John Maxwell once said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is a tenant that Dr. Kalu Kalu ascribes to. It is so much a part of his life that he formalized his leadership experiences by obtaining a PhD in Organizational Leadership. He works as a strategy consultant in the corporate arena. Prior to consulting, Dr. Kalu was the Director of Information Management for Aflac, and the Senior Director of Information Management for Humana. As a consultant, he has worked with senior level executives at companies such as Coca Cola, SunTrust Bank, and Cox Communications, to name a few.
Originally from Nigeria, Dr. Kalu and his wife, Kemi, moved to the United States in 1996. They lived in New York for six months and then moved to the Atlanta area. Their pastor in Nigeria had recommended two churches for them to visit in Georgia, but soon as they walked in to Victory, Dr. Kalu and his wife knew that this was where they were supposed to be.
While he did not initially see himself as a leader, Dr. Kalu had a heart to serve. He and Kemi joined a small group, and he began serving within the group and as an usher in the church. His heart to serve, his willingness to step in to fill any gaps, and his vision to add value to others caught the attention of his small group leader. Although he didn’t see himself as a leader, his small group leader said, “I see something in you.” Dr. Kalu had already formed attachments with people and was reluctant to leave the safety of the small group. He didn’t feel like he had what it took to lead a small group himself but his leader assured him that he would be there to provide any support he needed and would make sure that he received the training to be successful.
It is not an overstatement to say that the decision to accept this invitation was lifechanging. Serving as a small group leader and the training that he received prepared Dr. Kalu for leadership at Victory and in the marketplace. The training, and working with people like Pastor Randy Cochran, pushed him into leadership and led him to pursue and achieve his doctoral degree in leadership. He received such quality training at Victory that he felt he could formalize it and make a profession out of it. And that is exactly what he has done.
While he excelled in leadership, growing their small group to the largest in the church and remaining open to new leadership opportunities, the process was not without some fear. Dr. Kalu said, “With every stage that you move up to, there is a different level and type of fear. Once you overcome that fear, you can move to the next level of leadership.” When he was approached to help form and then lead Victory’s first men’s ministry, those fears resurfaced. He asked himself, “What if I fail? What will I do? What do I have to give?” He overcame those fears and helped to launch a very successful ministry.
One of the first things you’ll notice when speaking with Dr. Kalu is how much he cares about people. This is also evident in his approach to leadership. As he grew in leadership, he realized that we need to look at and call out the potential in people just as Paul said to Timothy, “I see potential in you.” Dr. Kalu is very intentional about calling out the potential of those around him, both in the church and in the marketplace. “If you find something good, it is selfish to keep it to yourself. When I find something good, I want to share it, and take as many people with me as possible. It is rewarding to look back and see people who are involved in leadership now, both in the church and in the marketplace, that were part of our small group.”
Dr. Kalu feels that it is his calling to build new leaders and he goes about it the same way in the church and in the marketplace. He encourages people to see that they are already leading in some capacity. “Leadership is influence. Whenever you have conversations with people, you are trying to influence them. You are already leading. All we are doing when we call you into leadership is to formalize what you are already doing naturally and give you a title to go with it.”
The key is to start new leaders off slowly, giving them small responsibilities and building them even before giving them a formal title. Dr. Kalu models this after “The Jesus Principle.” Jesus did not send His disciples out right away. He trained them up, then gave them small tasks. Dr. Kalu works the same way—he allows his new leaders to gain confidence in their skills and their abilities before giving them larger responsibilities. They build their wings and learn the value of success and failing behind the scenes before they are public-ready.
Dr. Kalu has been mentored by many people, from up close and far away. Now, he is paying it forward and mentoring other people. “When you are calling someone up to lead, they may think that you have an ulterior motive. In reality, it is an opportunity for them to grow. My approach is to first build relationship and trust. When you first build relationships and trust, people will see this and they will be better for it. If you add value to people, they are able to move forward. It doesn’t matter where they are today.”
The Bible says that the power of God is within us. Dr. Kalu believes that through mentoring and coaching, the best can be brought out of a person. Mentoring is the process of holding someone’s hand and walking them through what you know and have experience in, while coaching draws out what is already within a person to help them become their best selves. Many times, we are looking for answers all around us but the answers we need are right there inside of us—our spirit is the center of Divine operation.
Identifying and developing leaders is a true passion for Dr. Kalu—a man who did not see himself as a leader at first but found leadership to be his professional calling. As he so nicely summed it up, “It’s all about adding value to people. As a leader, when you add value to people, they become engaged. When you add value to them, you don’t have to push them. You let them see, ‘I’m going to add value to you so that you can become a leader yourself and pull other people up with you.’ By doing that, you will have people engaged. You get the results that you are looking for and, in the end, you take a lot of people to heaven.”