Your Leadership is Defined by Results

Your Leadership is Defined by Results

Your Leadership is Defined by Results

Your leadership matters. I cannot state that enough. In fact, I’ve written on it, and you can read more on that here.

I know you don’t need any convincing on that either. Sure, you may wonder if your leadership is effective, if it’s changing anything, or if people appreciate it. But deep down you know that your leadership matters.

You wouldn’t keep leading if you didn’t believe that.

The real question, though, is what defines your leadership?

There’s one thing that defines your leadership: results.

There, I said it. Our leadership is defined by results.

And that’s pressure-packed, isn’t it?

I’m acutely aware of this, too. Everywhere I have worked or studied, there have been grading schemes and monetary incentives associated with productivity. That is, everyone’s looking for a result, and your livelihood depends on it.

The other thing that I’ve noticed is the urgency that’s associated with the results. It’s as though getting the task done isn’t enough, there has to be a great deal of angst affiliated with it. I’ll never forget hearing things like, “What are you working on?”, “When will that be finished?”, “What’s the next thing you’re doing?”, or, my personal favourite, “I need that done, like yesterday, okay?” (As if that last one was even a question…)

It has all led me to ask the question: why? Let me correct that, it’s led me to ask four different “why” questions.

They are four questions that, I believe, have the power to disarm pride, recalibrate our focus, and grant us the freedom to lead.

It means we have to examine the relationship between leadership and results.

So, let’s take a look together.

Why Results?

The first “why” I want to explore is why results?

To answer that, I would give one word: ego.

This is why results matter. They matter because you and I say they matter.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. “Yeah, very funny, Anthony. I get it. But you seem to be forgetting that there are other people that inform how we think. Results matter to them, too. And if those results don’t matter as much to me, as they do them, then I’ll be out of a job and a calling.”

I know. What I said can sound like a load of rubbish until you stop and think about it.

Hear me out.

Self-Determination Theory.

There’s a theory out there called Self-Determination Theory. It studies human motivation and basic psychological needs. (You can read more on it here.)

The short version, though, says that humanity has three needs. Three. That’s it. That’s all. They are as follows: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Let me unpack those briefly.

Autonomy is the construct of decision making. It states that we, as individuals, want to have control over our own lives. This doesn’t mean we desire to exist in a vacuum or isolation. Rather, it means that we want to decide, for ourselves, what we do, think, say, and believe. You and I want to make up our own mind about things. We don’t want it made up for us.

Competence is the desire to have control over the various outcomes of our lives and to obtain levels of mastery in various disciplines. You and I want to be good at what we do.

Relatedness is the desire to interact with, be connected to, and experience care with others. You and I want to exist and thrive in the company of others.

Do you see where I’m going?

If you and I desire autonomy, then we have the ability to make up our own mind about things.

If you and I desire competence, we can learn how to be better at what we do.

If we desire relatedness, we can go out and find it.

You and I have control. Let’s just own that for a minute. You and I aren’t forced to do anything. We decide that on our own.

But what if we desire competence at the expense of our autonomy? That is, what if we want nothing more than to be seen as the competent super-leader we wish we were, and we cease to make up our own mind about how to do that? Instead, we read leadership book after leadership book, attend conference after conference, only to provide a disingenuous reflection of what someone else has proposed is good leadership?

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Competence over Autonomy.

The common theory amongst modern churches is that they must grow. (I have an article I’m wrapping up on this, so stay tuned for that. You can also read my article entitled Church Growth: Three Assumptions to get a taste for what I mean.)

But, as I said, the common theory amongst modern church leaders is that their church must grow. You read this everywhere. You hear this everywhere. Lines like, “If we’re not growing, we’re dying.” Or, something like, “We want every church to realize their full Kingdom potential. We want them to reach many people for Jesus.” Or, “A growing church is a healthy church.”

So, your result – as a competent leader – becomes church growth. Why? Because everyone’s talking about it and we don’t flex our autonomy muscle. In the process, we soften our minds to blindly accept the status quo.

But did you, truthfully, arrive at that conclusion on your own or did you simply adopt a result that other people have said is of value so that you appear competent in their eyes?

See what I mean? When we desire competency above all else – when our ego gets in the way – we, paradoxically, lose autonomy.

When we lose autonomy, we lose identity.

That’s not the only way it works, though. Since we have three basic needs, let’s examine what happens if we desire competence over relatedness.

Competence over Relatedness.

