I’m making my way through an exciting new leadership book by my school’s president, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters (Bethany House, 2012). It is a terrific read, full of deep thinking on leadership driven by biblical wisdom and corroborated through historical examples, with a nice sprinkling of personal anecdotes.
The Conviction to Lead is a unique book. Composed of 25 short and readable chapters, it is about leadership, which can sometimes be a subject that is not grounded in the more intellectual disciplines, but Mohler’s text is unapologetically and winsomely theological. It is grounded in a central thesis: leadership is about conviction. As Mohler says of his ambitious goal at the book’s beginning, “My goal is to redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs, and and to motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership.” (20) This is a strong thesis–indeed, one that demonstrates its very claim–and, while some might think that this is a perspective many already hold, I would argue that Mohler is entirely right to ground leadership not in personality, or action, or strategy, but in conviction. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is a clear but striking point.
So, leadership is not mere management, important as that is; it’s not simply about inspiring people, necessary as that is; it is first and foremost the expression of conviction. As I understand Mohler, the leadership formula is this: knowing a) what is true results in b) knowing what is right which results in c) leading in a sound and necessary direction.
Here is a distillation of this thinking in Mohler’s words:
“Convictional leaders propel action precisely because they are driven by deep convictions, and their passion for these convictions is transferred to followers who join in concerted action to do what they know to be right. And they know what is right because they know what is true.” (26)
“The leadership that really matters is all about conviction. The leader is rightly concerned with everything from strategy and vision to team-building, motivation, and delegation, but at the center of the true leader’s heart and mind you will find convictions that drive and determine everything else.” (24)
If you are a leader, want to be a leader, or love those who do, get this book. This is a book that is written to encourage uniquely Christian leadership, but it is also quite accessible and even friendly. It is engaged with modern trends–see, for example, Chapter 21 on “The Digital Leader,” a welcome addition–but it is also stubbornly traditional. It proceeds from the idea that there actually are things that are true, and things that are right. If that kind of thinking doesn’t lend itself to a certain style of leadership (a style one could trace back to a Messiah-King who came to resurrect a broken and divided people), I don’t know what will.
As one who trained for leadership under Al Mohler, who appreciates and is deeply inspired by him, and benefits daily in my work at Boyce College from his convictional leadership, I am glad to see this book on the market. It is a strong achievement from a top Christian authority, and it will strengthen leaders of all kinds–Bible study leaders, small church pastors, Fortune 100 CEOs, classroom instructors, godly parents, for-profit entrepreneurs building a company, and nearly everyone in between. Read it and lead with conviction and gusto for the glory of God, the great shepherd of his sheep.
(See this Desiring God interview with Mohler for some personal commentary on the book.)