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Leadership Part 3 - Faith and Criticism

Part three in a series about developing leadership potential in students

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the effect of faith on leadership and that leaders can often face criticism.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask the students what they think of when they hear the word ‘leader’.

    Show the image of a selection of world leaders.

    You may wish to ask if the students can identify these leaders.
  2. Point out that sometimes, when we think of the word ‘leader’, certain images spring to mind. Perhaps we think of high-profile business people in immaculate suits, exuding power. Perhaps we think of Lord Sugar!

    Show the image of Lord Sugar.

  3. Show the image of Mother Teresa.

    Ask the students to imagine that they had never heard of Mother Teresa and then ask the following questions.

    - Would the word ‘leader’ immediately spring to mind from this image?
    - Why?
    - Why not?

    Explain that Mother Teresa was a Catholic nun from modern-day Macedonia. She lived by vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and worked in India for most of her life. There, she ran hospices and homes for the poor, for those with leprosy and HIV and for orphans.

    Ask the students what made Mother Teresa a world leader.

  4. Read the following quotations by Mother Teresa and ask the students to think about their meaning. Pause to allow the students time to think after each quotation.

    - ‘Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.’
    - ‘Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’
    - ‘I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.’
    - ‘God has not called me to be successful; he has called me to be faithful.’

    You may wish to show the word cloud displaying the following ‘leadership words’ - principles, values, humility, listening, appreciation, envisioning, commitment and faithfulness

  5. Point out that leaders are not always popular. Mother Teresa didn't only receive acclaim; she faced criticism, too, for her anti-abortion views. Others said that she was a friend of poverty rather than a friend of the poor, that she ought to have built pristine, modern clinics for the poor and that she ought to have promoted the empowerment of women.

    However, there is no doubt that her example inspired thousands of ordinary people all over the world to love, care and give. Mother Teresa lived out her Christian faith daily and that encouraged and inspired others to do likewise

  6. Show the image of Angela Merkel.

    Ask the students if they can name the world leader in the image. Give the students the following brief summary of her life.

    Angela Merkel is a Christian, the daughter of a Protestant pastor. She grew up in former East Germany, where the family were under surveillance from a communist regime that was ideologically opposed to Christian faith and personal freedom. Her family home accommodated a church centre for those who had mental and physical disabilities.

    Angela Merkel was a research scientist before she became leader of the Christian Democratic Union, and then the Chancellor of Germany. In December 2015, she was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for her values of humanity, extraordinary generosity and religious tolerance.

    Angela Merkel was concerned enough about the crisis in the Middle East to offer shelter in Germany to those escaping the terrible conflicts in Syria and elsewhere. She has shown that she is not afraid to stand up for her beliefs and values, and cares about the hungry and the homeless, the refugees and the dispossessed, asylum seekers, widows and orphans. While others want to exclude foreigners and strangers, she warmly welcomes those who are different.

    You may wish to show the word cloud again and ask whether Mother Teresa and Angela Merkel show the same qualities as leaders.

  7. Point out that, like Mother Teresa, Angela Merkel has received criticism, mostly from those who feel threatened by the sudden influx of migrants. Her stance has damaged her popularity and reduced support for her political party, yet she has persevered in meeting the challenge of accommodating over one million migrants.

  8. People may have very different views about both Mother Teresa and Angela Merkel. However, they are both women who are seen as leaders. Being a leader puts you in a position where you will be open to criticism.

Time for reflection

Show the images of Mother Teresa and Angela Merkel again.

Angela Merkel, like Mother Teresa, has stated that the most influential book in her life is the Bible. Maybe the story of the Good Samaritan, who cared for an injured man from a different country whom he found half-dead on the road, has been her inspiration and goal.

Reflect for a few moments on how faith has shaped the leadership of these two women.

Dear God,
Thank you for these women who have sought to live in a way that is true to their faith.
Thank you for all the lives that have been touched by their actions.
Help us to be willing to stand up for others in need.
Help us to think of other people’s needs above our own.

Publication date: December 2016   (Vol.18 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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