I just finished Dr. Mohler’s latest book The Conviction To Lead: 25 Principles For Leadership That Matters. His book is a veritable goldmine with life-lessons and truths that have been and will continue to be indispensable if leaders are going to make an impact. One of the most intriguing aspects of Dr. Mohler’s book is the autobiographical dimension where leaders get an inside glimpse into the world of a leader par excellence.
And yet I realize not everyone will make time to read this book — though one of Mohler’s principles of convictional leaders is that they’re readers — just saying! It is for that reason that I will offer a brief summary of his book while also highlighting several statements I found compelling, insightful and encouraging, which I’ll do in two posts.
Chapter 1 – The conviction to Lead: true leadership starts with a purpose, not a plan
- Christian leadership is grounded in the truth of a Creator. Therefore, leaders lead from a center of gravity rooted in truth and wherever they lead, the church or the secular world, their leadership should be driven by distinctively Christian convictions (18).
Chapter 2 – Leading is Believing: the leader is driven by beliefs that lead to action
- The leadership that matters most is deeply convictional, most notably a belief in the gospel of Christ. Christian leadership stems from the substance and object of our faith: Jesus. This message is what drives and determines everything else (1 Cor 2:2) and without this conviction nothing really matters, and nothing of significance is passed on (26). Consequently, a leader cannot faithfully lead if they do not faithfully believe (27).
Chapter 3 – Convictional Intelligence: the leader develops the capacity to think in convictional terms and leads followers to do the same
- All Christian leaders must operate out of convictional intelligence; leaders without emotional intelligence cannot lead effectively because they cannot connect with the people they are trying to lead. Leaders lacking ethical intelligence will lead their people into a catastrophe. But leaders without convictional intelligence will fail to lead faithfully, and that is a disaster for Christian leaders (31). Convictional intelligence grows and deepens over time as the the leader increases in knowledge and in strength of belief (32). Lastly, Mohler is quick to dismiss that convictional intelligence is not something esoteric but happens by the ordinary means of grace such as hearing the Word of God preached celebrating the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper and living in the fellowship of believers in a faithful local church (36).
Chapter 4 – Leadership is Narrative: the leader draws followers into a story that frames all of life
- The most important truths come alive through stories, and faithful leadership is inseparable from the power and stewardship of story (37). Leadership that matters grows out of the leader’s own beliefs that the story is true, that it matters, and that it must both expand and continue (39). The narrative of Christianity can be broken down into four major chapters: 1) creation – God created the world and everything within it out of nothing, 2) fall – Adam and Eve defy God, disobey his command, and all of humanity suffers the consequences of God’s judgment, 3) redemption – the promise of a Messiah who came and died in our place, rose from the dead declaring victory over sin and death and 4) consummation – God will bring everything to a perfect conclusion with the coming of christ, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, the division of all humanity into either heaven or hell and the inauguration of a New Creation, ruled over by Christ and his redeemed people, where there is no sickness or death (41).
Chapter 5 – Leadership understands worldviews: the leader shapes the worldview of others
- A robust and rich model of Christian thinking — the quality of thinking that culminates in a God-centered worldview — requires that we see all truth as interconenctedness. Ultimately, the wholeness of truth can be traced to the fact that God is himself the author of all truth (45). Subsequently, effective leaders seeks to change the way his followers think about the world (48).
Chapter 6 – The Passion to Lead: passionate leaders driven by passionate beliefs draw passionate followers
- You cannot buy passion; it comes birthed out of conviction – it cannot come any other way. It is not a temporary state of mind. It is the constant source of energy for the leader, and the greatest cause of attraction for followers (52-53). Passion is like an infectious disease that spreads exponentially through the movement. The leader aims at the maximum rate of contagion, modeling that passion in everything that is said and done and before long it takes hold of the entire movement and lasts for the long haul (55).
Chapter 7 – Leaders are Thinkers: leadership beings when you learn to think like a leader, and leadership is not achieve until followers learn to think as well
- This principle is particularly true of Christian leaders who do not see themselves as prophets or oracles. But Christians do believe God created the world and did so orderly and that God intended us to know. Christians believe that God created us as rational creatures who have the real, but partial, capacity to understand reality (60-61). Christian leaders acknowledge that we must learn the facts, lean into truth, apply the right principles, acknowledge the alternatives and finally make the right decision. In other words, Mohler says, a leader leads by conviction (60).
Chapter 8 – Leaders are Teachers: the effective leader is the master teacher within a learning organization
- Summarizing Augustine, Mohler writes 1) a teacher loves those who he teaches, 2) the teacher must love what he teaches, 3) a teacher teaches because they first love Christ, who first loved them and 4) the teacher’s aim is that every student (congregant) would be instructed, delighted and moved (71-72). Further, the most effective leaders are unstoppable teachers; they teach by word, example, and sheer force of passion (72).
Chapter 9 – Leadership is all about Character: leaders are trusted when their lives are in alignment with their convictions
- Christians are to reflect the moral commitments to which we are called. As Jesus made clear, the moral credibility of the gospel depends on those who have been transformed by the grace and mercy of God demonstrating that transformation in every dimension of life. Within the church, leadership falls on those whose light shines with integrity and power (79). In addition, character is indispensable to credibility, and credibility is essential to leadership. The great warning to every leader is that certain sins and scandals can spell the end of our leadership. We can forfeit our role as leader and the stewardship of leadership can be taken from us (80).
Chapter 10 – Leadership and Credibility: leadership happens when character and competence are combined
- Quoting James Kouzes and Barry Posner Mohler writes, leadership may have been conferred by rank and privilege. It may once have been something that was characterized by a command-and-control-top-down, do-as-I-say style. But no more. Those days are long gone. Today, leadership is an aspiration. It is something you have to earn every day, because on a daily basis, people choose whether or not they’re going to follow you. It’s something you keep trying to achieve and never assume you’ve fully attained (84).
Chapter 11 – Leaders are Communicators: the leader’s most essential skill is the ability to communicate…over and over again
- Mohler writes that to be human is to communicate, but to be a leader is to communicate constantly, skillfully, intentionally, and strategically (91). In fact, he says that leaders communicate because they cannot not communicate (92). The marks of powerful communication are 1) clarity, 2) consistency and 3) courage (95-96).
Chapter 12 – Leaders are Readers: when you find a leader, you find a reader, and for good reason
- Leading by conviction requires continual mental activity, which is facilitated by reading but not just a commitment to read in general; a leader must be strategic in what he reads, discerning when, what and how to read.
Chapter 13 – The Leader and Power: the faithful leaders knows that power is never an end in itself
- Faithful leaders must never allow personality to be the defining mark of leadership (108) and the Christian leader will respect the role of power in leadership but will never glory in it (112). With leadership comes accountability and for a Christian leader accountability is ultimately with God himself.