Can you put two people side by side and automatically tell which one is a better leader? Does a leader always look powerful, demanding or charismatic? And how do you measure the effectiveness of a leader?
If we measure leadership by influence, it could be said that a frail little woman from Calcutta may be among the best leaders to have ever lived.
Mother Teresa’s impact reached far beyond the lives she personally touched. People from all walks of life and from nations around the world respected her. When she spoke, people listened.
Author and former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote about a speech Mother Teresa gave at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. It perfectly illustrates her level of influence on even some of the most influential. Noonan wrote:
The Washington establishment was there, plus a few thousand born-again Christians, orthodox Catholics, and Jews. Mother Teresa spoke of God, of love, of families. She said we must love one another and care for one another. There were great purrs of agreement.
But as the speech continued, it became more pointed. She spoke of unhappy parents in old people’s homes who are “hurt because they are forgotten.” She asked, “Are we willing to give until it hurts in order to be with our families, or do we put our own interests first?”
The baby boomers in the audience began to shift in their seats. And she continued. “I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion,” she said, and told them why, in uncompromising terms. For about 1.3 seconds there was silence, then applause swept the room. But not everyone clapped; the President and First Lady [Bill and Hillary Clinton], the Vice President and Mrs. Gore looked like seated statues at Madame Tussaud’s, moving not a muscle. Mother Teresa didn’t stop there either. When she was finished, there was almost no one she hadn’t offended.
Anyone else would have been booed, jeered, or stormed out. The media would have persecuted the speaker for her opinion and social media would have blown up with disapproval and labeled her “narrow-mindeded” and “old fashioned”. But this was not just any speaker, this was Mother Teresa.
Because she was so respected and her influence reached across the globe, everyone listened to what the frail little lady from Calcutta had to say, even though many of them vehemently disagreed with it.
Why? She was a real leader who lived and led by her example. She knew the power of influence.
There is one more noteworthy woman of influence that I would like to mention, although she never presided over a nation and her countless hours of selfless service in the community and in our family will go unnoticed by most of the world, her influence has left an unquestionable and indelible mark on who I am today.
That woman is my mother. Thank you Mom, for your tremendous leadership in our home and in our lives. Thank you for your constant presence, your sacrifices, and your efforts to ensure your influence was stronger and more consistent than the world outside. Your presence and your example was the North Star to our moral compass and helped shape who we are today.
Without question, the world’s most influential leaders are parents, but especially mothers who embrace their magnificent role as influencers. Thanks to all of you who recognize your incredible responsibility and privilege to influence generations.
You can’t measure a leader by how tall they are or recognize them by their dominating presence. You can, however, feel their love and will not escape their influence.
“Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.”
The Law of Influence is the 2nd law of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
Next week look for Law #3, The Law of Process