Courage. It’s one of the defining qualities of a leader. It stems from a leader’s core, and as one of CourageToLead’s newest coaches, Van Moody puts it, it cannot be faked.
Van, who has been in Europe for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, took a break from his busy schedule to chat with CourageToLead about courageous leadership, identity, and about his upcoming online conference designed to help leaders get aligned for success. CourageToLead's founder and CEO, Shawn Lovejoy will be speaking as well. More in a bit on how you can attend! You'll want to be there.
Van’s passion is for healthy transformation in individuals. He is pastor of The Worship Center in Birmingham, Alabama. He is also a member of Dr. Oz’s Core Team which is featured on the Dr. Oz Show on ABC. He authored the best-selling book, The People Factor, and his articles have been published in Forbes and Relevant Magazine.
CTL: It’s interesting that your career started in business and marketing. When did you know that you wanted to do full-time ministry, and how was the transition into the ministry world?
VM: Ministry was something that I was called to in high school as a child. I grew up in church, but I actually never wanted to be in full-time ministry. I did my own thing in business and in leadership, and God gave me great success with it, but I kind of had ministry hanging over me because I sensed for a very long time that that was my purpose. I finally yielded to it, and what I realized is that our lives are ordered by God, but the success and favor that God had given me in business and leadership was all because it was leading up to ministry. I’m grateful that God allowed me to have some of the wins that I had in the secular world, but they were very purposeful and intentional.
I think ministry is the hardest job. Period. I think anyone who is in ministry has to be called because it is almost indescribably difficult. You’re always on call. You feel at times as a leader that you have to have all the answers. There is no textbook. There are no amount of degrees that prepare you for everything there is to know about ministry. So it was a challenging transition, but the eternal benefits of what we get in ministry and what we do for people far outweigh any trappings of success in the world compared to ministry.
CTL: You have authored the best-selling book, The People Factor and The I-Factor. As I was researching The I-Factor, I came across something that I love. You talk about the connection between courage and identity. With that in mind, what does courageous leadership look like to you?
VM: It starts with this whole identity issue. I think, particularly, as it relates to ministry and leadership, I think one of the biggest challenges at the heart of every leader is whether or not they really have settled the identity issue.
There are so many leaders, I believe, that fail to be as effective as they could be and ultimately lack courage because they haven’t settled the identity issue.
Let me explain it this way. A lot of individuals love to jump to the why question. The why question is the question of purpose. Why am I here? What does God want from me? What am I supposed to do with this organization? What am I supposed to do as a leader in this season of my life? All of those are why questions. But prior to being able to successfully answer the why question, you have to settle the who question. It's your who question that is indelibly connected to your why. I think it’s the who issues that a lot of people don’t address which ultimately robs the courage that they need. It takes courage to lead, which is why I love the name of you all’s organization, and I am honored to be a part of it. It’s aptly titled. You do need courage to lead. The courage that you need to lead has to come from you being secure in who you are as an individual, as a believer, and as a leader. That is the fuel that infuses the courage that you actually need to lead.
CTL: So, if leaders aren’t feeling very courageous, it sounds like maybe they haven’t addressed the who question. What are some practical things they can do to start moving in the right direction?
VM: One of the most important things for every leader is what I call “peeling the onion”. I think you’ve got to understand that your who is not your do. You’ve got to separate those two realities. A lot of leaders define themselves, their self-worth, even how they deal with success, based on the external.
If you’re leading effectively, you can’t keep score by virtue of what’s happening externally.
So you’ve got to separate your who from your do. You’ve got to get to the core of who you are. Very much like peeling an onion, you’ve got to peel the layers to get to the start of that onion, which was an onion seed. Because everything with that onion started with a seed, and we, biologically speaking and spiritually speaking, started as a seed. And so our unique identity is in that seed. But what happens is, over time, layers have been applied. Layers of hurt, layers of disappointment -- even sometimes for leaders -- layers of expectations that we try to live under or live up to, and so you’ve got to peel all that away and get to the core of this is who I am. Then you have to make an intentional decision to live from that place because that is where your unique footprint as a leader, that’s where it comes from.
