I want to be a leader who matters, to lead in a way that makes a difference precisely because these convictions matter. If you think about it, nearly every leader who is now remembered for making a difference in history was a leader whose convictions about life, liberty, truth, freedom, and human dignity changed history.
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.
How could any Christian leader be satisfied with anything less than this? Positions, offices, and titles fade faster than ink.
I once took my son, Christopher, on a trip to New York City. At several points, we found ourselves looking at statues and monuments to men who were, at some point, famous or powerful. Most have faded from all memory, and their likenesses now blend in with the New York landscape, with millions passing by without even a second’s notice.
Most Americans consider the president of the United States to hold the highest office of secular leadership imaginable. But how many Americans can name even twenty or thirty of the forty-five men who have held that office? When was the last time you heard someone mention Chester A. Arthur or William Henry Harrison?
We do remember those who were known for their convictions and for the courage that those convictions produced. This same principle can be extended to every office and position of leadership imaginable. Without conviction, nothing really matters, and nothing of significance is passed on.
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. Far too much of what passes for leadership today is mere management. You might be able to manage without convictions, but you cannot really lead.
For Christian leaders, this focus on conviction is of even greater importance. We cannot lead in a way that is faithful to Christ and effective for Christ’s people if we are not deeply invested in Christian truth. We cannot faithfully lead if we do not first faithfully believe—and if we are not deeply committed to Christian truth.
At the same time, there are many Christians who feel called to lead and are passionately committed to all the right truths, but they are simply not sure where to go from here. 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 to us, frame our understandings, and propel us to action.
The Apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to know that the gospel had come to them, “not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5). As a Christian leader, that is what I hope and pray is true of me—and of you also. I want to lead “with full conviction.”