A Transformational and Servant Leader: Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Table of Content

“Today, perhaps no figure has come to symbolize undiluted goodness, piety, and compassion more than the small, elderly Albanian nun Agnes Bojaxhiu—known to millions as Mother Teresa” (Fosl, 1999, p. 115). Mother Teresa is among the most fascinating and extremely respected women of the twentieth century. She was a woman who saved lives and changed them through the absolute force of her faith and determination. Mother Teresa was devoted to be loved in action on earth.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910 in Uskub, in the Kosovo Providence of the Ottoman Empire, which is now known as the city of Skopje in the Republic of Macedonia. Her parents were originally from Albania and were Roman Catholic. Her father was a shop owner and they lived in a large house with a large garden. Mother Teresa was the youngest of three children having an older brother and an older sister. It was very known that Mother Teresa’s family was a happy home, were very caring people and never turned away anyone in need for help.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

It is said that during her early years, Agnes was fascinated by stories of missionaries and what they did for the community. By the age of 12 years of age she was completely convinced that she was called to commit herself to the Catholic Church and to live a religious life. At the age of 18, Agnes left her home and joined the Sisters of Loreto as a missionary. She never saw any of her family members again. She originally joined the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland to learn English because that was the language they used to teach at the Sisters of Loreto in India.

The Sisters of Loreto was founded by an English woman named Mary Ward. Mary Ward was a woman who desired to be “Wholly God’s” and who believed that women like men could serve the Church equally well anywhere in the world and use their giftedness to bring the Gospel of Jesus to those in greatest need. Mother Teresa believed in that mission and after learning English, left to the city of Darjeeling India to begin her work. She took her first vows as a nun on May 24, 1931 and chose the name Teresa after the patron saint of missionaries.

She then took the solemn vows in May 14, 1937. At the time she was serving as a teacher at the Loreto convent school in eastern Calcutta in India. Mother Teresa loved teaching at Loreto Convent School but she was beginning to feel disturbed more and more every day at the rising amount of poverty that was plaguing the city around her. In 1943 a famine hit the city hard and because of it many people died. Also, there was an increase of Hindu/Muslim violence in the city that made it a city full of depression and dismay.

Mother Teresa would pray every chance she got for the city and what she was to do about it. On September 10, 1946, while traveling to the Loreto Convent in Darjelling for an annual retreat, she felt a tugging inside of her. She describes is as a “call within a call”. She says that the spirit told her that she was to leave the convent and “help the poor while living among them”. She treated it as a direct order from God saying that “to fail would have been to break her faith”.

She began her missionary work in 1948 by venturing out into the slums and tending to the needs of the impoverished and starving. Her good works gained the attention of many quickly and even the Prime Minister at the time came to her to express his appreciation. When Mother Teresa first began her venture she was having a difficult time adjusting. She was herself very poor and had to beg for food and supplies for her work with the poor and even herself. During her first year she claimed to experience doubt of her calling, loneliness and temptation to return to a comfortable life at the convent.

This caused a controversy that Mother Teresa, who could not force herself into accepting the simplistic answer of ‘faith’, is that of a fairly simple woman struggling to be honest with herself, while also being an example to others. It was noted that Mother Teresa was too smart to blindly accept silly Catholic doctrine (i. e. , existence of God, the divinity of Jesus Christ), but still remained a simple woman. And, making matters even worse, she continued to try to help others.

On October 7, 1950 Mother Teresa got the permission from the Vatican to begin the diocesan congregation that would later become the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa said that its mission was to care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the cripples, the blind, the lepers, and all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone” (Mother Teresa, Winner of 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, Dies at Age 87, p. 86). This order began small having only thirteen members in Calcutta.

Now that Missionaries of Charity have over 4,000 nuns running orphanages, AIDS hospices, and charity centers worldwide, caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholic, the poor and homeless and victims of floods, epidemics, and famine. In 1952 she opened the first home for people who were dying. She converted an abandoned Hindu temple in a free hospice for the poor. In an interview with Malcolm Muggeridge for the book and documentary Something Beautiful for God (1971), Mother Teresa explains what happened the day she opened hospice: “The woman was half eaten up by rats and ants.

