Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

The Conviction to Lead BOOK CLUB

The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler

We’re reading this excellent book on leadership principles from a renowned agent of change, Albert Mohler. It is one of the best that I’ve read on leadership and is broken down into 25 relatively short chapters. Won’t you read along with us? This week we look at:

Chapter 1: The Conviction to Lead True Leadership Starts With a Purpose, Not a Plan

  • 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.
  • The hunger for leadership had reached every sector of our society, including business, government, education, cultural institutions, and, of course, the church. Christians, along with everyone else, wanted to develop leadership.
  • Wherever Christian leaders serve, in the church or in the secular world, their leadership should be driven by distinctively Christian conviction.
  • The problem is that the evangelical Christian world is increasingly divided between groups we might call the Believers and the Leaders. The Believers are driven by deep and passionate beliefs. They are heavily invested in. They devote themselves to learning truth, teaching truth, and defending truth. They define themselves in terms of what they believe, and they are ready to give their lives for these beliefs. The problem is, many of them are not ready to lead.
  • 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 of them are not sure what they believe or why it matters. They are masters of change and organizational transformation, but they lack a center of gravity in truth.
  • I want to turn the Believers into Leaders and the Leaders into Believers. My goal is to knock 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 at the same time I want to lead so that those very beliefs are perpetuated in others. If our leaders are not passionately driven by the right beliefs, we are headed for disaster. At the same time, if believers cannot lead, we are headed nowhere.
  • My goal 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.

Chapter 2: Leading Is Believing

  • The leadership that matters most is convictional—deeply convictional.
  • Convictions are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip. We would not know who we are but for these bedrock beliefs, and without them we would not know how to lead.
  • Put simply, a conviction is a belief of which we are thoroughly convinced.
  • The full strength of conviction is what sets the Christian leader apart. These convictions are the very essence of Christian leadership, and it has always been this way.
  • Justin Martyr, one of the leaders of the early church, also serves as a portrait of convictional leadership. Leading members of his own congregation to their mutual execution at the hands of the Roman authorities, Justin encouraged his people with these words, written to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius: “You can kill us, but you cannot harm us.” That is authentic leadership in its clearest form—the willingness of people to die for their beliefs, knowing that Christ will vindicate them and give them the gift of eternal life. Thankfully, most of us will never have to experience that kind of leadership challenge. Nevertheless, the convictions remain the same, and so does the function of those commitments in the life and thinking of the leader. We know these things to be so true that we are willing to live for them, lead for them, and, if necessary, die for them.
  • 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.
  • Many of my most encouraging and informative models of convictional leadership come from history. Throughout my life I have drawn inspiration from the example of Martin Luther, the great Christian Reformer of the sixteenth century, who was so convinced of the authority of the Bible that he was willing to stand before the intimidating court of religious authorities that had put him on trial, and even to stare down the Holy Roman emperor and declare, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.”
  • Sadly, far too many of today’s leaders seem to have little idea of what they believe, or are driven by no clear and discernible convictions. How many of today’s leaders are known for being willing to die—or even to live—for their convictions?
  • You can divide all leaders into those who merely hold an office or position and those who hold great convictions.
  • I want to be a leader who matters, making a difference with my leadership precisely because my convictions matter.
  • If you think about it, just about every leader who is now remembered for making a positive difference in history was a leader with strong convictions about life, liberty, truth, freedom, and human dignity. In the long run, this is the only leadership that matters. Convictional leaders propel action precisely because they are driven by deep convictions, and their passion for these convictions is transferred to followers who join in concerted action to do what they know to be right. And they know what is right because they know what is true.
  • I believe that leadership is all about putting the right beliefs into action, and knowing, on the basis of convictions, what those right beliefs and actions are. This book is written with the concern that far too much of what passes for leadership today is mere management. Without convictions you might be able to manage, but you cannot really lead.
  • The starting point for Christian leadership is not the leader but the eternal truths that God has revealed to us—the truths that allow the world to make sense, frame our understandings, and propel us to action.

Next week we’ll look at chapter 3. Won’t you read along with us?

