While away on a trip with my wife last weekend I took a book with me: The Conviction to Lead – 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Al Mohler. For those who don’t know, Al Mohler is a key voice for conservative evangelicals and is widely sought after as a conference speaker. At age 33 Mohler became the youngest president in the 153-year history of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and was recently hailed by Time magazine as “the reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.” So whatever your opinion of his theology or methodology, he knows how to lead. If you’re looking for insights into what makes for good leadership, this is worth a read.
The best part of the book for me was the beginning and the end. Don’t get me wrong, everything in the book is great and, in typical Mohler style, is well thought through and carefully crafted. But those were the parts that grabbed my attention. In his opening chapter he makes the important point that leadership is not the same as management. That was helpful for me and somewhat freeing, because if any part of my leadership lets me down it is my ability to manage. Prior to going into the ministry, I didn’t do any business degrees or work in management in any company – in fact I didn’t have leadership over anyone or anything. So when I was thrust into my first pastoral position I found myself a little over my head and had to learn a few mistakes along the way. Now, with a medium-sized church and a staff of my own I sometimes wish I had more training in this area.
But according to Mohler those things don’t matter – at least they don’t matter as much. What matters above all else is conviction. If you don’t have conviction, you won’t be a good leader no matter how proficient you might be as a manager. “Convictions,” writes Mohler, “are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip.” And the most important convictions for a Christian leader he says are convictions about the truth. “When a leader walks into the room, a passion for the truth had better enter with him.” I like that. That resonates with me. And now I know why there are certain Christian leaders I respect and those that I don’t. He writes,
“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” (Leading is Believing, page 24.)
That got me thinking: what are my convictions – about God, the Bible, the Christian life, the church, family and pastoral ministry? What is so deeply important to me that I feel constrained to impart to others? After all, that is what leadership is all about. Perhaps it would be a good exercise for me to write them down. I live them I know; I breathe them, but it might be helpful to be able to clearly articulate them.
So that was the beginning of the book – what about the end? That’s all about what a leader leaves behind. But it’s so good I’ll have to leave it for another blog.
In closing, Mohler says he wants to be a leader who matters, making a difference with his leadership because his convictions matter. That’s what I want as well. Lord Jesus, by your grace help me to be that kind of leader.