One person at a time - The Leadership Genius of Mother Teresa
Sign beside the door of the Mother House in Kolkata. Photo courtesy of Leilani Herman.We met at the Motherhouse, which had served as the home and headquarters of Mother Teresa for nearly 50 years. (It is still there, Mother Teresa remains lie in a grave stone in a modest chapel on the second floor.) We sat around a simple wooden table with Sister Prema, the current superior general of the Missionaries of Charity. A large hand-written mission statement of the Order was the only non-religious element to the wall.
Sister Prema described a series of Mother Teresa governance practices. For example, they told us that Mother Teresa had played an active role in the direction of the new novitiates and always tried to get any of their people to get to know the strengths and needs. Always focused on other, Mother Teresa was also a good listener and focused to help a great deal on the other to grow. And of course, Mother Teresa tirelessly modeled caring, selfless dedication to the poor, that they hoped others emulate.
Then one of my colleagues asked the question. Before our visit Mother House, we had spent the morning fighting with a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) to join our team, so that my colleague, Sister Prema asked if Mother Teresa "had set, no big, bold goals, such as eliminating Poverty."
Sister Prema said:
"Oh no. Mother Teresa was fully focused on supporting a person at a time."
One person at a time! Wait, let me get this straight ... Mother Teresa had dedicated their lives to helping the poorest of the poor in a city that in extreme poverty had millions of people to imagine life, and their aim was only one person at a to help time?
To a group of governmental managers who think in terms of the major programs, Mother Teresa approach were used did not sound very efficient. When my colleagues and I were discussing it during the day, it struck us that the extent of poverty given that Mother Teresa surrounded in Kolkata, the idea of focusing on a desperately ill and / or a bad person at a time a The aim was, as daunting - so bold - that it was overwhelming to think about it.
Then it hit me. Mother Teresa was onto something. Many politicians, authorities and NGOs have large, systemic plans devised major social problems such as poverty, drug abuse, illiteracy, or crime. Come up with a great idea is the easy part, however. The hard part is executing on the front. Are the people who deliver the services at the local level the right decisions? Do they treat every customer with respect and dignity? Did they approach their work with a laser-like focus on their mission agency? 1
One of Mother Teresa's great strengths was its emphasis on the core task of their organization: to help the poorest of the poor. They spent a lot of their own time to help people in extreme distress. Your personal example still serves as a model for the Missionaries of Charity.
Now that a dyed-in-the-wool systems thinker, I'm not going to argue about that we should do away with the large systemic plans to solve social problems. Each government agency has such plans, and they often make a difference. But if our agencies the desired results are not achieved, it is often because we pay enough attention have failed to get it right on the front. If we fail, we fail a customer online at a time.
What this means for Growing Leaders
Each government agency has at least some pockets of excellence. The characteristic feature of these work units is usually that they have great leadership.
In contrast, when we get disappointing results, it is often because primarily supervisors have failed to help her feel people connected to the mission or give them the tools and training they need to do the job.
Of course, responsibility for results lies not only with managers primarily; It goes all the way up the line. If the first line managers are not effective, it may be that more senior leaders have been unable to choose the right people for management positions to help, she failed to get result, was able to give them feedback, or failed performance in a manner measured way that inspires employees to improve operations.
In preparing leaders for the public service, it is important that there are no shortcuts to remember. Each supervisor must training, mentoring, coaching and feedback. You must also varied and challenging experiences that will push out of their comfort zone and the perspective needed to cope with the many challenges it as a guide face. At the system level, an agency may provide incentives for learning to perform and it may be the appropriate training and support. Government agencies can - and should - do these things.
But a systemic approach is not enough when it comes to growing leaders. Individual supervisors need the commitment may require to learn to perform effectively. And some senior executives have time carving their younger colleagues as a mentor. Because when all is said and done, learn lead managers - you guessed it - one person at a time.