Last week we were looking at some leadership qualities of Nehemiah, a man who was sent by the Persian king to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. We saw that Nehemiah was a man of prayer and a man of compassion – both important qualities for any godly leader to possess. This week I want to look at a couple of more characteristics of Nehemiah that made him an effective leader.
When he arrived in Jerusalem, he showed great patience. He came with an entourage from the king, which no doubt attracted a lot of attention. But instead of immediately announcing his intentions, Nehemiah spends several days getting a feel for the situation, even doing some inspection work at night so as not to tip his hand as to why he was there. Then he revealed to the people his plan and how the job was going to get done (Neh. 2:11-18).
Good leaders do that, especially going into new situations. When I was a teacher, our seminary got a new president who lacked a background in higher education and was unknown to most of the faculty. The school had gone through a number of administrative changes and the staff was understandably guarded and skeptical. But he showed the patience of Nehemiah by not pretending to have the answers. Instead he got to know each of us personally, asking us questions and giving us a chance to know him. Consequently, when he revealed his plan for major changes a year later, everyone understood what he was doing, why he was doing it, and the need for it to be done.
Another quality Nehemiah demonstrates is an understanding of human nature. As he sets up his work force to begin building the wall, he has all parts of the wall being worked on at the same time, with work crews put near their places of occupation or their homes (Neh. 3). This accomplishes several things: 1) People are working on the section of wall and/or gate most important to them personally. This motivates them to not only want to build it, but to build it well. 2) Signs of progress are now being seen all over the city, thus encouraging the hearts of a discouraged people. 3) Neighbors working on similar projects around the city are going to naturally feel some friendly competition to finish their section faster and better than anyone else’s.
Good leaders also know how to motivate. They understand what will excite their followers and get them behind a project. They know people are naturally concerned about how it is going to affect them personally. Nehemiah had them working for their own protection and pride (in the best sense of that word).
Again, the challenge: Do we possess these qualities as leaders? Do we jump into situations and flex our authority muscles simply because we want to see things happen, or do we have the patience to wait until we fully understand the situation and devise a plan that works? And how well do we know our people? Do we really comprehend what makes them tick and what brings out the best in them, or only assume that we do? If we are going to be wise and truly Christian in our leadership styles, we need to ask God to develop these traits of patience and understanding in each one of us. And He will.