I took her to the hospital, but they could do nothing for her. They only took her because I refused to go home unless something was done for her. After they cared for her, I went straight to the town hall and asked for a place where I could take these people, because that day I found more people dying in the street. The employee of health services brought me to the temple of Kali and showed me the “dormashalah” where the pilgrims used to rest after they worshipped the goddess Kali. The building was empty and he asked me if I wanted it.

I was very glad with the offer for many reasons, but especially because it was the center of prayer for Hindus. Within 24 hours we brought our sick and suffering and started the Home for the Dying Destitutes. ” In this hospice named the Kalighat Home for the Dying, she gave people medical attention and gave them a place to die with dignity. They were able to die according to the rituals of their faith. For example: Muslims were read the Quoran, Hindus received water from the Gangesm and Catholics received the Last Rites.

Mother Teresa called it “a beautiful death is for people who lived like animals to die like angels, loved and wanted”. Since then over 42,000 men, women and children have been taken in by those serving at the home and out of those 42,000 people over 19,000 have died with dignity. The others who did not die are cared for after they get well. The home helps them find jobs so they can begin their new life on the right foot. If they are still not well but are not on the verge of death, they are sent to other homes that can continue to care for them. Mother Teresa’s work did not stop there.

After the Kalighat Home for the Dying was well established she also opened a home for those suffering from leprosy. It was called the Hospice Shanti Nagar, meaning the hospice city of peace. They provided medication bandages and food for those infected. Also because there was an increasing amount of children coming into the homes, Mother Teresa thought that it would be a good thing to open a separate home for children. In 1955 she opened the Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart. This was a place for orphans and homeless youth can be cared for and fell like they were loved.

Mother Teresa’s order began to gain much attention from charitable donors. Because of this, by the 1960’s, there were hospices, orphanages and leper homes all over India. In 1965 the first home outside of India opened in Venezuela. Soon homes were opening up all over the world including Rome, Tanzania and Austria. By the 1970’s there were homes and foundations all over Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States. By the early 1970’s Mother Teresa was what some called an international celebrity. She had global recognition under her belt and many awards bestowed upon her.

In 1971, Paul VI awarded her the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize, commending her for her work with the poor, display of Christian charity, and efforts for peace. Other awards bestowed upon her included a Kennedy Prize (1971), the Pacem in Terris Award (1976), the Balzan Prize for promoting humanity, peace, and brotherhood among peoples (1978), the Albert Schweitzer International Prize (1975), the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom (1985) and Congressional Gold Medal (1994), honorary citizenship of the United States (November 16, 1996), and honorary degrees from a number of universities.

In 1972, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nehru Prize for her promotion of international peace and understanding. Later, in 1980, she received India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, and the British Order of Merit in 1983. Mother Teresa received great attention from the media, such as Time Magazine. In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to peace. She refused the conventional ceremonial banquet that was given to all of the winners and instead asked that the prize money of $192,000 be given to the poor in India, stating that “earthly rewards were important only if they helped her help the world’s needy. ” When Mother Teresa received the prize, she was asked, “What can we do to promote world peace? ” Her answer was “Go home and love your family. ” Building upon this theme in her Nobel Lecture, she said: “Around the world, not only in the poor countries, but I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove.

When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society – that poverty is so hurtable and so much, and I find that very difficult. ” As Mother Teresa began to age her health was failing as well. Her first major health downfall came in the form a heart attack in Rome in 1983 while visiting Pope John Paul II. Then in 1989 she underwent surgery where a pacemaker was given after a second heart attack.

After a battle with pneumonia in Mexico in 1991, she began to have even more heart problems. At this time she offered to resign her position as head of the Missionaries of Charity but in a secret ballot, the nuns of the order voted her to stay so she agreed. To add to her misfortune with her health in April 1996, Mother Teresa fell and broke her collar bone and in August of that year she contracted Malaria and failure of the left heart ventricle. Even though it was clear that her health was steadily declining, in efforts to treat her, doctors proceeded with heart surgery.

