Leadership is to Leave Your Legacy

Leadership is to Leave Your Legacy

During my time as Coach of the Australian Cricket team, I had the absolute privilege to meet some of the world’s most honoured leaders – from the Queen, to Prime Ministers and Presidents, to CEO’s and Board members of large global corporates, to religious  leaders and of course to internationally successful coaches, teams and elite athletes.

However, I regard one of the world’s leading leaders to be a person whom I never met. A diminutive person in stature, but gargantuan in deeds, Saint Mother Teresa inspired most of those who met her.

She continues to do so through the Missionaries of Charity, an order she began ostensibly on 10 September 1946,while travelling by train to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling from Calcutta for her annual retreat Teresa experienced what she later described as “the call within the call”.

She recalled, “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.”

As Wikipedia trace her history, “She began her missionary work with the poor in 1948 replacing her traditional Loreto habit with a simple white cotton sari decorated with a blue border. Teresa adopted Indian citizenship, spent a few months in Patna to receive a basic medical training in the Holy Family Hospital and then ventured out into the slum. Initially, she started a school in Motijhil (Kolkata), and in 1949, she was joined in her effort by a group of young women and laid the foundations of a new religious community helping the “poorest among the poor”.

Her diary opens up her struggles and challenges as a young leader – a doer who led by example:

“Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. Today, I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then, the comfort of Loreto [her former congregation] came to tempt me. ‘You have only to say the word and all that will be yours again,’ the Tempter kept on saying … Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard. I did not let a single tear come.”

Teresa received Vatican permission on 7 October 1950 to start the diocesan congregation that would become the Missionaries of Charity. It began as a small congregation with 13 members in Calcutta.

By 1997 it had grown to more than 4,000 sisters running orphanages, AIDS hospices and charity centres worldwide, and caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless, and victims of floods, epidemics, and famine.

After touring India with the Australian team a number of times, I was also based in Kolkata for the first two seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL), and took time to visit the headquarters of Missionaries of Charity. During my time in India, I was introduced to a number of charities and organisations which do similar work, two of which have their headquarters in and around Kolkata,  CINI  and Future Hope setup by a former banker Tim Grandage.

But what is it that we learn from Mother Teresa and so many people that do such amazing work about being a leader, leaving a legacy –

  • There is a calling, a fundamental purpose for doing what they do
  • Great leaders search to clearly understand this purpose
  • The values, beliefs, principles and actions of this purpose are lived daily
  • Leadership is not about popularity; it is about never wavering from your purpose
  • To live your fundamental purpose consistently, requires courage, tenacity, resilience and sacrifice
  • Everyone has the ability to lead; it is whether they have the capacity for the role


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