Al Mohler’s new book The Conviction to Lead is probably the best book on leadership I’ve ever read. (You may want to read my review) I recently went back through the book looking for the quotes that most stood out to me. Here is a small collection:
Christians are rightly and necessarily concerned about leadership, but many seem to aim no higher than secular leadership standards and visions. We can learn a great deal from the secular world and its studies and practices of leadership, but the last thing the church needs is warmed-over business theories decorated with Christian language.
Without apology, the Christian leader is a devoted student and a lifelong learner. Convictional intelligence emerges when the leader increases in knowledge and in strength of belief. It deepens over time, with the seasoning and maturing of knowledge that grows out of faithful learning, Christian thinking, and biblical reasoning.
The most important truths come alive through stories, and faithful leadership is inseparable from the power and stewardship of story. The excellent leader knows how to lead out of the power of the narrative that frames the identity and mission of the people he will lead, and the leader knows how to put his own story into service for the sake of the larger story.
No organization that exists simply for itself is worth leading. Leaders want to lead organizations and movements that make a difference—that fill a need and solve real problems. That story frames the mission and identity of the organization, and explains why you give your life to it. The excellent leader is the steward-in-chief of that story, and the leader’s chief responsibilities flow from this stewardship. Leadership comes down to protecting the story, bringing others into the story, and keeping the organization accountable to the story. The leader tells the story over and over again, refining it, updating it, and driving it home.
Leadership is the consummate human art. It requires nothing less than that leaders shape the way their followers see the world. That leader must shape the way followers think about what is real, what is true, what is right, and what is important. Christians know that all truth is unified, and so these concerns are unified as well. Leaders aim to achieve lasting change and common alignment on these questions.
In any context of leadership, passion arises out of beliefs. For the Christian leader, 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.
Before anything else, leadership is an intellectual activity. While it is natural to point to action as the essence of leadership, activity is the result of thinking, and in this first stage of leadership the seeds of eventual success or failure are sown. Our actions may never reach the heights of our thinking, but you can be certain that the quality of your actions will never exceed the quality of your thinking.
Organizations suffer and even die by indecision, but some people seem to have little or no confidence in their decision-making ability. Are they missing a decision-making gene? No, they lack the courage of their convictions, the discipline of critical thinking, or the confidence of steady leadership.
Every great leader is a great teacher, and the greatest leaders seize every opportunity to teach well. Ideas do drive the world, and beliefs determine actions. The leader who wants to effect long-term, lasting, determinative change in an organization has to be its lead teacher, changing minds in order to transform the organization.
Manager can do their work by ordering people to do something, but leaders are never satisfied with people taking orders. Leaders want to see every member of the organization learn what must be done, and why. Leaders are not satisfied until every individual understands the mission, embraces it, and brings others into it.
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.
To be human is to communicate, but to be a leader is to communicate constantly, skillfully, intentionally, and strategically. The effective leader communicates so pervasively that it seems second nature, and so intentionally that no strategic opportunity is ever surrendered.
Communication requires courage for the very simple reason that, if your convictions mean anything at all, someone will oppose you.
The courage required for leadership and for the risk of communication is usually the everyday courage required to get up in front of people and expose yourself and your message to the scrutiny of others. If this seems too daunting, then follow. Do not aspire to lead.
Our spiritual maturity will never exceed our knowledge of the Bible, which is an especially urgent principle for Christian leaders.
Leaders get things done. Faithful leaders get the right things done in the right way. The essence of leadership is motivating and influencing followers to get the right things done—putting conviction into corporate action.
Most leaders enjoy speaking, but many do not do it well, and their leadership is hampered. Speaking is an art and a craft, not a science. The most effective speakers love language and enjoy telling a tale. They experiment with different ways of using words and sentences, different strategies for constructing messages and talks. Leaders who are good speakers learn to use their voice as an instrument rather than a piece of equipment. They learn how to use humor without becoming comedians; to arouse emotion without selling out to emotionalism; and to make an audience want more, not less, from the speaker.
If the leader is not leading in the digital world, his leadership is, by definition, limited to those who also ignore or neglect that world. That population is shrinking every minute. The clock is ticking.
The leaders who make the biggest difference are those with long tenure. Great impact requires a lengthy term of leadership, and the leader who wants to make a difference had better make a public commitment to stay.