Chapter 3: Convictional Intelligence

• There are plenty of very intelligent people who have virtually no ability to lead.
• There is not merely one form of intelligence; there are several. In more recent years, this discussion has led to a discussion about emotional intelligence (EQ) and its ability to predict social success.
• As it turns out, the ability to lead people depends on the leader’s capacity to develop and deploy what Goleman identified as self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. That makes a great deal of sense, doesn’t it? If the leader lacks these elements of emotional intelligence, it really might not matter how otherwise intelligent he is.
• Many of the world’s most intelligent people lack the emotional and empathetic skills necessary for effective leadership.
• Christian leaders must develop and operate out of an additional intelligence—convictional intelligence. Leaders without emotional intelligence cannot lead effectively because they cannot connect with the people they are trying to lead. Leaders lacking ethical intelligence will lead their people into a catastrophe. But leaders without convictional intelligence will fail to lead faithfully, and that is a disaster for Christian leaders.
• Convictional intelligence is not an innate capacity; therefore, unlike other forms of intelligence, rather than being born with it, you have to develop it. Convictional intelligence is the product of learning the Christian faith, diving deeply into biblical truth, and discovering how to think like a Christian.
• Charisma is a great gift, but it cannot substitute for conviction. The same is true of personality skills, gifts of communication, media presence, and organizational ability. None of these things can qualify a Christian leader when conviction is absent or weak.
• 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.
• Knowledge is fundamental, but convictional intelligence is not merely knowledge.
• We all know that we have habits of action, but we also operate out of habits of mind. We dig intellectual ruts that our minds grow accustomed to following. Our habits of action may not say much about us, but our habits of mind do.
• The importance of convictional intelligence in the life of the leader comes down to the fact that our intellectual habits must be aligned with Christian truth and knowledge. Otherwise, we say that we believe one thing but operate out of mental habits that run in a very different direction. The Christian leader stands out as one who has developed intellectual habits that are consistent with biblical truth. We also operate out of intellectual reflexes. When certain things happen, our minds respond by shifting into automatic judgment.
• The Christian leader must have mental reflexes that correspond to biblical truth.
• Lastly, we all operate out of what can only be called intuition. Some of the decisions we make are explainable only by the fact that something greater than a mere recognition of facts is at work.
• As a leader, you will often know why one alternative is right and another is wrong. Sometimes you will have full intellectual justification for making the decision you know is right and will be able to explain that justification to others. But other decisions and judgments are not so easily explained or understood. Particularly if your decisions are about people, you will often have to become less rational and more intuitional. Sometimes you just have to do what you know is right, even when you are not certain that any intellectual argument fits. This is where intuition comes into play, and the leader will have to lean into intuition every single day.
• Convictional intelligence comes by what we rightly call the ordinary means of grace. God wants his people to possess convictional intelligence and the fullness of the Christian life, and these come by hearing the Word of God preached, celebrating the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and living in the fellowship of believers in a faithful local church.
• This is extended through the leader’s personal devotional life, prayer, Bible reading, and reading of other Christian books and materials. But while the private acts of devotion are truly important, Christians are not called to grow into faithfulness alone. The Christian life is to be lived within the fellowship and accountability of a local congregation, where the Word is rightly preached and believers mature together. In that context convictional intelligence emerges naturally, along with those Christian intellectual habits, reflexes, and intuitions we desperately need.
• Just remember this—the Christian leader who cuts himself off from the ordinary means of grace cannot expect to possess convictional intelligence. Going it alone is a recipe for disaster.

Chapter 4: Leadership Is Narrative

  • 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.
  • Experts on leadership often stress the importance of organizational mission and vision, but these vital realities mean little apart from the story that explains why what we are doing is important in the first place. We need to start with the story and let the rest follow.
  • 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.
  • Our most effective national leaders have known how to identify with these stories and lead others to do the same, to rally the nation to a cause by making the story central. This is exactly what Winston Churchill did for the British people in the moment of their greatest peril. He told them over and over again that they were part of a great national drama, participants in a story that was already centuries old—a story of honor and duty, of sacrifice and freedom.
  • Most leaders do not face a challenge quite like that faced by Churchill, but the lesson remains the same. Leadership that matters grows out of the leader’s own belief that the story is true, that it matters, and that it must both expand and continue. The story must be believed with conviction, told with conviction, and stewarded with conviction.
  • The credibility of leadership is based, without question, on the leader’s identification of his own story within the organization’s story. The leader must articulate how he came to be a part of this story, how it came to possess him, and why he now gives himself to it.
  • If you were born into the story, tell that story over and over again. If not, make clear that you got there as fast as you could—that you are so captivated by this story that you dropped everything to come be a part of it. Your own personal identification with the story is vital and you cannot delegate it. Lean into it and learn to tell it well, but tell it with authenticity.
  • This is where the Christian leader’s worldview sets him apart from all others. We are not only the stewards of stories; we are the stewards of the story.
  • In its irreducible form, this story contains at least four major chapters or movements. In the first, Creation, God creates the cosmos and everything within it out of nothing.
  • In the second movement, The Fall, Adam and Eve defy God, disobey his command, and suffer the inevitable consequences of God’s judgment on their sin.
  • Thankfully, God’s plan to save sinful humanity is accomplished in the third movement, Redemption. This was promised in the Old Testament, but was fulfilled with the coming of Christ, fully God and fully man, who lived a sinless life and went obediently to suffer death on a cross, dying in our place.
  • In the fourth movement, Consummation, God brings everything to a perfect conclusion with the coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, the division of all humanity into either heaven or hell, and the inauguration of a New Creation, ruled over by Christ and his redeemed people.
  • Whatever the context of leadership, the Christian leader is accountable to this story. This is who we are, what we believe, and what we hope for others to know as well. The movements, congregations, and organizations we lead are all a part of it. Even when the Christian leader serves a secular organization, the leader knows that its meaning and mission are fully accountable to this story. The Christian leader can give himself to a worthy secular cause precisely because he knows of God’s love for this world and for his human creatures. But the Christian leader can never have a perspective that is limited to this world, no matter how urgent the mission may be.
  • The conviction to lead is rooted in this story, and it is expressed through our own individual stories and the stories of the organizations we lead. The leader is entrusted with the stewardship of these stories, and no leader can lead well if this story is not his own.
  • The leader also knows that the story is not our possession. It possesses us. The leader is deeply and inevitably humbled by the story, because it—like the gospel—reminds us that every office or position of leadership comes to us by grace.
  • The convictional leader does not love and live the story because he knows that it is powerful. He knows that it is powerful precisely because it is true.

