way it works? As a leader, you are the voice of the vision. You must continually seek out opportunities to seamlessly weave your vision into your daily routine, such as meetings with customers or employees. You must keep the vision front and centre and use it as a touchstone against which you and everyone else in the organisation make decisions, large and small. This real-world application gives visibility to your vision and makes it real for everyone in the organisation…

Your ability to act in ways clearly aligned with the organisation’s vision will accelerate its adoption by everyone…

Excerpted with the permission Berrett-Koehler Publishers from “Mother Teresa, CEO: Unexpected Principles for Practical Leadership” Copyright © 2011 by Ruma Bose and Louis Faust III

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