What if we desire competence at the expense of our relatedness? That is, what if leadership competence is so valuable that results matter more than the people who those results are supposed to be for?

Let me break it down with a few examples.

I’ve witnessed leaders who are interested in appearing competent, so they appear to be related to other people.

It’s the leader that makes a three-minute connection in order to talk about the fact that they connected with someone and the church is growing; new faces all the time. They, perhaps, didn’t even learn anything substantive about that individual(s); but they “made a connection.”

It’s the leader that can’t stop saying ‘yes’ to invitations in order to flex their wisdom in front of a crowd. “We had a great gathering. I spoke to so-and-so and I told them (insert wisdom nugget here). They were changed because of it.” How many times have you heard a line like that?

It’s not about the relatedness, it’s a mask to promote leadership competence.

When we desire competency above all else – when our ego gets in the way – we lose relatedness. Accordingly, we force false relatedness to force a perceived competence.

When we lose relatedness, we lose our sense of self.

I believe this is why results matter so much to leaders. Our ego can’t handle being viewed as incompetent, so we create results that allow us to appear competent.

That does, however, lead me to my second “why.” Why so much anxiety?

Why Is There So Much Anxiety Surrounding Results?

My answer to this question, as I have considered it, is one word: agenda.

The minute you and I have a result in mind, we have an agenda.

I’ve been in enough conversations with church leaders to hear the same themes come up over and over again. I’ll list a few of them a moment. I wonder if you can see yourself in them. Frankly, I’ve seen myself in these at some point, it’s why I can write on it.

– church attendance patterns/growth

– building campaigns

– reach into the community

– life transformation

– ministry engagement

– I have even heard, from some churches, that they set a target number of baptisms each year.

These are the agendas of the modern church.

Plain and simple, this is what matters to church leaders, and these are the things that have measurable results. A value is placed upon them, a strategy is created around the achievement of results in each of these categories, and resources are distributed accordingly. Those desired results are then measured against, and we recalibrate our values and strategy as it pertains to their achievement.

And when there is a result in place, you need to hit it. Otherwise, you don’t look competent.

And when your leadership competency is on the line, your ego – your identity – is also on the line, and anxiety isn’t far behind.

And anxiety isn’t helpful for anyone. Especially a leader. Why? Because anxiety is contagious.

And it all stems from one thing: having predetermined results because of desired levels of competence.

The Uphill Battle of Agendas.

There’s something strange about an agenda, you have to convince others of the validity of the results you want to measure your success against. Seriously. You have to convince yourself, first and foremost, that growth, buildings, reach, life transformation, and ministry engagement are important. But not only that, you have to convince someone else that it’s important to them.

And those are uphill battles.

Try convincing a rational, autonomous human-being to do something they don’t want to do. It’s impossible, right?

I mean, if my niece doesn’t want to eat her dinner, there’s no convincing her to eat. She’s done.

Actually, it’s not so difficult as you might think. Hold out the hope of dessert and she’s all over that zucchini.

Tease the senses and you can get a result.

We’ve done a pretty good job of it with adults, too. In fact, you might say we excel at it. We can manipulate the emotion, paint a dreary picture of the present and contrast it with the beauty of a perceived future, and sing the merits of the communal achievement of something great.

But that’s an uphill battle.

You have to look for statistics that verify what you want. You have to, secretly, set targets for the number of baptisms in the coming year. In the boardroom, you have to confer about desired growth patterns. In the staff meeting, you have to haggle over a one or two percent increase in ministry engagement.

And that’s a lot of conversation for a lot of nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, baptisms, life transformation, reach, ministry engagement, and expansion aren’t bad things. Quite far from it, actually. It’s a problem, though, when the outcome supercedes the process and when it’s a mask for deeper issues.

See, quite often, positive results are still a facade to cover up the anxiety that is holding together the fragile, shattered ego of a leader seeking public competence.

I know, because I’ve often wanted results.

I know, because I’ve seen others wanting results, too.

This, my friends, is why results are often associated with anxiety. It’s because of a personal agenda that is made public, to solve a hidden personal insecurity.

So why not do away with results? If they are so bad, why not just forget about them?

In the first place, I don’t think that’s possible. In the second place, I don’t think that’s helpful. And, in the third place, I think it’s suggestive of something wrong, something off, something disingenuous to the Spirit of God and his movement. And that is, precisely, what has led me to ask the third “why.”

Why Not Have A Different Result?

My answer to that question is two words: why not?