Chapter 5: Leaders Understand Worldviews

  • When I was in high school, the writings of Francis Schaeffer started to make an impact on young Christians. Schaeffer was something new on the scene, and his lectures and writings caught the attention of a generation of believers trying to figure out the world around them and what difference Christianity was supposed to make. Schaeffer started talking about the importance of worldviews and the Christian’s responsibility to develop a truly Christian mind. He explained that the social and cultural chaos of the 1960s and 1970s was due to collisions between different worldviews—the Worldviews work by organizing ideas. At the most basic level of our thinking, every single one of us operates out of one unified understanding of the world.
  • You might even say that they are sets of ideas that make the world operational for us. If we did not believe these ideas, we would have no idea how to make sense of the world. We cannot rethink our basic understanding of reality every morning. Basic moral judgments are embedded within our worldview. We form a worldview, and then the worldview forms us. These basic ideas become the framework for our thoughts, decision making, and way of analyzing issues.
  • A robust and rich model of Christian thinking—the quality of thinking that culminates in a God-centered worldview—requires that we see all truth as interconnected. Ultimately, the wholeness of truth can be traced to the fact that God is himself the author of all truth.
  • Christianity is a comprehensive worldview and way of life that grows out of Christian reflection on the Bible and the unfolding plan of God revealed in the unity of the Scriptures.
  • A God-centered worldview brings every issue, question, and cultural concern into submission to all that the Bible reveals, and frames all understanding within the ultimate purpose of bringing greater glory to God.
  • Every Christian has the responsibility to develop a worldview that is authentically Christian, but leaders face that duty in a way that is even more urgent. We have to be faithful in the discipleship of the mind before we can expect faithfulness and maturity in those we lead.
  • Far too often leaders aim at the surface level and stop there. Real leadership doesn’t happen until worldviews are changed and realigned.
  • Leadership is the consummate human art. It requires nothing less than that leaders shape the way their followers see the world. The 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.
  • Leaders must be unquestionably committed to the truth, and they must lead their followers to do the same. Beyond that, leaders must lead followers into a growing maturity that enables them to discern the true from the false.
  • Leaders are directed by the knowledge of what is right, and nothing is so inseparable from leadership as morality. But the leader must not only know what is right, do what is right, and lead in the direction that is right—he must also lead followers to embrace this same knowledge.
  • The great aim of leadership is to lead followers continually into a deeper and more comprehensive love for what is most real, most true, most right, and most important. The thrill of leadership is in seeing this happen, and long-term success depends on it.
  • The organization, institution, or congregation you lead will never achieve anything great or worthy unless an alignment of worldview takes place, and the leader bears the responsibility to make that happen. Over time, those who share that worldview most fully will gravitate to the center of the organization’s leadership and energy. Those who share the worldview less fully will migrate to the periphery of the organization, and may even exit. This is how effective, faithful leadership works. You aim at the heart and the head of your followers, confident that if they share the worldview and embrace it with conviction, the right actions will follow naturally.
  • The effective leader changes the way followers think about the world. What could be more exhilarating than that?

Chapter 6 – The Passion to Lead: Passionate Leaders Driven by Passionate Beliefs Draw Passionate Followers

  • Leaders need to possess and develop many qualities, but the one element that drives them to the front is passion. Without it, nothing important happens.
  • Passion is not a temporary state of mind. It is the constant source of energy for the leader, and the greatest cause of attraction for followers.
  • Kierkegaard reminds us that passion cannot be artificially generated or transmitted. If authentic, it naturally shines through as convictions come to life, as a great mission is undertaken, and as people share the same great passion and join together as one.
  • Passion must arise out of conviction. It cannot come any other way. Passion arises naturally or not at all. It happens when convictions come to life, and deep beliefs drive visions and plans. The passionate leader is driven by the knowledge that the right beliefs, aimed at the right opportunity, can lead to earth-shaking changes.
  • 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. The Christian leader finds passion in the great truths of the Christian faith, and especially in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Leadership arises from this passion and is driven by it. Other leaders may be driven by a passion for cars or technology or empire building, but the Christian leader is driven by the convictions that give all of life its meaning. Everything else flows from this naturally.
  • Passionate leaders attract and motivate passionate followers. Together, they build passionate movements. When this happens, anything is possible.
  • When the mission is ambiguous and the beliefs of the organization are nebulous, passion dissipates quickly.
  • Leaders must use their brains, but they need to speak from the heart.
  • The passionate leader emphasizes morality and purpose. It is not enough that a decision is workable; it must also be right. The leader cannot be satisfied that a product is adequate; it must enhance the lives of those who use it.
  • Organizations driven by passion thrive on the experience of seeing change happen in the service of common convictions.
  • When push comes to shove in leadership—and it will—the leader resets the equation by going back to the convictions and leaning into passion. As new people come into the movement, they must be trained in the convictions if they are to share the passion. When trouble is confronted, the leader responds consistently with the convictions in order to protect the passion.
  • The language of passion requires boldness. Leaders learn to speak of causes, not structures; of movements, not mechanics; of people, not statistics; of cherished principles, not mere policies.

Chapter 7 – Leaders Are Thinkers

  • You can be certain that the quality of your actions will never exceed the quality of your thinking.
  • Careful attention to thinking is what first sets the leader apart.
  • Like everyone else, leaders operate out of capacities such as instinct, intuition, and habit. But what sets the leader apart is the commitment to bring these very things under the control of active intellect and right patterns of thinking.
  • We lead out of authenticity and the open acknowledgment that we are doing what all leaders must do—face the facts, lean into the truth, apply the right principles, acknowledge the alternatives, and, finally, make the right decision. In other words, the leader leads by conviction.
  • The conscious denial of reality is a central danger of leadership, and the leader must defend against this temptation.
  • The leader must be unafraid of data and facts, and he must surround himself with people who know the information he needs and will give it to him.
  • The Christian leader is, by definition, committed to living in truth. This is one of the most distinctive and essential elements of Christian leadership, for it is foundational to the Christian life.
  • The Christian leader leans into truth, knowing that the truth always matters and that nothing less than the truth will do.
  • The leader is committed to the development of a comprehensive worldview based in truth and to the consistent application of truth to decision making. This is the essence of convictional leadership and the faithful operation of convictional intelligence.
  • If the right decision were always clear to everyone, we would not need leaders. Leaders must know the way the organization should be directed and the course that must be taken, but they also need the skill to motivate others to follow that lead.
  • The most effective leaders make the right decisions over and over again and develop credibility even as they gain experience.
  • 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.
  • The leader who faces the facts, leans into truth, applies the right principles, and acknowledges the alternatives will then be ready to make the decision—the right decision.

