Who comes to mind if you were asked to think of a great leader? How would that person look or sound like?
When we think of a great leader, we usually imagine a charismatic, powerful and pragmatic individual who uses his influence to rally people towards a common cause.
In our DIODE Leadership Camps, we often ask participants who they would think of as great leaders. It’s not unusual to hear names like Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. or Tunku Abdul Rahman.
There were also times where Adolf Hitler would come up and those instances gave us opportunities to explore what we think of leadership and the characteristics great leaders possess.
Mother Teresa, also known as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta,” founded the Missionaries of Charity where she focused on helping those who were poor, homeless, needy and sick.
Though she was not a political figure nor did she possess any economic power, her influence and impact in the community and the world made her a leadership figure like no other.
Although Mother Teresa and Hitler were both considered leaders and had influenced many to join their cause, what sets them apart?
The AVP leadership model
One of the primary models of leadership that we use in DIODE Camps is the Awareness, Vision and Values, and Plan (AVP) model. Through this, we help youths explore the key aspects of leadership and become better leaders.
In order to be a successful leader, we must have a vision of what we want to achieve or become. Next, we would need to have a better awareness of our own strengths, weaknesses, and fears. This is for us to see and eventually map out a plan to achieve that vision.
With these three key elements done well, most people may consider us successful in achieving our goals. However, what really sets a great leader apart from anyone else is their values.
The key difference that sets Mother Teresa apart from Hitler is her values as a leader. Let’s look at some of the values that we can learn from Mother Teresa:
1. Start from where you are
In the words of Mother Teresa: “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones —the ones at home.” Making the world a better place doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to go overseas or do something so great that the world would recognise us for it.
Most of the time, it requires us to start where we are and keep striving to give our best in our efforts to make a difference in the lives of the community around us.
Mother Teresa’s work primarily focused on the community in India where she first travelled. As she impacted and inspired others to do the same, Missionaries of Charity went on to impact communities in over 123 countries.
In our DIODE Camps, we have a project piece where camp participants need to plan a project called the M.A.D. project (M.A.D. stands for Making A Difference) that they can do to impact the people around them.
These projects are also done by students who are in the Leaderonomics Club in their schools. We empower them to make a difference and to impact the people closest to them, like their teachers or classmates.
2. The smallest of acts carry a big impact
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.—Mother Teresa
Not only should we start from where we are, we should also realise that the little things that we do can carry a huge impact. With love and the right attitude, we can impact the community in greater ways than we realise.
In one of our camp reunions last year, the campers from our Youth Leadership Camp in June, decided that they would like to run a simple programme for the children of a community centre.
This group of teenagers, between 14 and 16 years old, were keen on teaching their peers from the centre on what they have learnt in camp and they succeeded in planning and running a game with the AVP leadership model as a learning tool.
3. Love with all of your heart
Mother Teresa gave her whole life to serving those who were neglected and outcast so that they may be able to experience love.
To become a great leader, we need to care about the well-being of those around us. It is encouraging when we are able to see the youth of today being more conscious about the needs of the community.
Some of the M.A.D. projects done by our camp participants involved them executing a project in their schools and addressing key social issues. These projects would not be executed well if they do not love their schools or care about the people around them.
Obama, King Jr., Tunku Abdul Rahman and Mother Teresa were leaders in their own rights and at different capacities and circumstances.
The measure of great leaders is not in the ability to speak fluently, exude charisma or manage people, but in the values they uphold as they impact the world around them.