Conviction to Lead Paperback – 21 Oct 2014
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From the Inside Flap
Dr. R. Albert Mohler is President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Southern Baptist Convention's flagship school, as well as a radio personality, blogger, and sought-after commentator. Hailed by Time magazine as "the reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S," Dr. Mohler has been quoted in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He has also appeared on such national news programs as Larry King Live, NBC's Today Show, Dateline NBC, Good Morning America, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and The O'Reilly Factor.
Dr. Mohler lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Mary. Visit his website at www.albertmohler.com.
From the Back Cover
Change the Way You Think About Leadership
At the age of thirty-three, Dr. Albert Mohler became the youngest president in the 153-year history of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the driving force behind the school's transformation into a thriving institution with an international reputation characterized by a passionate conviction for truth. In the process he became one of the most important and prominent Christian voices in contemporary culture.
What will it take to transform your leadership?
Effective leaders need more than administrative skills and vision. They need to be able to change the hearts and minds of those they lead. Leadership like this requires passionate beliefs that can stand up to pressure from without and within.
Now for the first time, Dr. Mohler reveals 25 principles to crystallize your convictions, revolutionizing your thinking, your decision-making, your communication, and ultimately those you lead.
"Dr. Al Mohler has written a book that shakes us up and challenges our thinking. The Conviction to Lead is poised to become one of the all-time classic works on Christian leadership."
Jim Daly, President--Focus on the Family
"Having rarely thought about leadership, I was hooked from the first chapter--to my complete surprise. This is a powerful book and gracefully written."
Fred Barnes, Executive Editor--The Weekly Standard
"This is Mohler in his most natural habitat, doing what he does best. If you are a pastor or elder, if you are an owner or CEO, if you are in any form of leadership, I am convinced that this book will transform the way you lead. I highly recommend that you read it." --Tim Challies, Pastor, Grace Fellowship Church, Toronto; owner of challies.com
"For any one currently in a position of leadership, or anyone who aspires to a position of leadership, this book is a necessity." Douglas Wilson, author and blogger
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And yet, as Albert Mohler proves in The Conviction to Lead, not every trail has been pursued to its end. He begins this book with a warning to the reader that is equally a challenge to himself as author: "My goal is to change the way you think about leadership. I do not aim merely to add one more voice to the conversation; I want to fundamentally change the way leadership is understood and practiced." No one can accuse him of aiming too low! Remarkably, at least in my assessment, he achieves what he sets out to do, making The Conviction to Lead a uniquely important book.
In the opening pages Mohler surveys the vast leadership industry and points out that in all the useful things that have been said about leadership, the central problem "is a lack of attention to what leaders believe and why this is central." His burden is "to redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs, and to motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership. I want to see a generation arise that is simultaneously leading with conviction and driven by the conviction to lead. The generation that accomplishes this will set the world on fire."
At the heart of the kind of leadership Mohler advocates is what he calls "convictional intelligence." This is not an innate kind of intelligence, but one that must be developed by diving deeply into the truth of the Bible and learning to think like a Christian. It is, in its essence, Christian maturity. "For the Christian leaders, those convictions must be drawn from the Bible and must take the shape of the gospel. Our ultimate conviction is that everything we do is dignified and magnified by the fact that we were created for the glory of God. We were made for his glory, and this means that each one of us has a divine purpose. The Christian leader finds passion in the great truths of the Christian faith, and especially in the gospel of Jesus Christ."
The leader must be relentless in his pursuit of truth and the application of truth to his life and his organization. Through twenty-five short chapters Mohler describes the kind of character that ought to mark the leader and looks at specific skills, habits and intellectual exercises that can make all the difference between a mediocre leader and a great one. He writes about the importance of gaining and maintaining credibility, of developing the intellect, of making wise decisions, and even of facing the new realities of a digital world.
One of the most compelling aspects of The Conviction to Lead is its semi-biographical nature, which is exactly as it ought to be. Mohler has faced great leadership challenges, the greatest of which was undoubtedly being called--while he was only in his young thirties--to lead one of America's most important seminaries. While he draws many examples from history, and especially British history, he also draws many lessons from his own successes and failures.