Unable to fulfill her duties to the best of her capabilities, she humbly stepped down as head of Missionaries of Charity. Later that year, nine days after her 97th birthday, Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997. When she died, her Missionaries Charity had over 4,000 sisters, and associated brotherhood of 300 members, and over 100,000 lay volunteers helping to operate 610 missions in 123 countries which included homes for people with HIV/ADIS, leprosy and tuberculosis. There were also soup kitchens, children’s and family counseling programs, orphanages and schools.

Of course no human being, including Mother Teresa could possibly be perfect in the eyes of every person in the world, she has her critics too. One of the most know of these critics is Christopher Hitchens. He is a British born American author, journalist and literary critic and was the only witness called by the Vatican to give evidence against the beatification and canonization process. Hitchens (Muggeridge, 1971) wrote that Mother Teresa’s own words on poverty proved that “her intention was not to help people”, and he accused her of lying to donors about the use of their contributions.

Hitchens said that “It was by talking to her that I discovered, and she assured me, that she wasn’t working to alleviate poverty, she was working to expand the number of Catholics. She said, ‘I’m not a social worker. I don’t do it for this reason. I do it for Christ. I do it for the church’”. In an interview by Matt Cherry, Hitchens says “With that money she could have built at least one absolutely spanking new, modern teaching hospital in Calcutta without noticing the cost. The facilities she runs are as primitive now as when she first became a celebrity.

So that’s obviously not where the money goes. ” Christopher Hitchens accuses Mother Teresa as being a fake. He says that she does not care for the poor and needy and she only does what she does to convert people to Catholicism and “bask in the glory that the world so freely throws at her. ” I would venture out to say that most people in the world do not agree with Christopher Hitchens and would also agree that he is out to gain media attention and publicity just as he is accusing what Mother Teresa is doing. Mother Teresa’s Positive and Negative Qualities

Positive QualitiesNegative Qualities Belief in her mission: continued practicing her calling even when her name and organization were opposed. Intolerant: had little patience regarding negligence from her coworkers. Self-confident: dared to approach great supporters and obtain powerful allies such as the pope and many philanthropists worldwide. Disregard of family: did not return to Albany until after her mother’s death. Perseverant: devoted all her time and energy to her vocation even when she started growing older and weaker.

Inflexible: was not open to other perspectives such as proponents of abortion and artificial contraception. Disciplined: led by example, started early and worked late. Calculative toward her mission: her preference for saving souls for her religion to saving lives has been heavily criticized. Consistent: maintained her faith and continued to believe in her God throughout the disparities she witnessed. Motivational: encouraged the rejected ones to dare facing life again. Visionary: initiated a new order though she already had a well respected position.

Communicative: knew that speaking on public forums served as great promotion for her organization. Honest: was very straightforward, openly opposed abortion and artificial contraception and did not care about possible consequences. Courageous: expanded her organization to unfamiliar territories. Empathetic: her compassion for the less fortunate made her one of the most admired figures of all times. In Jim Collins book “Good to Great”, I firmly believe that Mother Teresa portrays the Hedge Hog concept of leadership.

The Hedge Hog concepts simply states that it is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best, but it is an understanding of what you can be the best at. There is, in Mother Teresa’s case, an obvious relationship between herself as a leader, her followers (the nursing nuns, as well as the poor, ill, and rejected), and the situation. Her vocation was based on a calling, and this call became only stronger when she got confronted with the harsh situation of those who lived and died on the streets with no one to care for them.

Mother Teresa’s mission, as she laid it out, was one of a kind, which the world needs on a more continuous basis. Mother Teresa exhibited transformational and servant leadership. She influenced the lives of many of her followers worldwide. Some traits of Mother Teresa that stand out are (a) her openness and frankness which helped her establish a powerful network of people from all walks of life; (b) her tremendous willpower which transformed her visions into actions no matter how long it took; and (c) her eloquence and alertness, meaning she was never shy of words and strong statements.

