How to Become a Better Reader

One of my favorite books on leadership comes from Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and host of The Briefing podcast. His book, The Conviction to Lead, walks through 25 principles that are positively indispensable.

Dr. Mohler writes on virtues such as convictional intelligence, passionate leadership, character, and credibility. Number twelve pertains to our reading and makes the claim that those who lead should read. He writes:1

tcl2Reading is like any other skill—most people are satisfied to operate at a low level. For some, the skill of reading seems to come naturally, while others have to work hard to develop it. The key is to keep improving over a lifetime.

Sadly, we are grooming an entire subset of Christians who rarely read. Yes, it is hard work, but for whatever reason (and there are many), people are not making the investment where it really counts—on the inside. They have grown weak by not flexing their reading muscles.

Nowhere do we see this played out more than on our mobile devices. In this digital age we are more apt to scroll down a social media newsfeed than to unplug and read critically.

I’m not condemning our apps, mind you, only putting them in our place. Think about it. This would make for an interesting tally at the end of each day, time-spent-scrolling (TSS). What was your TSS yesterday?

The careful reader is not reading merely to receive data. The leader learns to invest deeply in reading as a discipline for critical thinking.


Dr. Mohler provides us with a variety of ways to improve upon our reading. While this chapter (and book) is written to leaders, these principles are truly applicable to every one of us—leaders and followers alike.

1. Set aside the time.

[R]eading is essential, as it is the most important means of developing and deepening understanding. That is why leaders learn to set aside a significant amount of time for reading. We simply cannot lead without a constant flow of intellectual activity in our minds, and there is no substitute for reading when it comes to producing this flow.

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. Think of reading as a silent but intensive conversation. As you read, ask the author questions and filter the book’s content through the fabric of your convictions.

3. Write in your books.

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 text, and underlining and diagramming where helpful. Unless your specific copy of the book has some historical or emotional value, mark it up with abandon.

4. Think of reading like eating.

In other words, pay attention to your diet. For the Christian, the highest priority is the Word of God. Our spiritual maturity will never exceed our knowledge of the Bible, which is an especially urgent principle for Christian leaders.

These four were gleaned from my re-reading of the chapter, and there are plenty more to be found within its pages! Set aside some time, read a book critically, mark it up, and grow in godliness.

1 Mohler, Albert. The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles For Leadership That Matters (Bloomington: Bethany House Publishers, 2012). 99-103.