Leadership books focusing merely on pragmatic managerial principles abound, but few examine the heart, mind, and character of the leader from a biblical perspective. That’s where Albert Mohler’s newest book comes in. The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters is his best work so far. Here is a clear, passionate call to leadership that is distinctively Christian.

After fresh milk sits in a refrigerated container, the cream—the most valuable, exceptionally good part—separates itself and floats to the top. Here is some of the cream that rose to the top of the milk bucket in the first half of the book.

Leadership Requires Conviction

  • “When a leader walks into the room, a passion for truth had better enter with him….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.”
  • “Life is too short to give much attention to leaders who stand for little or nothing, leaders who are looking for the next program or riding the latest leadership fad, trying on idea after idea but driven by no deep convictions.”
  • “The Christian leader must have mental reflexes that correspond to biblical truth.”
  • “Insiders at Apple have described Steve Jobs as a master of intuition in matters of style and aesthetics. They tell of him holding the prototype of the iPhone in his hands, closing his eyes, and running his hands over each surface and angle, ordering modifications until it felt just right to his touch. He just knew how it was supposed to feel. The Christian leader must develop the right intuitions about matters of far greater importance, for you hold something much more important than in iPhone in your hands and in your trust.”

Leaders Understand Narrative and the Biblical Worldview

  • “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.”
  • “We have to be faithful in the discipleship of the mind before we can expect faithfulness and maturity in those we lead.”

Passion Is Indispensable to Leadership

  • “If passion could be made into a pill, every leader would take it and distribute it to every member of their organization. It doesn’t work that way, of course. We cannot buy passion, nor can we simply decide to be passionate. Passion must arise out of conviction. It cannot come any other way.”
  • “The passionate leader is driven by the knowledge that the right beliefs, aimed at the right opportunity, can lead to earth-shaking changes.”
  • “The most faithful and effective pastors are those who are driven by deep and energizing convictions. Their preaching and teaching are fueled by their passionate beliefs and sense of calling. With eternity hanging in the balance, they know what to do.”

Leaders Think and Teach

  • “Before anything else, leadership is an intellectual activity.”
  • “The leader develops a disciplined mind, committed to Christian truth and guided by scriptural principles.”
  • “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.”
  • “Teachers change the way we see the world, and they often change the way we understand ourselves.”
  • “Every great leader is a great teacher, and the greatest teachers seize every opportunity to teach well.”
  • “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.”

The Character, Credibility and Communication of a Leader Matters

  • “We know that character matters when we hire a baby-sitter. How can it not matter when we are calling a leader?”
  • “Leadership happens when character and competence are combined.”
  • “Leadership doesn’t happen until communication happens….Leaders communicate because they cannot not communicate, and their message flows out of them as naturally as a geyser releases its energy. This is the essence of convictional leadership.”
  • “When a true leader shows up, we already know what he is going to say.”

Leaders are Readers

  • “[T]here is no substitute for effective reading when it comes to developing and maintaining the intelligence necessary to lead.”
  • “Leaders read even when no one else seems to be reading. Author Mary Higgins Clark was once a flight attendant with Pan American. Clark noticed that on flights at that time almost everyone on the plane was carrying a book. ‘Now,’ she says, ‘everyone seems to be carrying a computer or looking at the television.’ Everyone, that is, except leaders.”
  • “Leaders know that reading is essential, as it is the most important means of developing and deepening understanding.”
  • “Unless your specific copy of the book has some historical or emotional value, mark it up with abandon.”

Later in the week (hopefully), I will post some of my highlights from the second half of Mohler’s book. The Conviction to Lead is the best book on leadership that I’ve read in a long time. You should get yourself a copy, read it, and mark it up with abandon.