My friends, as a leader, you are afforded the great privilege of opening peoples’ eyes to a different set of results. You and I have the privilege of flexing genuine autonomy and relatedness, out of quiet confidence in our competence, to open the eyes of those who follow us to something more beautiful than they could ever imagine.

Why would we, as leaders, ever sell out to the thrill of generating a crowd in lieu of inviting people to awake to the Divine in everything?

Why would we, as leaders, fail to unleash our followers to experience God and his fullness —dare I say it, without us—in favour of keeping them in our ecosystem?

Those seem like bad tradeoffs, don’t they?

In the news of this kingdom, the headlines read “Megachurch has 500 Baptisms in One Day.”

In the news of the Kingdom, the headlines read “Anonymous Someone Pays Rent for a Single Mother.”

Why would we ever want to substitute the second headline in favour of the first?

In the chronicles of history, there will be a list of “great” people.

In the chronicles of humanity, all people bear God’s image.

Why would we stratify identity, in favour of elevating the status of everyone?

The currency of this day is instant likes, follows, views, reach, and reactions.

The economy of God is one of grace.

Why would we live anything else?

What if the result was different? What if it was more expansive, more subtle, more subversive, more in tune with the Divine, and less about our agenda and insecurity?

My friends, if that were the case, you would be swept up in a Holy Wind and there’s no telling what would happen then.

Why Your Leadership (really) is Defined by Results?

In case you haven’t gathered it yet, your leadership shouldn’t be defined by results. Well, at least not in the way you often think of it.

There is one result that really matters, and it was taken care of on Resurrection Sunday.

On Good Friday, God put a stake in the ground. Quite literally, he was staked to the ground. It was then that he planted his flag—as if it was ever gone—on Creation and said, “Mine.”

It was a battle that shed no blood but his own.

It was a peaceful war that said it is better to die than to harm more of my Creation.

It was a death heard that echoes through history.

On Resurrection Sunday, God walked from the tomb and began gardening; recreating his Creation. (Seriously, he was mistaken for a gardener.)

It was a life that continued after the grave.

It was a resurrection that shocked eternity.

It was a result that none of us could ever achieve on our own.

And that, that right there, is what defines your leadership.

Your leadership is about living peacefully in his grace. It’s about inviting others into the Creation and re-Creation. Not forcing the result, but waiting, patiently, for the Holy Wind to roar, to whisper, to move, to act in ways that only it can.

I believe your leadership is defined by results. But the result has already been achieved.

My friends, lead with a freedom to pursue no agenda. Lead with the freedom of a result already achieved. Lead with the freedom of knowing there is an active Spirit.

Anthony VanderLaan Church Consultant Cropped


I am a blogger, researcher, and church consultant, here to inspire and empower you to become a better leader and pastor; a leader and pastor that inspires and equips your church to come alive.

I write and speak about how churches can stop wasting time with sideways energy to get back on mission.

And I will inspire you to remember your calling and be proud of it.

Start Living and Stop Wasting Time

Start Living and Stop Wasting Time

Start Living and Stop Wasting Time

I think it’s time for all of us to start living. It doesn’t matter if you’re a ministry veteran or someone brand new to it. It doesn’t even matter if you are someone that’s paid to be in ministry. All of us need to stop wasting time and start living.

If you are involved in ministry for any length of time, you will hear all sorts of one-liners that validate workaholism. Perhaps you’ve even used one or two of them yourself.

Don’t believe me?

Here are a few examples:

1. That’s ministry.

I can’t stand this one. It’s a catch-all phrase that indicates you must work odd—and many—hours, accept unfounded criticism, bear the weight of your calling alone, give from your vital resources to everyone at all times, and, oh, anything else that might come up.

And here’s the rub: you have to still manage to keep it all together.

2. Ministry happens in the interruptions.

Embedded in this statement is a lot of guilt. it is the belief that true ministry only happens when we are disrupted from completing tasks. As such, we must drop everything to help anyone at any time. If not, we are an inferior version of what a pastor or ministry leader should be.

To be clear, ministry activity isn’t confined to the interruptions. If it were, then we’d have to constantly look for the interruptions. (Which is, oddly, counterproductive if you stop and think about it. The interruptions would be constant and ministry still wouldn’t happen because of the ensuing anxiety created by attempting to find interruptions to minister within. Make sense? I’m dizzy just thinking about it.)

Ministry happens all the time. Some of it is done in solitude. Some of it is done in the presence of others. Some of it is task-driven. Some of it is relationally-driven. Some ministry occurs over a long period of time. Other ministry takes 5-seconds of your time.