Overall, Mother Teresa is a prime example of how I can relate to her as a Transformational and Servant Leader. Throughout my 10 years of involvement and self sacrifice with my church organization (Banal Na Pag-aaral which translates Holy Studies), it has given me the opportunity to reach out in to my community and youth members.

My youth group has been privileged to take part in several events such as food drives through our local church (Our Lady of Guadalupe Church located in Delano, Ca) during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, visiting the elderly and sick at the convalescent homes and Skilled Nursing Facilities (visitation and performances that include small skits and singing), and also taking part in non-profit fundraisings in order to generate funds to conduct religious retreats.

Although these simple acts of generosity and kindness are no comparison to the works of Mother Teresa, I can appreciate the satisfaction of helping people of different walks of faith and life. I firmly believe as a leader in my community that we’re designed not to help ourselves, but to help others who are less fortunate than we are. Many have associated leadership with one person leading. Four things stand out in this respect. First, to lead involves influencing others. Second, where there are leaders there are followers.

Third, leaders seem to come to the force when there is a crisis or special problem. In other words, they often become visible when an innovative response is needed. Fourth, leaders are people who have a clear idea of what they want to achieve and why. Thus, leaders are people who are able to think and act creatively in non-routine situations, and who set out to influence the actions, beliefs and feelings of others. As soon as we study the lives of people who have been labeled as great or effective leaders, it becomes clear that they have very different qualities.

A transformational and servant leader has the ability to inspire members of an organization to aspire to, and to achieve, more that they thought was possible. Mother Teresa was as exceptional leader who exhibited charisma and had the ability to inspire the members of her order to rise above their own self-interests to achieve the vision. She is an ultimate example of transformational and servant leadership; a model for helping others to aspire and attain high levels of performance for themselves and the organization. A leader must incorporate their values into their leadership style in order for it to be effective.

I believe people will follow those who they think are truly honest and trustworthy. People must have a clear understanding of these issues in order to make themselves a better leader. A leader will not be judged by how well their followers and organization did after their gone, but by the lasting value measured by the succession throughout the years. “Leadership is always the process of becoming – as they perform in the present, leaders by nature are informed by the past as they look ahead to the future…to know where we stand and what we stand for” (Hesselbein and Goldsmith, pg. 97-299). Mother Teresa is an amazing example when one person can change the world. Her efforts to help the poor are world renowned and are truly extraordinary. She has given the world an example of humbleness that most would never dream of. She is a heroine in the eyes of everyone who takes the time to explore the countless efforts she made to service humanity.


Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Desmond, E. W. (1989). A pencil in the hand of God. Retrieved May22, 2010, from Time Magazine Online: ttp://www. time. com/time/reports/motherteresa/t891204. html Fosl, P. S. (1999). The missionary position: Mother Teresa in theory and practice. Journal of American Culture, 22 (3), 115-116. Hesselbeim, F. and Goldsmith, M. (2006). The Leader of the Future 2: Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the New Era. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass. Hudson, D. W. (2007). Refuting the Attacks on Mother Teresa. Retrieved May 22, 2010 from: http://www. catholicity. com/commentary/hudson/00286. html Maxwell, J. C. (1998).

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You. Nashville, TN: Maxwell Motivation, Inc. Mother Teresa, winner of 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, dies at age 87. (1997). International Journal on World Peace, 14 (3), 85-86. Muggeridge, M. (1971). Something Beautiful for God: Mother Teresa of Calcutta. San Francisco, Ca: Harper and Row. The Gale Group, Inc. (1998). Mother Teresa. Retrieved March 12, 2003, from the Gales Institute Womens Study Web Site: http://www. gale. com/free_resources/whm/bio/motherteresa. htm

Cite this page

A Transformational and Servant Leader: Mother Teresa of Calcutta. (2017, Feb 25). Retrieved from


Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront