Your team is faltering, accomplishing the goal seems impossible, and you have opposition from all sides. What do you do? Where do you look for help? You look to an expert leader from the 5th century BC, accustomed to adversity. From corporate to church leadership, practicing these fifteen principles of Nehemiah will make your leadership—and your team—stand firm.
- Determine to Make a Difference– An effective leader does not idly sit and watch her team suffer. She compassionately believes she can make a difference. She takes responsibility by making their problems her problems. Nehemiah mourned, fasted, and prayed for days when he heard of the ruins of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1:4)
- Pray Effectively– An effective leader’s prayer life includes adoration, confession, and petition. Nehemiah’s prayer to the Lord acknowledged God’s power, recalled God’s promises, and confessed the sins of the Israelites (including his own) before he made petitions to the Lord. (Nehemiah 1:5-11)
- Pray First– An effective leader spends time in prayer prior to initiating any plan. Nehemiah sought the Lord in prayer before he moved forward and took action. (Nehemiah 1:5-11)
- Pray Without Ceasing– An effective leader seeks the Lord’s wisdom in the heat of the moment. Nehemiah prayed before answering the king. (Nehemiah 2:4)
- Give Glory Properly– An effective leader gives God the glory when she experiences success. She does not claim success is a result of her strength. Nehemiah acknowledged it was God’s gracious hand that had brought about the king’s favor. (Nehemiah 2:8)
- Be Bold, Honest, and Courageous – An effective leader displays humility, honesty, courage, and decisiveness in critical moments. Nehemiah answered the king honestly, but respectfully. He asked for the king’s permission to leave for Jerusalem and for the king’s assistance. (Nehemiah 2:4-9)
- Be Wise: Do Your Research – An effective leader does the necessary research in order to have a full understanding of what is required for a project, prior to starting a plan and rallying others. As such, an effective leader displays wisdom. Nehemiah inspected Jerusalem’s walls during the night prior to making public what God had put on his heart. (Nehemiah 2:11-16)
- Motivate and Inspire Others– An effective leader inspires others toward a common goal. Nehemiah spoke to the people, pointing out the main problems, the solution, God’s gracious hand on him, and the king’s support. (Nehemiah 2:17-18)
- Let God Deal With Your Enemies– An effective leader responds to criticism appropriately by acknowledging she works for the Lord. Nehemiah received much criticism regarding his plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s response, “God will give us success.” (Nehemiah 2:20)
- Organize then Delegate– An effective leader organizes and manages teams well by appropriately delegating areas of responsibility. As a result, each team remains focused on their portion of work and the overall project does not overwhelm. Nehemiah organized the builders of the wall into different groups. The groups were teamed together to focus on specific sections of the wall. (Nehemiah 3)
- Encourage Confidence – An effective leader maintains proper perspective during adversity and continues to encourage the team. In response to opposition, Nehemiah and the people prayed to the Lord regarding their enemies. Nehemiah told them not to be afraid and to remember the Lord, for “Our God will fight for us!” (Nehemiah 4:4-6; 4:9; 4:14; 4:20)
- Hold Fast to Proper Principles– An effective leader feels anger at injustice. She upholds right values. Nehemiah was angered when he heard how the officials treated the people. Nehemiah confronted them of their wrongdoing and demanded they return the people’s rightful property. (Nehemiah 5:6-12)
- Stand in the Frontlines – An effective leader takes on the attitude of a servant, serving alongside the team, leading by example. Nehemiah did not eat the food allotted to the governor, nor did he take food, wine, or money from the people. Furthermore, he was personally involved in the work. (Nehemiah 5:15-16)
- Stand Firm – An effective leader stands firm in the face of opposition, seeking strength from the Lord. Nehemiah received significant opposition time and time again. But each time he asked God to strengthen his hands. (Nehemiah 6:2-4; 6:8-11)
- Execute Action per Proper Principles– An effective leader is uncompromising in his convictions. Nehemiah acted with executive ability, quick action, and thus brought order and reform to Jerusalem. He purified the house of God, restored the Levites to their priestly duties, and assigned appropriate people to required stations in the house of God. He also rebuked any practices that opposed the Mosaic Law. (Nehemiah 13)
Your leadership challenges are no different than Nehemiah’s. Reading the book of Nehemiah provides inspiration and motivation. His integrity shined bright as he decisively determined to make a difference. He led by example—humbly, faithfully, and with great courage—shoulder-to-shoulder with his people. He experienced intense opposition, yet he did not falter. We can learn much by his example.
Personal Application: Which of Nehemiah’s leadership principles will you put into practice?