Ministry happens.

3. Everyone else works during the day, so the only time that works for me to meet with people is at night.

Again, a straightforward statement that sets us up for working all hours to please all people.

It’s a trap that keeps you away from home and in various boardrooms. It’s unhelpful but sounds altruistic. And, yes, there are times where you need to work odd hours; but, that’s just about every vocation. It’s when it becomes a habit that there’s a problem.

Quite often, sentiments such as the preceding three can make bad habits that are tough to break.

What We Really Mean.

The truth behind these statements is all the same. It reads something like this:

“I feel guilty for taking care of myself and I’m ashamed that I can’t feel better. I’m supposed to help others. So, instead of feeling those things, I’m going to say ‘holy words’ to make everyone feel better about my situation; myself included.”

Each of these statements is a mask. It’s a facade. It’s a way of coping with the reality that seems to press in around us.

We validate poor behaviour all in the name of sacrificial ministry. Why? We say these things because it sounds better than saying that ministry is hard, can use up vital resources and, often, it can seem unrewarding.

Ultimately, if we carry on like this for any length of time, the result can be to burnout. (I’ve written at great length on burnout and its root causes here. I also talk about a few things that you can do to help reverse the effects of burnout by addressing its causes rather than its symptoms.)

But no one really wants that, do they?

Truthfully, I don’t think anyone wants to perpetuate behaviour that can lead to burnout. But when it’s all around you, it seems like the only option.

It’s why I believe that time spent at home is better than time wasted in a boardroom.

I use the home and boardroom imagery purposefully. Home is my happy place. The boardrooms I’ve been a part of can feel like a drain. Why? They feel this way because there is a lot of time wasted talking about insignificant things that really don’t matter. After hours of beating the same ideas around, no decision has been made and we table the discussion for next week. I’d rather spend time at home than waste it in a boardroom.

Your happy places and draining places could be anywhere, though. It could be the golf course (i.e., happy place) and the study (i.e., the drain). Have you ever been writing a message for the coming Sunday and it’s going nowhere, but it’s the middle of summer and the golf course would be nice and quiet on a Wednesday afternoon, yet you sit for hours and write two pages that you’re going to delete anyway?

I haven’t done that. Just thinking out loud…

Think about it. How many of us would rather spend our evenings at home, doing the things that energize us, than in the boardroom, doing things that drain us?

Personally, I would.

My Happy Place(s).

1. Home.

I’m married and love my wife dearly. I find great peace with her. There’s also an immense, restorative power to being with her. My soul feels refreshed.

And that’s a good thing.

In fact, it’s a great thing. Not only is it a great thing for me, but it’s also a great thing for the people I come into contact with every day.

2. The Golf Course.

I’m married, but I also play golf. (I have a great wife.) Golf courses are happy places for me. I even go alone just to walk a well-manicured piece of God’s good earth and whack a ball around.

It sounds silly, but I love it.

I also feel peaceful, no matter how I’m playing. I feel refreshed for having been alone for a while. I feel loved by God (and my wife) for the blessing of playing.

3. In the Kitchen.

Okay, another one that may sound odd; but, I love it. The kitchen is one of my happy places. The colour, the texture, the variety, the scent, the taste. To have my hands preparing the bounty of God’s good earth is a beautiful thing.

It takes time. It takes focus. It takes intention.

As the preparation goes on, the scent of one of the beautiful dish comes together. When it’s complete, I’m reminded that God is good.

When I feel at peace, I can bring peace.

When I feel refreshed, I can bring freshness.

When I feel loved, I can bring love.

When my mind is sharp, I can bring solutions to problems.

When my heart is light, I can bring kindness to distress.

When my soul is whole, I can bring harmony to others.

I think, deep down, it’s what all of us really wanted to do when we answered our call to ministry. We felt the goodness of God and wanted to share that with others.

But somewhere along the way, the boardroom became our focus and we forgot about home.

We started wasting time and covering it up by using holy language.

Start Living.

I need you to do something for me. I need you to grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of it to create two columns. At the top of one column write the heading “Home” and at the top of the other column write “Boardroom”. It should look something like this.

Anthony Vander Laan Home

And now, you’ve got it, write down all the places and activities you consider home in the one column. Once you’ve finished that, write down all the places and activities you consider the boardroom in the other column.

Take a look at any disparities you might see. Is one column longer than the other? Is there one activity, in particular, that is very “boardroom” for you? Is there a place that is “home” for you? Ask yourself this: where do I spend more time? Do I waste it in the boardroom to the detriment of being at home?