But what I appreciate most is that Mohler takes the massive amount of scholarship and popular-level writing on leadership, extracts what is most valuable, and then sets it all in the context of Scripture. From the first page to the last, he is applying Scripture to leadership, crafting an understanding that is thoroughly and completely biblical. This book is truly gospel-centered; the gospel is not appended to the book, but at its heart.
I have read all of Mohler's books and I am convinced that this is his best. Each of his previous books has been helpful in its own way, but they have generally been repurposed sermons or blog posts and have carried the weight of mixed media. The Conviction to Lead has all the marks of an original work, oozing with wisdom and dripping with passion. This is Mohler in his most natural habitat, doing what he does best. If you are a pastor or elder, if you are an owner or CEO, if you are in any form of leadership, I am convinced that this book will transform the way you lead. I highly recommend that you read it.
One would assume that after all the books, lectures, interviews, and conferences aimed at perfecting the art of leadership that the demand for leadership resources would be dwindling, but in fact the exact opposite seems to be true. The experts keep writing books, and the would-be leaders keep buying them. Why haven't we all reached the peak of leadership refinement? What's the problem? "The problem is a lack of attention to what leaders believe and why this is central," Dr. Mohler concludes (italics in original). The contention of this book is that leaders are failing to lead because they have no passion about the fundamental beliefs of those they are seeking to lead, or as the title suggests, they lack conviction. What we are experiencing today in churches, universities, businesses, and broader movements is leaders who are not believers and believers who cannot lead. So, Mohler's hope for his book is to "redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs, and to motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership."
This is a vital perspective on leadership especially for Christians looking to set themselves apart from the lemming like mentality of the broader culture. It would be an exaggeration to suggest that the church is facing unprecedented opposition, but it is no stretch to say that opposition to the historically held beliefs of the church is escalating rapidly. Those who lack conviction about the truth of God's Word will be swept away by the pressure of cultural conformity. At the same time those with conviction but no determination to lead in the fight against the erosion of our beliefs will be of little consequence. If ever there was a time to sound the call for leaders to be fueled by conviction, and for true believers to be infused with the skills and determination to lead it is now.
Mohler's book does that, and does it well. He is convincing in his argument that the great flaws of today's leader are a lack of conviction or a misplaced conviction. His call to identify ourselves in the story of God's unfolding plan of redemption and to do so with authenticity is compelling. Using death to set the importance of leading from our convictions in high relief is quite effective. Only when we drive our convictions deep into the heart of our organization or movement does our contribution live on after our death.
However, the quality of this book's chapters varied widely from very good to almost completely useless. In general I believe the beginning and ending of the book to be the essential parts, specifically chapters 1-6 and 23-25. The rest in the middle read to me like a series of blog posts turned book chapters, which draw as their source material varying degrees of Scripture, Peter Drucker, and Dr. Mohler's personal experience. There are certainly helpful insights to be gleaned even from the middle portion of the book, but they were hardly unique and certainly would not "fundamentally change the way leadership is understood and practiced."
I would recommend this book. The opening and closing sections are remarkable. However, I would not hype this book. The middle is much of the same old stuff when it comes to books on leadership.
This book grabbed my attention early on with its bold claim,
"Let me warn you right up front--my goal is to change the way you think about leadership. I do not aim merely to add one more voice to the conversation; I want to fundamentally change the way leadership is understood and practiced"
Having found this book hard to put down, I really do think it lives up to its promise. I would encourage every leader to read this book. Now, before you rule yourself out, everybody is a leader of some kind, and it is not wrong to aspire to be a better leader in the future.
