Human Resource Development
Mother Teresa's Style of Leadership


Teaching Tools
Resources for Evaluation & Performance
ITE 335 International Development and Technology
CIMT 610 Research in Education
ITE 670 Systematic Instructional Design
HRD Internship
CIMT 543 Production of Instructional Materials
ITE 675 Leadership of HR
ITE 695

Mother Teresas Style of Leadership


Indiana State University

ITE 675 Leadership in HRD 


Joseph I. Williams





          This research discusses the topic of leadership in Human Resource Development. An objective was identifying a leader and determining the type of leadership he or she exhibits. A biographical sketch of Mother Teresa describes her life and style of leadership and how this relates to training and education in Human Resource Development. 

Mother Teresa

          Mother Teresa is among the most fascinating and highly respected women of the twentieth century. She was a woman who saved lives and changed them through the sheer force of her faith and determination. Mother Teresa was devoted to be love in action on earth.

          She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910 in Skopje, Yugoslavia. Since her father was co-owner of a construction firm, her family lived comfortably while she was growing up. In 1928 she suddenly decided to become a nun and traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to join the Sisters of Loreto, a religious order founded in the seventeenth century. After studying at the convent for less than a year, she left to join the Loreto convent in the city of Darjeeling in northeast India. On May 24, 1931, she took the name of "Teresa" in honor of St. Teresa of Lisieux (The Gale Group, 1998).

          In 1948 she founded a religious order of nuns in Calcutta, India, called the Missionaries of Charity. Through this association, she dedicated her life to helping the poor, the sick, and the dying around the world, particularly those in India. Her selfless work with the needy has brought her much acclaim and many awards.

          When Mother Teresa was eighty years old, she started to suffer from heart problems. Even though Mother Teresa became weak, she still continued traveling and working. Mother Teresa once said in 1989 "My doctors are always telling me that I must not travel so much, that I must slow down, but I have all eternity to rest and there is so much still to do. Life is not worth living unless it is lived for others." Eight years later Mother Teresa died on September 5th, 1997, of a heart attack. She was eighty-seven years old.

Mother Teresas Achievements

     In 1962 Mother Teresa won the Pandra Shri prize for extraordinary services.

     Mother Teresa received the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971.  

     In 1979 Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to peace.

     Mother Teresa received the John F. Kennedy International Award.

     Mother Teresa received the Templeton Award for progress in religion.

Mother Teresa also received the Jonaharlal Nehru Award.

Leadership in Human Resource Development

          The concept of leadership in training and education is an important aspect of Human Resource Development. In today's ever-changing industries an increasing role of HRD professionals is to assist organizations to create, maintain, and continually improve the policies, strategies and tactics that are needed to secure and sustain a learning organizations position of competitive advantage and market strength. Leadership is critical to the achievement of high performance, no matter what the business or area of responsibility. 

But what is leadership? It seems to be one of those qualities that you know when you see it, but is difficult to describe. There are almost as many definitions as there are commentators. Many associate 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 peopling 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. 

Transformational and Transactional Leadership

According to Bass and Avolio (1993) transactional leadership is built on reciprocity, the idea that the relationship between leader and their followers develops from the exchange of some reward. It involves leaders clarifying goals and objectives, communicating to organize tasks and activities with the co-operation of their employees to ensure that wider organizational goals are met (Bass and Avolio, 1993). Avolio and Bass (1994) wrote that such a relationship depends on hierarchy and the ability to work through this mode of exchange. It requires leadership skills such as the ability to obtain results, to control through structures and processes, to solve problems, to plan and organize, and work within the structures and boundaries of the organization (Avolio and Bass, 1994).

          According to Bass and Avolio (1993) transformational leadership, on the other hand, is concerned with engaging the hearts and minds of others. It requires trust, concern and facilitation rather than direct control. The skills required are concerned with establishing a long-term vision, empowering people to control themselves, coaching, and developing others and challenging the culture to change (Bass and Avolio, 1993). In transformational leadership, the power of the leader comes from creating understanding and trust. In contrast, in transactional leadership power is based much more on the notion of hierarchy and position (Avolio and Bass, 1994).  


          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 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 transcend their own self-interests to achieve the vision. She is an ultimate example of transformational leadershipa model for helping others aspire to and attain high levels of performance for themselves and the organization.

While transformational leadership is popular, creating a high performance culture in an organization requires elements of transactional leadership to ensure a clear focus on the achievement and measurement of results. The approach to good leadership then, lies in ones ability in combining the two, so that targets, results and procedures are delivered, developed and shared. However, future research is necessary to determine which characteristics of the two leadership styles can be empirically studied and which style is superior.



Avolio, B. J., & Bass, B. M. (1994). Improving organizational effectiveness through transformational leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Sage Publications, Inc.


Bass, B.M. & Avolio, B.J. (1993). Transformational leadership: A response to critiques. New York, NY: Free Press.


Desmond, E. W. (1989).  A pencil in the hand of God. Retrieved March 12, 2003, from Time Magazine Online:


The Gale Group, Inc. (1998).  Mother Teresa. Retrieved March 12, 2003, from the Gales Institute Womens Study Web Site:


Hesselbein, F. & Cohen, P. M. (Eds.).  (1999).  Leader to leader: Enduring insights on leadership from the Drucker Foundation's award-winning journal.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.