There’s one last thing I need you to do. Liberate yourself to spend more time at home rather than the boardroom.

Everyone will thank you for it. Yourself included.

Anthony VanderLaan Church Consultant Cropped


I am a blogger, researcher, and church consultant, here to inspire and empower you to become a better leader and pastor; a leader and pastor that inspires and equips your church to come alive.

I write and speak about how churches can stop wasting time with sideways energy to get back on mission.

And I will inspire you to remember your calling and be proud of it.

Burnout is a Bad Word. So Why is it Commonplace?

Burnout is a Bad Word. So Why is it Commonplace?

Burnout is a Bad Word. So Why is it Commonplace?


1. “The reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.”

2. “Physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.”
(Oxford Dictionaries)

I find something fascinating when I compare these two definitions. One occurs naturally in nature, and we accept it as proper. It’s expected. The other is utterly unexpected, and we deem it unnatural and improper.

And yet, they both occur everywhere you look.

Peculiar, isn’t it?

It’s even more peculiar when you consider that burnout amongst pastors isn’t altogether uncommon. The latest statistics from Barna suggest that over one-third of pastors are either on the edge of burnout or fully there. (Barna Group, 2017. The State of Pastors: How Today’s Faith Leaders are Navigating Life and Leadership in an Age of Complexity.)

So, what gives? Why does the word itself leave a bitter taste in your mouth while the phenomenon seems so commonplace amongst pastors and ministry leaders?

Also, why are we taught to assess the symptoms of burnout, but not address the root cause?

That’s what I want to take a moment to do in this article. Why? It’s simple, really: I believe burnout is a bad word.

I also believe we shouldn’t relegate ourselves to assessing symptoms. That’s a game of too little too late. Rather, I believe we need to address the root cause; it’s the only way things will improve for those of us who wish to make ministry a lifetime endeavour.

 Triangles and Bonfires.

To get a fire started, you need three things: a heat source, fuel, and oxygen. They call this the Fire Triangle. If you have enough of those three components, you’ll have a regular bonfire in little to no time at all.

Think about all the good times that people have around a bonfire. Can you remember the last time you sat next to one and watched the sky painted inky black? Do you remember what it was like to see the stars dot the sky?

There’s something about a bonfire that makes everything feel right.

Or, maybe it wasn’t a bonfire, but a candle. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I have a candle or two standing by for when the power goes out. There’s something incredibly peaceful about a candle and no electricity.

The droning hum of the appliances is silenced. The cold glow of the screens is absent. The crackle of the speakers has faded. And all that’s left is the warmth of that candlelight.

Three little elements can create all of this: a heat source, fuel, and oxygen.

 Candle Snuffers.

As a kid, I would visit my grandmother regularly. We always had candles burning when I was there. One of the highlights, though, was being the one to snuff the candle out. I was allowed to grab that little rod with the funny bell on the end of it and extinguish the flame.

I didn’t know it then, but the reason the flame disappeared was the result of a lack of oxygen.

No oxygen, no fire.

In a strangely technical way, I suffocated the flame. I starved it of oxygen.

This is burnout.
It’s suffocation.
It’s the feeling of not being able to breathe.
You may have the fuel and the heat source, but no oxygen.
As a result, there is no fire.

The scary part is that burnout within people can feel an awful lot like suffocation. The result is a loss of both ministry and leadership fire.

No oxygen, no fire.


I’m a student of social networks. I’m not talking about virtual social networks like Facebook and Instagram, but actual social networks; the kind of networks that involve real people in real places.

I believe they hold the key to understanding burnout.

Let me tell you what I mean.

Every individual is a member of a web of relationships. In fact, we can even go so far as to map that web of relationships using a tool called a sociogram. You can see a sample of a very simple social network in the image below.

In essence, it’s a map of people (dots) and the connections that bind them (lines). These networks are things of beauty. Interestingly, they follow certain rules.

Two of the rules for networks are as follows: 1) we shape the network we are a part of; and, 2) the network we are a part of shapes us.

Let’s talk about the first rule, for a moment.

Inordinate Influence.

As a leader, you have an inordinate amount of influence within your social network. Because of your position, you are given authority to change the order of things. Specifically, your position of leadership allows you to shape the network around you.

Here’s what I mean, as it pertains to a senior pastor:

1) You, typically, hire and fire people. That is, you select who else is allowed to have influence and authority within the network. (It means you also select who has limited influence and authority. But that’s a conversation for another time.)