Chapter 8 ~ Leaders Are Teachers: The Effective Leader Is the Master Teacher Within a Learning Organization

  • Teachers change the way we see the world, and they often change the way we understand ourselves.
  • 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.
  • The leader who makes the greatest impact will be a master teacher who trains leaders at every level in the organization to teach with faithfulness, enthusiasm, and confidence.
  • We want to change the world by changing the way people think and then deploying them through organizational structures that set them loose in the world to accomplish great things. Leaders are the catalysts for making that happen.
  • We do not take up the responsibility of leadership without exposing ourselves to the higher standard of God’s judgment. In the secular world, leaders worry about the judgment of stockholders and stakeholders. Politicians worry about the verdict of history. As Christian leaders we know that we will face nothing less than a divine judgment on our leadership.
  • First, the teacher loves those he will teach.
  • Second, Augustine taught that the teacher must love what he teaches.
  • The third but most important thing that Augustine reminded Christian leaders was that we teach because we first love Christ, who first loved us.
  • The old theologian specified that the goal of teaching is to see every student instructed, delighted, and moved.
  • Those we lead must be instructed so that they know what they need to know in order to be effective. They cannot be faithful followers and make their contribution to the organization if they lack the necessary knowledge.
  • Leadership happens when followers develop nothing less than delight in knowing the convictions that shape the organization, seeing themselves as a part of the organization’s story, and finding themselves in its narrative. They develop their own passions within the organization and its mission, and their delight and excitement becomes contagious to others.
  • The most effective leaders are unstoppable teachers. They teach by word, example, and sheer force of passion. They transform their corporations, institutions, and congregations into learning organizations. And the people they lead are active learners who add value and passion to the work.
  • To lead with conviction is to seize the role of the teacher with energy, determination, and even excitement.
  • 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.

Chapter 9: Leadership Is All About Character

  • You can go so far as to say that character is essential to leadership.
  • People know better than to follow someone they do not trust.
  • Character is in fact the only secure foundation of leadership itself—any form of leadership.
  • We look for those whose lives are in full alignment with their convictions.
  • Our difficulty in dealing with the question of character is directly related to the fact that we have no common concept of what character really is.
  • The Christian leader has to know a far deeper and urgent call to character—a call to character that is not only a matter of public persona, nor merely a negotiation with the moral confusions of our own age. As followers of Christ, we know that there is no legitimacy to the claim that our private and public lives can be lived on different moral terms. And we also know that the moral terms to which we are accountable are not set by us; they are revealed in God’s Word.
  • The Bible reveals that character is a condition of our hearts.
  • Those we lead will expect us to live and to lead in alignment with our convictions. They will not be satisfied with character that is lived out only in public, a pretense of our real selves. They are hungry and thirsty for real leadership and real leaders. They have seen where leadership without character leads, and they want no part of it.
  • Once we state our convictions, we will be expected to live them out in public and in private. The convictions come first, but the character is the product of those convictions. If not, our leadership will crash and burn.
  • Character is indispensable to credibility, and credibility is essential to leadership.
  • When our lives are shown to be at odds with our convictions, we destroy everything we have sought to build.
  • Leaders of character produce organizations of character because character, like conviction, is infectious. Followers are drawn to those whose character attracts them as something they want for themselves.

Chapter 10: Leadership and Credibility Happens When Character and Competence are Combined

  • A good leader stands out when character is matched by competence and the central virtue of knowing what to do.
  • True credibility rests in the ability of others to trust what the leader can do.
  • When you enter the room, trust and confidence had better enter with you. If not, leadership is not happening.
  • No leader is competent to fill every leadership position in every organization.
  • You must be competent in the skills and abilities of the leadership role to which you have been called.
  • Some positions of leadership require specific educational preparation and academic credentials. Other positions of leadership require the credibility that comes through experience.
  • Credibility can be earned. As a matter of fact, that is the only way you can get it. The good news is that credibility can be earned. The bad news is that it can also be lost.
  • The effective leader cannot afford to lose credibility—in fact, he needs to stockpile it and build it in reserve.

Chapter 11:  Leaders Are Communicators

  • Leadership doesn’t happen until communication happens.
  • To be human is to communicate, but to be a leader is to communicate constantly, skillfully, intentionally, and strategically.
  • If a leader has to look for a message, his leadership is doomed.
  • The most powerful leaders are those whose beliefs function like an engine of meaning—pushing out words and messages and compelling communication.
  • If you don’t have a message, don’t try to lead. If you do have a message, your task is to communicate it effectively.
  • Communication is a form of warfare. The leader is always fighting apathy, confusion, lack of direction, and competing voices. The wise leader understands this warfare and enters it eagerly.
  • The effective leader aims for three essential hallmarks of powerful communication. The first is clarity. The goal of communication is not to impress but to convey meaning and purpose.
  • The second hallmark is consistency.
  • The third hallmark of powerful communication, courage. Communication requires courage for the very simple reason that, if your convictions mean anything at all, someone will oppose you. If opposition to your ideas and beliefs offends you, do not attempt to lead.
  • The effective leader understands that the message has to be communicated again and again and again.

