I sat down and looked over Nehemiah’s shoulder for a couple of hours last week, refreshing my mind on the things he recorded during a critical segment of his life. As I reread this account of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, it began to dawn on me that this book is a veritable storehouse of insights on leadership and should be required reading for all who are in leadership or wish to be. I have found no less than seven qualities Nehemiah demonstrated as a leader.
First, he had a passion for the project. Whatever the project may be, passion, vision, enthusiasm, drive, and determination are absolutely essential. Nehemiah could hardly sleep as he pictured the need and imagined himself involved in accomplishing the objective.
Second, he had the ability to motivate others. What good is leadership if it cannot move people to action? Leaders like Nehemiah inspire others to do their best.
Third, he had an unswerving confidence in God. Nehemiah’s journal is filled with prayers, constantly reminding the people of the Lord’s presence and protection.
Fourth, he was resilient and patient through opposition. Nehemiah endured it all—sarcasm, suspicion, gossip, mockery, threats, false accusations—but he refused to let that sidetrack him.
Fifth, he had a practical, balanced grip on reality. Nehemiah had the workers stay at the job with diligence, but he also stationed others to guard the wall from attack. Good leaders maintain that needed balance between being positive and being aware of the negative.
Sixth, he had a willingness to work hard and remain unselfish. Nehemiah is a pattern of servant-hearted leadership.
Seventh, he had the discipline to finish the job. When the task loses its luster, good leaders don’t rush elsewhere. As Nehemiah recorded, “So the wall was completed . . . in fifty-two days” (6:15). Mission accomplished!
Good, solid Christian leaders are as much in demand today as in Nehemiah’s time. Perhaps more so. The problem is not a decline in opportunities but a dearth of candidates.
Charles R. Swindoll, Day by Day with Charles Swindoll (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005).