I know a number of leaders -- because they defined themselves by what they did, or by title, position, or prestige -- when those things changed, they lost courage. They lost purpose. They lost a sense of worth because they defined themselves incorrectly. It’s your who that infuses your do. When you know who you are, your do can change. Many leaders go on to bigger and better do’s, and they are effective because it’s their who that makes their do even possible.
CTL: Any encouragement or advice for church leaders or executives who aren’t feeling very courageous at the moment?
VM: Know that you’re good enough. That is one of the most important things I can say to people -- particularly in church leadership. Know that you have been called, and you have been equipped. You just have to uniquely use what God has already given you. It’s almost like when Moses stands before the burning bush, and he has this encounter with God, and he questions, Am I good enough? Am I eloquent enough in my speech? It’s interesting -- God gives him several things to do because God is trying to affirm that I know what I am doing; I called you for a reason. One of the things that God says to Moses is use what’s in your hand. Throw down the staff that’s in your hand and watch what I do with it.
All leaders need to embrace that there are things God has placed in our hand that’s effective to where he has called us. You just have to believe it, and you have to use it. You are good enough.
I love to share that with leaders. Here is the other beauty about ministry. If your heart is right and you stay connected to God, even what you don’t have, he will provide in a way that you can still be effective. There are leaders who obsess about what they don’t have, but God always makes up the difference. God doesn’t call us because we are adequate, he calls us because we are available. In him, we live and move and have our being. Jesus says I am the vine and you are the branches. Remain in me and you can bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing. In the rhythm of our relationship with God -- it’s in us being intentionally connected with him -- that whatever the perceived inadequacies are, God makes up the difference.
CTL: It’s clear that you have a huge heart for leaders. One way you’ll be serving leaders this week is through the Advance Leadership Intensive, coming up on Nov. 3 and 4. Tell me about the theme for the online conference, the Alignment for Leadership Success.
VM: Anything in life that is going to run effectively and properly requires alignment. Many of us understand the challenge of trying to drive a car that is misaligned. It pulls in different directions. It is hazardous to your ability to drive effectively. It places other people at risk. It damages the car. What I have learned over the years in leadership at different levels is that the same holds true for life.
When you are misaligned, success becomes challenging. Things become unnecessarily difficult.
At the leadership intensive, that’s what we’ll dig into -- the alignment needed for leadership success. I’m excited because people like Shawn Lovejoy, Dr. Sam Chand, and other [leadership experts] from all over the world will weigh in on how significant alignment is. Sometimes leaders can become so focused on what they have to do that they never sometimes step back or even have time to reflect and ask is this aligned with where I’m ultimately trying to go, what I am ultimately trying to accomplish. Sometimes the busyness of life doesn’t make for an effective life; it just makes for a busy one.
This question of fulfilling your purpose and potential demands that you wrestle with the question, Is this aligned?
A while ago, I did some work with Dr. John Maxwell, and he would say all the time, Are you doing today what is aligned with where you want to be tomorrow? That is a heavy question that a lot of leaders have to struggle with on a consistent basis. Even I do. I have to constantly think about how is this decision going to line up with where I am ultimately going and what I’m ultimately aiming for? For me, that really determines whether I do certain things or whether I don’t do certain things. Early on in your leadership journey, a lot in a leader’s life is determined by what they say yes to. But at some point, a lot of your life on your next leadership journey is not determined by what you say yes to but by what you say no to. You ultimately have to say no to things that are not aligned with where you want to be. Alignment is huge. I know leaders who say they want to be a great father. Well if that is the case, then maybe working 80 hours per week and hopping on and off planes to grow your business to a seven and eight-figure level -- that may be misaligned with your dream to be a great father. It’s those kinds of questions and decisions that all healthy leaders have to wrestle with because if not, you can wake up one day and get to a place that you realize that the place where you are is not ultimately the place you want to be.
Get your tickets for the Advance Leadership Intensive here.