We’re back one last time with Dr. Albert Mohler, the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and author of the book, The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters.
Dr. Mohler, you have a prolific output when it comes to content in podcasting, print, digital, broadcast, social media, video, and audio — the whole spectrum. In your book you write, “Although I write books and articles, speak all over the country, and appear in the media, nothing comes close to the reach of my blog.” What has most surprised you about the leadership possibilities of the digital age?
You know, Tony, this is something that didn’t exist when I assumed my current post of leadership 23 years ago. When I came into this office as president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and all of its related institutions, there was no world wide web that business thought of on an hourly, moment-by-moment instantaneous basis. We had a web address very quickly, but it didn’t matter.
And then along came different facets of the digital world including blogging. I was one of the very first to start because it struck me that this is the instant way, the almost universal way that you can reach people without buffers, without barriers, without needing a massive platform that is under the stewardship of someone else. As you know, I was a newspaper editor. I spent a lot of time in the media world. I do a lot of work in television, but someone else owns all those channels. I had for about a decade a nationally broadcast daily radio program. I enjoyed doing that immensely, but that was someone else’s platform. The blog enables you to have your own platform. And it is amazing the quick response you are able to do in a blog is often, I think the secret.
One of the things I hear on a daily basis is someone saying, “Look, you know, I went to your website because I had a good hunch you would be talking about this today. Something happened yesterday. Something happened this morning. We want to know how to think about this.” And that is an incredible stewardship, but it is something that is new and, you know, for the sake of Christ’s Church it is an incredible opportunity, because just remember. Almost all of those platforms we have been talking about that we were previously dependent upon are in someone else’s hands. And the fact is there is a huge democratization of this with the digital world and there is just a huge opening. And one other thing from a Christian perspective, you know, we get to leap over barriers that those other platforms don’t leap over. There is a Great Wall of China. And there is even a great firewall of China. But I hear constantly from people behind that firewall that they are reading my stuff. And, you know, that is an incredible stewardship.
It sure is an incredible stewardship, and a great leadership opportunity. One of the major themes in your book is that leadership is bound up and tied up with words. Leaders cannot lead without words, therefore leaders must be skillful with words. Expand on that point.
What I say in the book that I think is really important and that is: Where you find a leader, you are going to find a reader, a speaker and a writer, because words are the most important tools of our craft and the most important means of conveying leadership by conviction. And so leaders need to lean into words and obviously those words have to be the right words. They have to be well-seasoned words and they have to be words of authenticity and they have to be words that lead to action. But just try doing that without words.
And so one of the things I think we face is that we are in a linguistically impoverished age, an age in which many young people are barely literate. That doesn’t mean I am insulting their intelligence. They are incredibly intelligent. They are incredibly digitally adept. But when it comes to the tasks of reading and writing and speaking, they have got a lot to learn and leadership, wherever it is found, even now in the digital age, whether it is, you know, Steve Jobs getting up and personally introducing a new product as he did for Apple or it is the, you now, the political candidate on the campaign trail or it is the principal at the school, the head master gathering everyone together and saying “This is what it is all about,” or the pastor preaching. It is still about words.
It sure is, and part of why I wrote my book Lit!, a little book on reading, was because I was surprised by the number of young men who approached me who seemed completely unskilled at book reading, and many of them who had no examples of dads who read. You were gracious to endorse Lit! — thank you! How do we get young men to read?
Well, it is a great book and I think it was particularly good coming from you, because, you know, you were able to get at some things, given your own experience, I thought, were just fantastic. Here’s the thing. I think we need to get men reading in order that they can learn how to not only to read, but how to use the skills that you learn as a part of that discipline and be able to apply them in other arenas of life.
And it has to be a seductive process. I get to see that every single day who probably never read a book through, who are now avid readers. And it is because reading, as you well know and as you have so well described in your own book, is something that becomes more powerful in one’s life once you begin to understand how it changes your thinking, how it feeds your soul, how it hones your mind and how it gives you the ability to turn around and to convey to others: Well, you wouldn’t have had the tools to accomplish that by, if you weren’t a reader.