2) You, typically, set the plan when it comes to the sermon series. Accordingly, the quality of the teaching and preaching is on your shoulders. Further, everyone in attendance on a given Sunday morning is under your spiritual care.

3) You, typically, have considerable influence over the budget of your church. You don’t necessarily have the final say, but you hold a lot of power in this process.

The list could keep going, too. Suffice it to say, you shape the network. And there is a lot riding on that.

But what if the network pushes back and shapes you in a way you never intended?

I believe this is when burnout ensues.

Why? Because you feel like you’ve been snuffed out. All the oxygen is gone. In short, you’ve been suffocated and the fire you once had is gone.

Let’s talk about why.

 Suffocation by Celebrity.

There’s a specific type of network that can emerge in a church. It’s called a star network. It’s named this because, well, the network map (i.e., sociogram) looks like a star. (Go figure, eh?)

It looks like this.

It’s where one person has an inordinate amount of relationships that centre upon them. It’s sort of like being a senior pastor of a church.

Everything centres upon you. It can play out in a, “I need to (insert task here) because no one else can,” kind of way.

I need to hire and fire because no one else can.
I need to create the sermon series because no one else can.
I need to draft a budget because no one else can.
I need to go to the hospital to visit someone because no one else can.
I need to meet with that first-time guest because no one else can.
I need to micromanage the children’s area because no one else can.
I need to meet the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of everyone because no one else can.

And, gradually, over time, no one else can do anything but look to you. As a result, all of the interconnections of your church start running through you, forming a beautiful star. And as that web of relationships draws ever tighter – the network collapses, so to speak – and the oxygen has no cracks to slip through, and the fire snuffs out.

It’s when everyone is entirely too close for comfort and you can no longer breathe in the oxygen you need to live.

No oxygen, no fire.

And the natural result of no oxygen is suffocation.

And as that process occurs it causes panic.

And the panic leads to burnout.

But it goes even deeper.

 Burnout is a Bad Word.

Did you notice how I described the onset of burnout? Probably not, because it was so subtle.

Three words for you: gradually, over time.

Notice something else, too: no one caused it but you.

Those are some strong words, I know. But hear me out.

I’ll never forget sitting in an undergraduate class one week before our midterm exams. Most students were in a panic about grades. “What do I study?” “How much of my overall grade is this exam worth?” “If I do poorly, can I make up my grades some other way?” Questions like this persistently peppered the professor.

Finally, after the unrelenting line of questions that all focused upon the mundane thought of a grade, the professor spoke. I’ll never forget what he said. He said,

“Listen, if you get an 80% on this exam, you worked hard for that grade. If you get a 30% on this exam, you worked hard for that grade, too. Trust me, you did. You had to work so hard at skipping classes and finding something else to do. You worked hard to find ways to not study and do something else. It’s hard work going out to the bar every night with your friends. It’s hard work to stay up partying til all hours of the morning. That’s hard work. So don’t mistake your lack of study for not trying hard. You tried very hard to do everything but do well on this exam. So you will get the exact grade you earned, and it will tell me how hard you worked and at what.”


I’ll never forget it.

I think this is what burnout is like. Our lack of oxygen, our suffocation, our panic; it’s indicative of very hard, very misdirected work, shaping a network that eventually turns on us and shapes us right back. It shapes us by squeezing in around us and eventually suffocating us.

And this, my friends, is why burnout is such a bad word: because we orchestrate it ourselves.

But the good news is that it doesn’t have to stay this way. I believe this to be true.

So what do you do in order to breathe oxygen once again?

How to Keep the Oxygen Flowing.

This won’t be an exhaustive list, by any means. But there are a few things that I think are of particular importance when it comes to not experiencing burnout.

1. Control your breathing.

I took martial arts for a decade, and I was taught one important lesson: if you can control your breathing, you can control every aspect of your body.

The very first thing I need you to do is breathe. Take in as much oxygen as you can. I am talking about physical oxygen, of course. Your body needs it. It helps every aerobic process in your system. It brings in life and removes excess waste.

But I’m also talking about a spiritual breath, too. Breathe deeply, because that’s where your inspiration comes from. I’ve always imagined God taking a deep breath before he created all things. But he didn’t hold his breath. He unleashed it in the form of creating life. I truly believe you need to do that very same thing. Draw in as much spiritual breath as you can, it’s what will stoke the fire. (If you want to read more about my thoughts on spiritual breathing you can do that here in an earlier article I wrote.)