Why are so many of us afraid of being leaders, and shy away from it? Is it just a godly humility? I think that may be some of it, after all who wants to follow a Christian leader who is eagerly seeking advancement for themselves? But at the same time, if the call of God comes (and this is often expressed through others) for you to take up a leadership role, it is important not to turn it down too hastily. Moses' example as the reluctant prophet is not given for to us to copy. But the good news is that God was gentle with Moses, and helped him to accept the role that God had for him. God is still the same today, and will help you also if you are facing a challenge that you are not sure you are fit for. The truth is that none of us are really capable of fulfilling the leadership roles that are so needed in the church today, as Paul puts it "who is equal to such a task?" (2 Corinthians 2:16, NIV). But God makes us able. He does this through, among other things, the wisdom of others. And so we come to learn from Al Mohler, a man who's leadership ability is evident and long-tested.
Mohler highlights the difference between mere management and leadership, but is eager to underline that while not all managers are leaders all leaders must be managers. He underlines the shocking lack of real leadership in our society today and stresses that,
"The church desperately needs . . . effective leaders who are authentically Christian-whose leadership flows out of their Christian commitment."
Mohler is also insightful in his razor-sharp diagnosis of a big problem in those who currently take charge of Christian endeavors. He sees them as divided into two cultures, groups which he terms the "believers" and the "leaders." He explains,
"The believers are driven by deep and passionate beliefs. They are heavily invested in knowledge, and they are passionate about truth . . . The problem is, many of them are not ready to lead. They have not thought much about leadership and are afraid that thinking too much about it will turn them into mere pragmatists, which they know they shouldn't be."
The chances are very good that if you are a regular reader of blogs you fall into this group. I certainly immediately recognized myself. Many pastors and others who are at the helm of Christian organizations are like this, and it is one reason why many of our organizations do not flourish and grow.
Mohler's second group didn't escape lightly, either,
"The Leaders, on the other hand, are passionate about leadership. They are tired of seeing organizations and movements die or decline, and they want to change things for the better. They look around and see dead and declining churches and lukewarm organizations. They are thrilled by the experience of leading and are ardent students of leadership wherever they can find it. They talk leadership wherever they go and are masters of motivation, vision, strategy, and execution. The problem is, many o them are not sure what they believe or why it matters. . .they lack a center of gravity in truth. They often ride one program after another until they run out of steam. Then they wonder, What now?"
Mohler has a grand goal, and I pray that it may be achieved in all of us as we read this book, he says,
"I want to turn the Believers into Leaders and the Leaders into Believers. My goal is to know the blocks out from under the current models of leadership and forge a new way. I stake my life on the priority of right beliefs and convictions, and I want to lead so that those very beliefs are perpetuated in others . . . My goal is to redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs, and so motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership."
The conviction to lead, at the same time a gloriously simple idea, yet Mohler is so right in saying that it is rare to find these two things entwined. I remember well stopping at this point as I read the book and praying something similar to this, "God make me a leader like this. Take away my reluctance, and help me to lead with conviction." You would do well to pray the same thing, and just go immediately and buy this book.
The rest of this review can be read at [...]
The Conviction to Lead is a helpful volume for several reasons. First, the arrangement of the book makes for easy reference and can be consulted again without wasting too much time futilely rummaging through its pages in search of that sweet quote or thought you read months ago. Second, Mohler's thoughts concerning a leader's pursuit of and relation to reading, writing, the digital world, and time were instructive and insightful. Lastly, The Conviction to Lead offers a decidedly Christian perspective on leadership. It is not a book about pastoral leadership, although much will apply to the pastorate; nor is it a theology of leadership, although it contains theology; nor is it a volume on administrative leadership, although it touches on such matters. It is essentially one Christian's musings on leadership and such musings are helpful because they expand one's own thoughts on such matters as the views of the author collide with the views of the reader.
However, The Conviction to Lead does not seem to meet the goal stated by Mohler at the beginning because to accomplish such a goal as to "fundamentally change the way leadership is understood and practiced" he would need to offer something more theologically and philosophically substantial to fundamentally change one's understanding and elaborate more on many if not all of the 25 aspects of leadership listed to change one's practice. A discussion of the cruciform shape of Jesus' leadership style would have proven beneficial in accomplishing the goal of this volume.
This book was provided to me as a ebook review by NetGalley and Bethany House Publishing