Chapter 12: Leaders Are Readers -When You Find a Leader, You Find a Reader, and for Good Reason

  • When you find a leader, you have found a reader. The reason for this is simple—there is no substitute for effective reading when it comes to developing and maintaining the intelligence necessary to lead.
  • Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading.
  • The leader is constantly analyzing, considering, defining, and confirming the convictions that will rule his leadership.
  • The leader learns to invest deeply in reading as a discipline for critical thinking.
  • Your first concern is to read for understanding.
  • You should read a book or article only for what it is worth. If you find that the book is not contributing to your life and leadership, set it aside.
  • Learn to read critically.
  • As you read, ask the author questions and filter the book’s content through the fabric of your convictions. Argue with the book and its author when necessary, and agree and elaborate when appropriate.
  • The activity of marking your books adds tremendously to the value of your reading and to your retention of its contents and your thinking.
  • Reading critically also means evaluating the author’s credibility and clarity of thought.
  • The leader’s reading diet should include books covering a range of subjects, though most of us will invest first in those books that are most relevant to our work and mission.
  • If newspapers represent the first level of report and analysis, then magazines, journals, and newsletters represent the second.
  • There will never be enough time to read all that you want to read, or even all that you think you ought to read. Just keep reading. Set aside segments of time devoted to reading and grab every spare minute you can find.
  • When possible, read when you can retain and think most productively.
  • Christian leaders learn to read with discernment drawn from our deepest convictions.

Chapter 13: The Leader and Power

  • The essence of leadership is motivating and influencing followers to get the right things done—putting conviction into corporate action. This requires the exercise of power.
  • Faithful leaders understand that while they will influence the organization with their personality, they must never allow personality to be the defining mark of leadership.
  • There are two dangers here. The first is the well-known “cult of personality,” in which the persona of the leader becomes the hallmark of the organization. The other danger is that the leader will rely on personality as a substitute for conviction or competence.
  • Personality is important, but it will fall flat when conviction wanes or competence is lacking. In addition to the power of personality, power also comes from the office the leader holds.
  • A leader unwilling to exercise the responsibility of office has no business accepting that stewardship.
  • Leaders must keep one truth constantly in focus—the office you hold exists because the organization depends on it.
  • Power of office works in two ways. First, it allows leaders to define reality to outside constituencies. The one who holds the office of leadership gets to speak for the organization. Second, the power of office allows the leader to force change within the organization.
  • Any leader unwilling to force change is destined for ineffectiveness. The faithful leader uses this power sparingly, but uses it nonetheless.
  • The truth is that people within an organization feel most secure when the leader leads.
  • The most sobering thought I often have in the course of a day is that I will make decisions that will impact people’s lives.
  • If the leader’s main task is to lead by conviction, then the convictions must be more central and prominent than the leader’s personality. If the personality looms larger than the convictions, alarms should go off, and they had better be heeded.
  • The Christian leader cannot succumb to the temptations of ostentation and the glorification of power.
  • The Christian leader will serve by leading and lead by serving, knowing that the power of office and leadership is there to be used, but to be used toward the right ends and in the right manner.
  • Power and responsibility must come accountability. A leader without accountability is an accident waiting to happen.
  • The stewardship of power is one of the greatest moral challenges any leader will ever face.

Chapter 14 Leaders Are Managers.

  • That powerful observation underlines exactly what leaders must do—“put people with different skills and knowledge together to achieve common goals.” As a matter of fact, that is why leadership exists, and that is why management is essential to what leaders do.
  • While we can agree that many good managers are not really leaders in the visionary and strategic sense, leaders absolutely must manage.
  • Leaders lead by definition, but they also lead by management. There are certain management tasks that cannot be delegated, or can only be delegated with adequate supervision and oversight.
  • Healthy organizations are constantly bringing new people into their workforce. These new people will not embrace common goals by accident. There must be a structure in place to inculcate, define, and affirm these goals throughout the organization.
  • The leader’s task is to define and articulate certain values, and then work to see them driven throughout the organization.
  • Leaders must work to make the organization’s structure serve, rather than impede, the work. That requires a lot of attention to how the work is actually done, which is to say that a leader who does not know how the work is done cannot possibly lead with effectiveness.
  • Leaders instinctively gravitate to what is most important. This is good, but trouble comes when leaders fail to grasp that some simple and practical tasks can lead, if ignored or neglected, to humiliating disaster.
  • A leader who takes a hands-off approach to the budget isn’t leading, but merely suggesting. Effective leaders give intensive personal attention to the budget because that’s where the real convictions of the organization show up.
  • The effective leader deploys others within the organization to become specialists in the wide array of knowledge necessary to the total work. But that same leader has to make sure that he can at least hold an intelligent, helpful conversation with each of those leaders and managers about their work. The best leaders take this as an intellectual and organizational challenge that they grow to relish and appreciate.
  • Management by conviction is not a theory, just a commitment. That commitment means that the leader exercises management so that the convictions of the organization are honored, perpetuated, communicated, and put into combined action.

Chapter 15 Leaders Are Speakers

  •  When leaders speak, we speak for the movement, the organization, the company, the congregation, or the institution we lead. If communication is central to leadership, speech is central to communication.
  • Convictional leadership requires the communication and transmission of conviction through the leader’s voice. At times this function is conversational. More often than not, given the size and complexity of modern organizations, this requires a speech delivered before more than a handful of people.
  • Speaking is an art and a craft, not a science.
  • Leaders who are good speakers learn to use their voice as an instrument rather than a piece of equipment.
  • Aristotle broke persuasive speech down into three elements: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos refers to arguments based in the character of the speaker. Pathos refers to arguments that are intended to produce change by touching the emotions of the hearers. Logos identifies arguments designed to persuade by means of logical argument. Most leaders lean almost exclusively on logos in their speaking,
  • Aristotle knew that human beings are more often persuaded by emotional elements. For this reason, the effective leader must work at establishing a connection with the audience’s emotions as well as their intellects.
  • The effective leader combines ethos, pathos, and logos in every speech, every talk, every presentation, and every message—every time.
  • If giving a speech seems daunting, redefine public speaking as storytelling. This will help almost any speaker be more effective. People connect to stories, and the best speeches and messages lean heavily into narrative.
  • We speak in order to invite others into a narrative that grows out of deep conviction. Our confidence is that this narrative, put into action, will change lives, and sometimes even change history.
  • I follow a simple process as I get my speech, and myself, ready for the occasion. First, know what you want to say. If you do not know what you want and need to say, don’t speak. It is just that simple.
  • Second, know your audience. You need to know the anticipated size, composition, and expectations of the listeners.
  • Third, outline your message. The outline is like a road map for your speech.
  • Fourth, frame your presentation. The frame is the big picture into which your message is set—the narrative into which this speech finds its purpose and meaning.
  • Fifth, punctuate and illustrate. By punctuate, I do not refer to the mechanics of punctuating sentences. I mean you must insert particularly powerful and memorable content into your message in order to drive home certain truths, points, and convictions.
  • Sixth, get yourself ready. Do whatever you have to do to be ready.
  • Seventh, speak like you mean it. Deliver your message with confidence and zeal, letting your audience know how much you believe what you are saying and how much you want them to believe along with you.
  • Eighth, tell the audience what to do. Many speakers forget or neglect this essential step, leaving the audience informed and emotionally moved but absolutely unsure what to do about it. Do not end your message without an action plan that fits the message.