2. Make a List of Things You Need to Stop Doing.

Take out a pen and paper, and write down everything you do in a week. Go ahead, do that right now before you finish reading this article.

Choose one thing on that list that you can stop doing right now.

Do this exercise again next week. Write a list of all the things you do. Choose one thing to stop doing.

Do it again the following week. Do it the week after that, and the week after that, and the week after that.

Stop adding, start subtracting.

3. Shape the Network Once More.

Always remember that you have the ability to restructure the network you are a part of. Recognize that you created a burnout inducing network. More importantly, though, identify that you can create a different kind of network, too.

So, how do you create a different kind of network? How do you avoid the star network?

In theory, it’s easy.

Give your authority away.

Relentlessly give your authority away to someone else.

Now, don’t give it all away. That’s not what I’m saying. There are things you should have authority over. After all, you have been called to lead. But that also means you need to give others the authority to lead the system.

So ask yourself a few questions:
1. In my current position, what makes me feel like I’m alive? Do those things. Retain your authority in those things.

2. In my current position, what makes me feel suffocated? Stop doing those things. (If you can’t remember what those are, look at the list you just made a few minutes ago.) Find someone that comes alive doing them, and give them full authority to run with those tasks. I like to think of it as making yourself obsolete for the purpose of developing other leaders.

3. Do I trust God to continue to build his church? Matthew 16:18 says it so clearly. “I will build my church.” Relax. Breathe. God is in the business of caring for his people. He always has been and always will be. And that includes you.

 A Final Thought.

There’s one last thing I have for you. Some of you may be wondering how you can diagnose the risk of burnout from a network perspective. That’s why I designed my free-assessment. In it, I take a network perspective to help you see how your connections may be suffocating your leadership.

I would love for you to download that. It’s entirely free, and I think will be the best way for you to spend 30 minutes.

If you want to receive the assessment, all you have to do is let me know where I can send it to you. You can do that by heading to the top of this page and subscribing to my mailing list. (Don’t worry, it’s just to send you the assessment and periodic updates about new articles.)

I believe burnout is a bad word, but it doesn’t have to be normative. There is an endless supply of oxygen to keep your ministry fire burning.

God’s got this.



Anthony VanderLaan Church Consultant Cropped


I am a blogger, researcher, and church consultant, here to inspire and empower you to become a better leader and pastor; a leader and pastor that inspires and equips your church to come alive.

I write and speak about how churches can stop wasting time with sideways energy to get back on mission.

And I will inspire you to remember your calling and be proud of it.

Your Leadership is Invaluable…But Not Because of You.

Your Leadership is Invaluable…But Not Because of You.

Your Leadership is Invaluable…But Not Because of You.

I hate to say it, but I have to.

I believe leadership is invaluable.

Actually, let me be more specific about it; your leadership is invaluable.

You might wonder why I hate to say it. It’s simple. In the Church, we throw around the word leadership like it’s a life preserver and the ship is going down.


The part that I struggle with, immensely, is that there are approximately 10,365,067,844,109 x 10^1,000,000 leadership theories out there. You know, give or take that many.

Especially when it comes to the church.

Every senior pastor and ministry director thinks they’ve stumbled on the secret sauce to leadership. But, after the next church leadership conference, it’s time to make a wholesale change to our leadership ethos.

After all, newer is better.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if your leadership wasn’t valuable because of it’s ‘currentness’ but was invaluable because of its ability to transcend culture, time, and context?

I think it’s more possible than you think. What’s more, I think it can be learned, too.

The Spirit of Invaluable Leadership.

Fundamentally, leadership is about one thing. Can you guess what it is?


No, it’s not vision. (That’s secondary.)

Try again.


No, it’s not a mission. (That’s secondary, even tertiary in the equation.)

Try again.


No, it’s not charisma. (That shouldn’t even be on the radar anymore. Research has thoroughly debunked this as a valuable leadership tool. It is effective for developing a following, but when the charisma goes so does the following.)

Try again.

One more guess? No?

Okay, I’ll tell you what it is. Are you ready??


Wow. That was underwhelming.

Good. It should be.

But that doesn’t mean you should overlook it.

Ego Media.

I heard a Canadian pastor, Bruxy Cavy, talk about social media once. He was asking the people that attend The Meeting House (the church he is a pastor at) to share updates and events from their church on social media. (Note: he never encouraged anyone to be on social media. It was only a message for people that do that sort of thing already. How refreshing?)

