What can you say Mother?

Often when I ask people who are the leaders they admire, along with the usual suspects of Peter Blake, Nelson Mandela and Ghandi we often hear “my mother” or “my father”. We also hear about that other mother, Mother Teresa.

I’m reading essays by Christopher Hitchens who is pretty unflattering about Mother Teresa and accuses her of stage-managing images of poverty to ensure that those who were in poverty, stayed there, even when in her care ie the places she set up, even in America, were stripped of all possible trappings of normal civility.

Lately I have realised that the phrase authentic leadership development is absurd. It’s discovery. Running alongside the idea of authenticity in a parallel, but not necessarily the same universe is the concept of personal branding. Develop your personal brand ladies and gentlemen so people know not only who you are, what you stand for but also what you’re really about.

Is that authentic? Or is it marketing spin? Was Mother Teresa an authentic leader? Or did she simply have a brand of poverty that gave her followers? Does it matter?

Only you know that. Mother Theresa can’t answer that. If, like me, you’re fortunate enough to have a mother you could ask, I’d hazard a guess that she wouldn’t give you much of an answer though. My mother never branded or got told how to brand. But I know what she stands for. So does she.

That’s important I reckon.


2 thoughts on “What can you say Mother?

  1. Great questions and staying on the edge of learning requires asking questions, when we feel like it and when we don’t.

    I was at the Southern Maori Busines Network Conference last week with a number of great speakers and business people actually. We had Sir Tiene O’Reagan as a keynote speaker, Phil Broughton an accountant for 30 years and partner of Polson Higgs, and amny other fantastic people aksing important questions. One of the speakers was David Kennedy who is responsible for Ngai tahu Tourism sales and marketing, one of New Zealands most successful ventures.

    He talked about the confusion between ones logo and ones brand. The mission statement and logo and all of your media commiunication is who you say you are and what you say you can do, your brand he said, was what others thought about you form their ‘moment of truth’. Their experience of you and your business.

    So coming back to Mother Teresa it would seem one doesn’t create a brand, this is in the hands of those who come into direct contact with us and our product. The ‘word on the street’ is thus our brand.

    On a personal note, I had the amazing expereince of meeting Mother Teresa in Tijuna Mexico in 1989 opening a house for her sisters to care for the poorest of the poor. Those who otherwise would not receive any love and this of course was her mission.

    My expereince with her and in conversation with her was of a person of incredible depth, immense peace, and selfless commitment. I also had the opportunity to live with one of her comm unities of men (Brothers of the missionaries of Charity) in downtown Los Angeles for a few months and these men inspired by her example and teaching where nothing short of authentic.

    I could go on forever on this topic only because of the experince I have had and if ever there was an authentic leader Mother Teresa is an icon as much as there is one.

    I only wish I had the courage and clarity that she had for the purpose she felt called to.

    The most authentic leaders scare people,and we all need to be prepared for the pathway that tests us if we choose authenticity.

    I think their clarity pushes our buttons in all the unexplored caverns in our lives and in our experience.

    Be all you can be, remember (copied form a time magazine cover) “it is people not principles who change the world”.



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