Starting the new year off with a great read is the right way to begin. First up this year was Albert Mohler’s latest, The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters (Bethany House, 2012).
I’m a doctoral student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where Mohler serves as president, so I was especially interested in what our leader would say about leadership.
I opened the book with high expectations, and I was not disappointed.
The book is organized into 25 chapters that convey the same number of leadership principles. The chapters are designed to be 7 or 8 pages long, and each one is focused to unpack, illustrate, and apply the principle in view.
Momentum builds throughout the book as it opens with the importance of conviction and ends with the aim to leave a legacy. Can a leadership book be a page-turner? Mohler has proven it can!
Importance of Conviction
It’s no secret that leadership books are a dime a dozen, but Mohler’s aim isn’t to add to the noise. He warns you in the first chapter “my goal is to change the way you think about leadership” (p. 15), and I deem his goal achieved.
The central theme of the book is summarized in a number of places, but this sentence is as clear as any: “The leadership that really matters is all about conviction” (p. 24).
Mohler’s approach to convictional leadership is flavored with personal anecdotes that enliven the material even more. He is a president of a large institution, yes, but he’s a husband, a father, and most importantly a disciple of Christ.
From the Christian worldview, he makes his case that convictional leadership is what lasts and is what followers must embrace for the organization to continue.
What Is Addressed
Helpful subjects that Mohler tackles include the importance of thinking, the “story” that frames the organization, the art of communication, the task of reading, the moral virtues of leadership, and even the inescapable minefield of media relations.
A common denominator appears early in the book and underlies the overall tone and argument: stewardship. Mohler wants leaders to steward their position well because they will answer to God. Leadership is a temporary stewardship and is exercised in light of the final judgment.
The chapters are concise, substantive, helpful, and well-written. The book is also populated with autobiographical elements that show what so many already know about Mohler: he is an astute leader with relentless energy and remarkable intellect, a man driven by conviction and the pursuit of truth. More than that, he is a man who loves the Lord and gleans his convictions from Holy Writ.
Who Will This Book Help?
First, this book is for leaders in any capacity. Good leadership sense matters both in the secular world and in Christian organizations, and leaders will be helped by what they find herein. Do you lead five people or five hundred? Do you preside over a denominational agency or a school? Do you teach a class or mentor a group? Then get this book.
Second, this book is for pastors. Every pastor should get this book and learn. Have a pen ready to take notes. You will pastor your church with greater clarity and conviction after reading it. Mohler unashamedly argues his points from his biblical worldview, and thus his words can strengthen your hand in the ministry as you lead those in your charge.
Third, this book is for people who aren’t sure whether they’re leaders. Mohler doesn’t mince words and is honest about the cost leaders often pay. He tells you what a leader must have and what to avoid. He sobers the delusional and speaks frankly about how people risk shipwrecking their stewardship of responsibility. Do you wonder if you’re a leader? Let Mohler’s book be a mirror. Let it inspire you and compel you to lead better, with greater faithfulness and, yes, with greater conviction.
A Final Commendation
I loved this book and plan to visit it again. Mohler says his friends C. J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and others all pushed him to write it (p. 13), and I’m so glad they did. The Conviction to Lead is the best book on leadership I’ve read, and its breadth of topics will surely prove helpful to just about anyone.
Christian leadership in the 21st century calls for courageous conviction, and I’m thankful to God for men like Al Mohler who help equip us to meet the challenge.