Leading, Reading, Marking

Last spring a friend and I read through parts of Albert Mohler’s The Conviction to Lead.  It’s a basic sort of introduction to leadership from a Christian perspective.  We thought the book was OK, but not outstanding.  The 25 principles were not explained with much detail, and what was explained were basic leadership virtues that we had heard of elsewhere.  I haven’t read any of Mohler’s other work, but it seemed like this was sort of a “greatest hits” summary of Mohler’s leadership thoughts/principles.

There were some helpful parts to the book, however.  One section that caught my attention was his short chapter on how leaders are readers.  How should a leader read?  He answers this question like this (I’ve edited it for length):

1) Your first concern is to read for understanding.  If you don’t, reading will add little to your life and leadership abilities.  Before you start to read a book, ask certain questions about it.  What kind of book is it?  What do you need to know about the author?  What is the book’s purpose and subject matter, and why are you reading it?  If you find that the book is not contributing to your life and leadership, set it aside.  The world is filled with books and other reading material.

2) Learn to read critically.  Reading is not merely an exchange of information and ideas.  It is a conversation between the author and the reader; it is a silent conversation.  Treat the book as a notepad with printed words.  Make the book your own by marking points of agreement and disagreement, highlighting particularly important sections of the text, and underlining and diagramming where helpful.  Unless your specific copy has some historical or emotional value, mark it up with abandon.

Speaking of writing in books, Mohler adds:

“The activity of marking your books adds tremendously to the value of your reading and to your retention of its contents and your thinking.  I can go back to a book I read a half century ago and reenter my experience of reading that book for the first time.  My notations and remarks make this possible. Often when I reread a book I read many years ago, I am struck by how I read it somewhat differently now, marking different passages and asking the author different questions. …Though most e-readers offer some form of highlighting and notation, the experience is simply not the same as reading with pen in hand.”

Albert Mohler, The Conviction to Lead (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2012), 101-102.

shane lems