Chapter 16 Leadership as Stewardship

  • In the secular world, the horizon of leadership is often no more distant than the next quarterly report or board meeting. For the Christian leader, the frame of reference for leadership is infinitely greater. Our leadership is set within the context of eternity.
  • The most important reality that frames our understanding of leadership is nothing less than the sovereignty of God. Human beings may claim to be sovereign, but no earthly leader is anything close to being truly sovereign.
  • The bottom line is this: We are merely stewards, not lords, of all that is put into our trust. The sovereignty of God puts us in our place, and that place is in God’s service.
  • The biblical concept of a steward is simple. A steward is someone who manages and leads what is not his own, and he leads knowing that he will give an account to the Lord as the owner and ruler of all.
  • Stewards are entrusted with responsibility.
  • Christian leaders are invested with a stewardship of influence, authority, and trust that we are called to fulfill.
  • We are called to exercise dominion over creation, but not as ones who own what we are called to lead. Our assignment is to serve on behalf of another.
  • Leaders lead, but they do this knowing that they are leading on another’s behalf. Leaders—no matter their title—are servants, plain and simple.
  • Those who lead are entrusted with a stewardship that comes ultimately from God and in the end will be judged by him alone. We are given a job to do and the authority to do it. We will shipwreck our leadership if we do not remember that we are stewards, not lords, of all that we hold by trust.
  • The leader is almost always steward of more than any job description can cover. In fact, convictional leaders are called to fulfill a stewardship of breathtaking proportions.
    • We are the stewards of human lives and their welfare.
    • We are the stewards of time and opportunity.
    • We are the stewards of assets and resources.
    • We are the stewards of energy and attention.
    • We are the stewards of reputation and legacy.
    • We are the stewards of truth and teaching.
  • The requirement of stewards is that they be found faithful. That’s why leadership is only for the brave.

Chapter 17 The Leader as Decision Maker

  • Leaders simply cannot avoid making important decisions, and effective leaders stand out because they are both courageous and skilled in making the right decisions again and again.
  • Leadership is a blend of roles, responsibilities, and expectations. But the one responsibility that often matters most is the ability to make decisions—the right decisions.
  • Organizations thrive when leaders make the right decisions, and they fail when leaders make the wrong ones. What is often less obvious is the fact that organizations can suffer worse when leaders refuse to make any decision at all. Indecisiveness is one of history’s greatest leadership killers.
  • Before making a decision, the leader’s preliminary task is to determine if a decision actually has to be made. Odd as this may sound, many organizations suffer because the leader allowed a decision to be made that should never have been decided at all.
  • Leadership by conviction takes some decisions off the table before the leader gets to work.
  • Six simple steps, taken sequentially, can greatly assist any leader in this task. First, define the reality. Defining reality, as Max De Pree, an outstanding leader and author of Leadership Is an Art, reminds us, is the leader’s first task.
  • Second, identify the alternatives. Often the most obvious alternatives are the best alternatives. But at other times, the best decision may be more surprising.
  • Third, apply analysis. To analyze is simply to take apart. The leader takes the alternatives apart by applying certain tests. Convictional leadership applies the test of belief and conviction at this stage, asking the questions that frame the organization’s deepest commitments.
  • Our beliefs, our convictions, our values? Unless this question rules over all others, the organization will inevitably forfeit or compromise its convictions. Convictional analysis must be rigorous, explicit, and open.
  • Leadership by conviction means that there will be times when the organization faces an opportunity or option that every financial, numerical, and statistical analysis will suggest is a great decision. In fact, the only reason the organization and its leader should not take this opportunity is because it conflicts or compromises the organization’s beliefs and convictions. But that is more than enough to tip the scales.
  • Fourth, pause for reflection.
  • Fifth, make the decision, and make it count. Weak leaders make weak decisions. Effective leaders make solid decisions and see them through.
  • Convictional leaders make the decision, communicate it throughout the organization, and stake their reputations on it.
  • Sixth, review and learn. Leaders learn from their decisions and from the process of making them. The leader learns fast, remembers honestly, and moves on.
  • Leaders have to make decisions day by day. Convictional leaders are determined to make the right decisions, grounded in those convictions. But at the end of the day, all we can do is make the best decisions we can, knowing that the final verdict will not come from shareholders, board members, church members, or even historians, but from God.

Chapter 18 – The Moral Virtues of Leadership

Leaders are involved in one of the most morally significant callings on earth, and nothing the leader touches is without moral meaning and importance. Leadership requires the possession and cultivation of certain moral virtues that allow leadership to happen. If the leader does not demonstrate these essential virtues, disaster is certain. Leaders are subject to the same laws, moral principles, and expectations as the rest of humanity, but the moral risks are far higher for them.

