Seven Leadership Lessons that Apply to You

When most folks hear the term leader they think of presidents, prime ministers, pastors, teachers, and CEOs. But very few think of themselves. And yet, it’s true. You are a leader. As a Christian, you are an influencer for Christ, an ambassador for the Lord, and a change-agent for the gospel of God’s grace. In fact, I have discovered in the book of Nehemiah seven principles of leadership that apply to you. Nehemiah’s example offers principles you can apply immediately to your sphere of influence.

The first principle involves a passion for the project. Passion includes vision, enthusiasm, drive, determination, and creativity. People with passion can grasp the big picture without becoming enmeshed in or preoccupied with all the details. Nehemiah could hardly sleep as he imagined himself accomplishing God’s objective. His passion was off the chart.

The second principle includes an ability to motivate others. Getting along well with others is a crucial part of leadership. This would include such skills as verbalising ideas, dreams, and concerns; articulating goals succinctly and simply; and demonstrating grace with a heavy dose of enthusiasm and encouragement. Leaders who motivate always inspire others to do their best. They quickly affirm and remember to give credit where credit is due. Nehemiah was strong in all those qualities.

The third principle is having an unswerving confidence in God. Nehemiah’s journal is filled with prayers—silent ones, short ones, and specific ones. He never failed to remind the people of the Lord’s presence and protection. Leaders who are authentic will consistently turn others’ attention to the true Source of strength—the One who can accomplish the impossible. Their faith is contagious. While they may occasionally doubt their own ability, they do not doubt God’s invincible commitment to His work.

Resilience and patience through opposition mark the fourth principle. Nehemiah endured it all: sarcasm, suspicion, gossip, mockery, threats, anonymous notes, false accusations—you name it. Sound familiar? None of it moved Nehemiah. No leader can survive if he or she cannot remain patient and resilient through criticism. It is important to be firm in purpose without becoming cranky, vengeful, or mean-spirited.

The fifth principle to adopt is a practical, balanced grip on reality. While the good leader may have dreams and ideas, he or she doesn’t live in a dreamworld of ideals. The actual facts—the hard pieces of evidence—are in clear focus. Nehemiah told the workers who were rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall to stay at their jobs. He, at the same time, wisely stationed others to protect the wall from attack. Smart. Discerning. Tough. He acted without overreacting. Good leaders maintain that needed balance between staying positive and keeping aware of the negative.

Number six is a willingness to work hard and remain unselfish. Most Christian leaders have at least one thing in common: diligence. They also know the value of calling it a day. (Diligence and workaholism are not synonyms.) Because of his hard work, Nehemiah was appointed to be “governor of Judah” (Nehemiah 5:14), even before the wall was rebuilt. He accepted his appointment humbly, refusing special treatment and willingly sacrificing for the good of the people. Nehemiah could have led a clinic on servant leadership.

Finally, leaders must have the discipline to finish the job. Good leaders are finishers. They know how to concentrate on essentials without allowing perfectionistic details to block the path. I am certain that some of the wall’s stones were a tad crooked, and a few of the joints may have been loose. Perhaps a gate or two wasn’t perfectly level, and it’s possible a hinge or two squeaked . . . but that baby got done. Mission accomplished. The end. Done! (I love that word.)

And when the task is finished, good leaders celebrate . . . they have fun! In Nehemiah’s case, they had a blast walking on the wall, marching and dancing, shouting and singing. What a grand and glorious party!

Christian leaders with character continue to be in demand. Ezekiel recorded God’s search for leaders who would “stand in the gap in the wall [of righteousness] so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land,” but, tragically, He “found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30). God’s search continues today. Let’s determine to be the women and men for whom God is searching to stand in the gap. Let’s be the Nehemiahs of this generation—Christians who get things done for God’s glory, standing strong on rock-solid principles of leadership.

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Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.