What makes a great leader? Is it a mix of charisma, character and talent? Is it just a bit of luck? If you browse the leadership section at your local bookstore, you’ll find no shortage of answers:
- Leadership is about influence.
- It’s about character.
- It’s about being the “alpha.”
- It’s about knowing your strengths.
Albert Mohler’s new book, The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters, takes a slightly different approach. While not ignoring the importance of character, strengths or any of the other points often referenced in so many leadership books, Mohler argues that leadership ultimately comes down to one thing: conviction.
“Wherever Christian leaders serve, in the church or in the secular world, leadership should be driven by distinctively Christian conviction,” he writes (18-19). This new book is fueled by Mohler’s desire to encourage a generation of Christian leaders to lead from their most deeply held, passionate beliefs—their convictions—and to see these as inseparable from the task of leading.
Each chapter, while functioning as more-or-less standalone essays, provides a fully-fleshed out idea of what a convictional leader is. Notably:
- leaders are writers, communicators and speakers;
- they are readers, thinkers and teachers;
- they are stewards, managers and decision makers.
They are these things because they cannot be otherwise. This is something important to understand: Mohler doesn’t say a leader can be a writer but not a manager, or a thinker but not a decision maker. No, a leader is all of these things or else he or she is not a leader.
This is important, especially as you consider the leader as thinker. Mohler writes:
…the leader’s disciplined posture is to lean into the truth and be unafraid of it. He demands that those around him tell him the truth, and he leads by being the truth teller in chief. He does not allow the organization to be tempted by either dishonesty or self-deception, and he models personal honesty. (62)
If ever there was commentary designed to challenge your assumptions about how you lead, it’s this. I know few who could read the above and say, “Yes, my organization or leader consistently exhibits these characteristics.” Truthfully, I’ve met maybe six leaders who would match that description in my entire life. On the other hand, I’ve met far too many who model the opposite of what Mohler describes—men and women who exhibit fear of the facts and hide under a veneer of false harmony instead of embracing the kind of healthy conflict leading with conviction creates.
Convictional leaders—even when you may disagree with their convictions—are people who are easy to respect, because you know what they stand for. They are people who communicate with clarity, consistency and courage. “Convictional leadership requires a constant and consistent message, no matter the context, the audience, or the occasion . . . and no matter what may come,” he writes (95). “A reputation for inconsistency betrays a lack of conviction, and a lack of conviction is the nullification of leadership.”
It’s easy to see how it all ties together—habitual inconsistency indicates a lack of character, which really means a lack of conviction. The “leader” in this position has nothing to draw from for strength and as a result flounders. May this never be said of Christian leaders, in whatever sphere they serve. Instead, we need to root our leadership in conviction—especially our confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ—and allow that to transform the way we lead. “The convictions come first, but the character is the product of those convictions. If not, our leadership will crash and burn” (79).
“I want to see a generation arise that is simultaneously leading with conviction and driven by the conviction to lead,” Mohler writes (20). “The generation that accomplishes this will set the world on fire.” If leaders follow Mohler’s thoughtful instruction, they might even do it. If you’re a leader in any capacity—at your church, at your job, in your school—I can think of no better book to encourage, challenge and grow you in your calling than The Conviction to Lead.
Title: The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters
Author: Albert Mohler
Publisher: Bethany House (2012)