  •  Honesty – Truth telling is central to leadership.

One of the greatest temptations that comes to any leader is the temptation to tell something less than the truth. We must be ready to tell the truth at all times, even when it hurts.

  • Dependability – The leader shows up when it matters, every time.

The leader is where he needs to be, always. This is not so much a statement of physical presence as it is an affirmation that the leader is always there in attention—in charge and ready to lead. The leader may have a day out of the office but never a day away from dependability.

  • Loyalty – Without loyalty, human endeavors are doomed.

If we expect followers, employees, students, members, and customers to be loyal, leaders must be loyal in advance, and consistently so. Are the people who follow your leadership afraid that you are only looking for the next opportunity? If so, you can forget loyalty. Do they see you living with less commitment to the mission than you are asking them to have? Congratulations, you just undermined loyalty. Loyalty grows where it is cultivated and admired.

  • Determination – You cannot lead without tenacity and the unconditional commitment to getting the job done.

Tenacity of purpose is what defines great leadership, and the greater the purpose, the greater the tenacity required.

  • Humility – Get this straight—leaders will be humble, or they will be humbled.

Leaders have unique abilities, but they received those talents and the ability to develop them as gifts from God, given for the good and welfare of others. The gifts were given to us in order that we might serve others. The minute we forget that and begin to believe our own publicity is the minute we set ourselves up for humiliation.

  • Humor –Humor is a public admission that leaders are completely human, and that, in itself, is a virtue.

We are not called to be comedians or humorists, but the effective leader knows that generous, self-deprecating humor is a gift that leaders can give to the people they serve.

Chapter 19: The Leader and the Media

  • But it really doesn’t matter which kind of leader you are—if you are a leader, the media is part of your world.
  • Never apologize for having a message and for wanting that message to receive the widest possible coverage and exposure. That is why you are leading. You are the steward of beliefs and convictions that your organization represents and to which you have committed your life. Your organization exists to serve the mission defined by those beliefs, and you have been charged to lead. So lead, and never apologize for leading.
  • Here is one of the keys to all communication: People simply tune out the things that don’t interest them.
  • If you send out a press release, it had better be interesting. Don’t expect an assignment editor to waste time on the boring or the ordinary.
  • If you want to get your message out through an op-ed column on the editorial pages, you had better have a good, clear point to make about an issue of very current concern, and your column had better be written well.
  • The best way to learn what kinds of news items make their way into print and what kind of columns get printed on the opinion pages is to read those same papers and magazines regularly, carefully, and strategically. There is no substitute for familiarity.
  • On the radio waves, you have one central asset—your voice.
  • You have a message, and you cannot ignore television. In terms of impact, nothing yet exceeds the nationally broadcast networks and cable news channels.
  • If you want to get your message out on these platforms, learn to face a camera with confidence, learn to immediately lead with something interesting, learn to answer the interviewer’s questions, and learn how to be warm and unflappable on the outside, even when you are frustrated and agitated on the inside. The camera reads emotions more quickly than the microphone carries words.
  • Leaders need to determine in advance what to do when a reporter calls, because you never know when one will.
  1. First, be honest.
  2. Second, be direct.
  3. Third, realize that you can say no.
  4. Fourth, respect the reporter or program host.
  5. Fifth, realize that reporters do not control the final form of a printed news story, and that radio and television reporters are also subject to editing.
  6. Sixth, realize that some media appearances don’t go as you expect, and some don’t even go.
  7. Seventh, know that everyone at every stage in this process operates out of his or her own worldview.
  8. Eighth, building on what was just stated, know that explaining what you believe is the very mission that brought you to this position of leadership.

Chapter 20 ~ The Leader as Writer

  • Leaders who want to make a difference, and to make that difference last, must write. You can write this down—leaders are writers.
  • When matters central to the organization’s mission and convictions are at stake, leaders must write with care and concern. Words matter.
  • Leadership is about communication, and much of that communication is necessarily written, but far too many leaders undermine their leadership with poor writing.
  • When the leader writes, he writes to inform, to motivate, to explain, and to inspire. Sometimes the leader has to clarify, correct, or even sound an alarm. Whatever the context, words matter, and the effective leader works hard to develop the ability to write clearly, cogently, and powerfully.
  • For Christian leaders, the commitment to words is a matter of discipleship and personal devotion, for our faith is communicated by words. As John Piper has memorably said, we have to be willing to die for sentences. We even have to put ourselves on the line for single words.
  • Average leaders are satisfied to use average words in an average way. Effective leaders, those who aspire to lasting and extended influence, will learn to use words as arrows fired from a bow, carefully chosen and aimed in order to accomplish a purpose.
  • By a careless use of language, leaders can end up miscommunicating or failing to say what they mean at all.
  • Leaders write because words matter and because the written word matters longer and reaches farther than the words we speak.