It was funny, though, because he asked them to do something particular when they posted. He said (and I’m paraphrasing…my memory isn’t that good), “Write a brief comment about why the thing you are sharing is important to you. Do me a favour, too; respond to a few comments that may come your way. Engage people. That’s why it’s called social media. Primarily we use social media as a tool to take selfies and post about ourselves. It’s more like ego media if we’re honest. But take the time to make it social. After all, that’s what it’s supposed to be used for.”

Ego Leadership.

It wasn’t new information to me, but it hit me in a new way. It got me thinking about leadership. The truth is, we often run the risk of leading with ego and we forget about the social part. We take assessments to understand my personality, my wiring, my behavioural patterns, my blind spots, my this, my that.

It’s all about me.

The assumption is, if you can work on yourself enough then everyone else around you will benefit.

But that’s not leading. That’s self-work. Will it benefit everyone in the long run? Absolutely. But you don’t have to be a leader to do that. That’s just being a decent human being.

Leading, though, is invariably and exclusively about someone else. It’s social.

It’s about the people you lead.

In short, it’s not about you.

It’s unfortunate that we spend an inordinate amount of time focused on ourselves. Many of us can recite our DISC profile, Myers-Briggs type, Enneagram personality type, and even what Disney Princess BuzzFeed has told us we are. Has any of that helped you humanize the people you lead or has it simply served as a talking point at a networking event?

It’s unfortunate that we spend a prolonged amount of time ‘understanding ourselves’ and the next leadership theory that will change who we are, yet make no real movement toward understanding and truly leading others.

There’s nothing social about it. It’s ego.


I’m typically reluctant to use God as an example of leadership best practice. It seems demeaning and tacky.

So, what the heck, why not give it a whirl?

In Genesis 3 we read that Adam and Eve have sinned and hid from God. (As if that would work. I guess hindsight is 20/20, though.)

God could have done anything he wanted. Anything.

We’re told that the first thing he did was ask one question. It wasn’t condemning. It wasn’t laden with expletives. It wasn’t even a hard, philosophical mind bend.

“Where are you?”

Three little words.

Three of the most humanizing words you read in all of Scripture.

While we could dissect that question for years and never probe the full depths of the mystery packed into those words, we can notice their humanizing effect.

Freedom for Adam and Eve to ‘unhide’ themselves. Freedom to explain themselves. Freedom to choose to do what was right. Freedom to stand before God and be themselves.

To be themselves.

What an idea. To stand before the divine and be yourself.

That’s all anyone wants.

Yet, we can hardly stand before our neighbour and be ourself. How then can we stand before our pastor, this spiritual titan, and be ourselves? That can’t be good enough, right?

But this is what humility does.
It humanizes.
It allows for choice.
It never forces.
It always asks about the other.

God could have done anything and yet he chose humility.

When you lead, you can do anything. Do you choose humility?

Do you humanize the people you lead and allow them to make mistakes or do you automate them and force them to explain why they screwed up your vision yet again?

Do you offer those you lead the freedom to choose to make things right or do you tell them what they need to do in order to make it right in your eyes so that your mission will continue?

Do you let people lead out of who they are or is it a matter of who they ought to be according to you and your personality type?

These aren’t meant to be questions that use a finger-wag. They are simply questions I think we all need to ask when we lead people. Do we lead according to who we are, or do we lead according to who our followers are?

I Believe Your Leadership Is Invaluable.

I cannot state this clearly enough: I believe your leadership is invaluable. I believe it from my head down to my toes.

Your leadership matters.

Yes, your leadership matters.

And it doesn’t matter because of how you lead in comparison to the leaders you would dub ‘great’. It doesn’t matter because of the leadership paradigm you’ve adopted. It doesn’t matter because of your personality type. It doesn’t matter because of your mission or vision. It doesn’t even matter if you have any charisma. (In fact, stop it with trying to be charismatic.)

Your leadership only matters because there are people you lead.

Your leadership only matters if the people you lead feel validated, humanized, and cared for. In short, your leadership only matters if you love the people you lead.

You leadership matters if it exemplifies three words: where are you?

My friends, lead well. Good leadership is invaluable.

Anthony VanderLaan Church Consultant Cropped


I am a blogger, researcher, and church consultant, here to inspire and empower you to become a better leader and pastor; a leader and pastor that inspires and equips your church to come alive.

I write and speak about how churches can stop wasting time with sideways energy to get back on mission.

And I will inspire you to remember your calling and be proud of it.

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