Book Review: “The Conviction to Lead” by Albert Mohler

Title: “The Conviction to Lead”
Author: Albert Mohler
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764210044
Pages: 224
Release Date: November 15, 2012
Rating: 5/5 (highly recommended)

If you’re going to read a Christian book on leadership, one by Albert Mohler is probably a good choice. He was the youngest person selected to be president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (back cover). At the beginning of his tenure, he faced great opposition from the liberal faculty (21-22). He insisted that they either adhere to the conservative Baptist Faith and Message, the standard Southern Baptist Convention credo, in their teachings, or leave the school–and leave they did (source). Since then, the SBTS has been one of the largest seminaries in the United States, and it has become so without compromising its theology. I credit Al Mohler as the human figure most responsible for the SBC’s growth and adherence to conservative theological beliefs. This is a man who has proven himself to be a leader, and one from whom I am highly interested in learning, particularly about leadership.

The premise of this book is that conviction must be at the heart of any leader. Adherence to and furtherance of that conviction is what drives the choices that leaders make. Mohler writes this book with logical progression, starting off by defending this premise, then building off it to say that the critical job of leaders is to relay and transfer this conviction to those he or she leads. Here, he notes, is the greatest distinction between managers and leaders: managers simply oversee operations, whereas a leader does that and inspires those in the organization to adopt and pursue a common conviction.

From there he discusses positions that effective leadership also encompasses. Leaders are also teachers, readers, managers, speakers, decision makers, and so on. He offers his insight as to why these are important, and he always ties them back to the premise: leaders must be these things, and possess certain qualities, because their job is people-centered. They must be able to communicate their convictions, transfer them to others, and make effective decisions about how to grow the organization in the direction of that conviction. Leaders ought to encompass certain roles to help them best communicate their convictions, and by doing so, inspire the people in their organization. To this end, Mohler does an excellent job of dissecting his idea of an effective leader into small, easily digestible parts. He draws on historical figures, personal experiences, and Scripture to bolster his thoughts. He is an effective and logical writer. This book is easy and enjoyable to read, though no less informative because of it.

However, it is necessary to keep in mind what this book is not. It is not a how-to book for leadership. It does not contain step-by-step instructions on how to be an effective leader. The subtitle says it all: Mohler presents “25 principles for leadership that matters” (emphasis mine). There are a few areas where he offers more detailed advice on how to apply certain principles–the sections on reading and speaking come to mind–and those are certainly helpful, but by and large, he leaves it up to the reader to decide how these principles can best be applied. It seems to me a wise thing to do, because as much as I might want him to say “Here is what you should do to be a successful leader,” each organization is different and requires a unique and organic leader. Moreover, having detailed instructions might detract from and undermine his main point that effective leadership depends on conviction, not managerial skills.

This is an excellent book that will be useful to anyone in a leadership position, and I think its value only increases the more a leader is in charge of. Its assessment of a leader is thoughtful and biblical. The principles laid out herein are helpful, not so much because they are instructional–because it generally doesn’t give step-by-step details–but because they are applicable. In that sense this book is still quite practical, because the principles can, and should, be put into practice. I would say, then, that the style of this book more like a handbook or a guide than a manual. I recommend this book to anyone currently in a leadership position or to those who may be in a leadership position in the future. This book is a unique, but necessary and welcome, look at how we define and execute leadership.

If you’d like to read a bit of the book before you buy it, portions of the first chapter are available on Al Mohler’s blog.

(This book was provided free for review by Bethany House Publishing, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)


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