Chapter 22 ~ The Leader and Time

  • Most leaders know that time is precious and that it is, in a sense, not on our side.
  • Leaders understand that time is working against them, and that success or failure depends upon the right deployment and stewardship of time.
  • Drucker advised leaders to carefully analyze where their time goes, convinced (rightly) that much of the executive’s time was wasted on peripheral matters. Wisely, he also urged leaders to allocate significant discretionary time for the thinking and planning that are central to leadership.
  • The first thing we learn about time in the Bible is that God created it and that time is contrasted with eternity.
  • The Christian leader understands his calling in terms of God’s eternal purposes and plan.
  • We are not limited to the horizon of earthly time. We want our lives to serve an eternal purpose.
  • The second truth the Christian leader knows is that our time is in God’s hands.
  • The Christian leader knows that a day of judgment is coming, when every minute of our lives will be exposed to God’s righteous judgment. That is a sobering thought, but it underlines the importance of our faithfulness in the stewardship of the time we are given.
  • So how are we to exercise the faithful stewardship of time? The first task, as Peter Drucker reminds us, is to be honest about how we use it. Time-wasters, he advises, “abound in the life of every executive.”
  • The effective leader learns how to be available at the right times—the times that will make the most difference.
  • Leadership by conviction affirms the reality that leadership is an intellectual enterprise. It is more than intellectual, of course, but never less. And intellectual work requires large blocks of uninterrupted time. Planning, strategy, conception, analysis, evaluation—all of these are intellectual activities. Add to these the task of framing messages and the ongoing responsibility to continue learning.
  • Faithful leaders know that time has to be protected or it will be lost. Once lost, it can never be regained. This requires hard decisions and maturity.
  • The leader’s stewardship of time fits within the context of the leader’s life and times.
  • Some of us do our best thinking in the morning, while others do better at night. As Drucker advised, lean into your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses.
  • When the leader has discretion, he should plan the stewardship of time so that strengths are maximized and weaknesses are minimized.
  • The faithful leader knows that time must be measured against the backdrop of God’s eternal character and purposes. Everything humans build will one day be reduced to ruins, but our lives and our leadership will, in Christ, have eternal consequences and impact.
  • The leader knows a time to work and a time to rest, a time to plan and a time to act, a time to read and a time to speak, a time to play and a time to fight.

Chapter 23: Leadership that Endures

  • 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.
  • The most effective leaders know to stay on the job, determined to see the task done.
  • Short terms for leaders are the rule rather than the exception.
  • The average tenure of corporate leaders is amazingly short, and their leadership impact is frighteningly temporary. If you want to make a lasting difference, you had better make the commitment to endure.
  • Leadership is an endurance test that will demand the best of anyone.
  • Endurance is what keeps the leader on the job, day in and day out.
  • Endurance not only makes demands of leaders, it also offers the blessing of a long memory and a longer period of evaluation.
  • Leadership requires maturing, learning, adapting, rethinking, and retooling. None of these things come fast or easily.
  • Convictional leaders prize endurance for one other fundamental reason—the endurance of truth. The truths we hold and the beliefs we cherish take the form of convictions that frame every aspect of reality. Our mission is to see these convictions known, believed, and translated into meaningful combined action.

Chapter 24 – The Leader and Death

  • Christians understand death to be the result of human sin and the final enemy that is defeated by Christ. But as long as this age continues, death comes to us all.
  • We lead with the knowledge that our time is limited, and that someone else will inevitably take over for us.
  • Leadership, in other words, is perishable.
  • There is no place as humbling as a cemetery—and there is no place more likely to remind the leader of the limits of one’s leadership.
  • A legacy is what is left in the wake of a great leader. The leader is gone from the scene, but his influence remains essential to the direction and culture of the work he led. Once again, conviction is central.
  • What matters is that the convictions survive.
  • Remember that leadership is conviction transformed into united action. If the convictions are right, the right actions will follow.
  • The leader who aims at a legacy aims to perpetuate conviction. If the conviction is truly perpetuated, all the rest will follow. If the convictions are not perpetuated, none of the rest really matters.
  • In truth, there are no indispensable people, only indispensable convictions. The convictions came before us and will last when we are gone. Truth endures when nothing else can. This is the only real assurance that we have.
  • If we are faithful stewards of the leadership entrusted to us, we will see ourselves as setting the stage for greater things to come.
  • There are several strategic moves a leader can make that will greatly assist in perpetuating conviction. The first is to drive conviction into the genetic identity of the organization.
  • Second, hire on the basis of conviction.
  • Third, promote on the basis of conviction.
  • Fourth, let convictional strength be the deciding factor in building your leadership team.
  • Fifth, document and communicate conviction everywhere you can. The key issue at this point is the perpetuation of conviction so that the truths you have given your life to serve stay at the heart of the organization, church, or institution.

Next week we’ll finish our review of this book.

CHAPTER 25 – The Leader’s Legacy

  • The leader unconcerned about leaving a legacy is a leader who will leave the job undone.
  • Every leader must understand that whatever we contribute, build, and dream can be lost more quickly than we can imagine.
  • The leader’s central concern with regard to legacy is the perpetuation of conviction.
  • The convictional leader strives to the end to see fundamental beliefs taken up by others, who will then join in the mission that grows out of those convictions.
  • The evidence indicates that most leaders are not very good at managing succession and most organizations do little more than hope for the best.
  1. The leader’s first task is to make certain that the organization’s core commitments and convictions are shared by those who will hire the new leader.
  2. Second, the leader bears the responsibility of building a leadership team of outstanding individuals who fully share the leader’s convictions and vision.
  3. Third, the leader must communicate these convictions to the organization’s various constituencies, laying a solid foundation for a healthy succession.
  4. Fourth, the leader should strive to drive the convictions and beliefs so deeply into the culture and ethos of the organization that alteration or abandonment is seen as betrayal.
  5. Fifth, this means that every hiring decision is a legacy decision.
  • The ideal of retirement seems to be a life of leisure and ease, occasionally interrupted by travel and entertainment. That is a fundamentally dangerous concept.
  • For Christians the issue should be redeployment rather than retirement.
  • John Piper puts this new vision of our lives into clear focus when he writes, Finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement. It means being so satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Christ that we are set free from the cravings that create so much emptiness and uselessness in retirement. Instead, knowing that we have an infinitely satisfying and everlasting inheritance in God just over the horizon of life makes us zealous in our few remaining years here to spend ourselves in the sacrifices of love, not the accumulation of comforts.
  • The legacy I aspire to is the perpetuation of conviction and the furtherance of a worthy mission—nothing less.
  • Your legacy is all that remains when you are gone. Do you have any idea what that legacy will be? Answering that question honestly is part of what it means to have the conviction to lead.

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