The issues of being a leader and the questions of leadership characteristics are as old as mankind. From the fall in the garden of Eden through the news of today, we often see the devastating results from listening to and following false leaders. We also know past and present leaders whose tremendous examples are worthy of our attention and imitation.
Where do we go to increase our knowledge of how to be an effective and influential leader? How do we learn to model the characteristics of a leader with integrity? If we search Amazon for a book on leadership, more than 60,000 choices appear. Yet as Christ followers, we have one book, the Holy Bible, that offers the very best examples of what leadership looks like through stories of both great and poor leaders.
When we view the world from a biblical perspective, we understand two truths: First, “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). Second, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). We use the Bible as our guide.
My favorite book of the Bible containing examples of great leadership is the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah gives us three principles that serve us well in any leadership position we hold.
- Start with God. When Nehemiah heard the survivors of the exile from Jerusalem were in great trouble, and that the wall was broken down and the gates destroyed by fire, he immediately turned to the Lord with fasting and prayer. The Lord provided an opportunity for Nehemiah to present to King Artaxerxes a request to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the wall. When the king asked Nehemiah what was needed, because of the time spent with the Lord and thinking through what would be necessary, Nehemiah was prepared. He asked the king to write letters on his behalf to meet project needs (Nehemiah 2:7-8). Nehemiah sought the Lord, thought through the project, and was prepared to make his request of the king. Do you seek the Lord first when faced with a new project or challenge?
- Demonstrate you care. It’s a common adage—people will not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Nehemiah spent time understanding the situation and the full extent of the devastation. He did this before sharing what God told him to undertake (Nehemiah 2:11-18). As Nehemiah laid out the plan for Jerusalem, the people gathered around him because he took the time to understand them. When it was time for the work to be done, Nehemiah worked right beside them. In fact, he, his brothers and his servants did not change their clothes or put away their weapons (Nehemiah 4:13-23). By taking the time to get a clear picture of the task and working side by side with others, Nehemiah demonstrated he cared about the people. How would your team respond if asked about your care for them?
- People are important. The entire third chapter of Nehemiah is devoted to outlining who did the work. Nehemiah had a lot going on; a huge wall to rebuild from rubble is not a simple task. Yet he took the time to carefully record who was building the wall. He knew them—their names and occupations, as well as the parts of the wall each person was rebuilding. Since God breathed out this record, we understand the people doing the work are important. How well do you know your team? This is one of many leadership examples in the Bible, a book that offers us Godly wisdom as we lead.
Julie Nimmons is a former CEO of Schutt Sports, an executive coach and president of EXO Living, LLC. This article appeared in a publication for Fellowship of Christian Athletes.