4 Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah

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Good leaders attract followers, and they are able to take others where they would not go on their own and move them toward a common cause or vision. Does this just happen?

 

I have lived long enough to know that few books were written on Leadership prior to the 1990’s. Just in recent decades, leadership has vaulted to the forefront of organizational discussion, classroom research, faith group meetings and publishing house caucuses across the world. Leadership tended to define itself better in person than on a page, and usually with an “I’m the boss and you are not” attitude. And yet sound, more effective demonstrations of healthy leadership are as old as antiquity. We can find sound examples of outstanding leadership in readings written years ago!

 

Today, leadership guru’s have been revered. Men like Warren Bennis, John Maxwell, Terry Anderson, Bob Buford, Ceril Barber and Jim Collins. Books on the topic now abound in this leadership revolutionary age. One may wonder “why it has taken so long to be addressed? Maybe it is because good leadership is one of those qualities that you recognize when you see it, but it is difficult to describe. We tend to find the answers to plaguing questions only when we begin to look specifically for them.

 

A great place to read between the lines and find the nuggets of good leadership is in the biblical book of Nehemiah. Looking at the life of someone who led with excellence can help us draw a few conclusions. Nehemiah, the great Israelite leader, offers us scores of key lessons on leadership if we take the time to scrutinize his role as a leader. Let me share four general key lessons in leadership for anyone looking for guidance.

 

  1. Leadership Is Providential

God raised up Nehemiah to accomplish an important mission. God is the active agent leading and directing. This is evident in how He moves in the king’s heart and elevates people to do his bidding. This is seen in both the lives of Nehemiah and his contemporary, Ezra. The book of Nehemiah demonstrates the indisputable role of Providence in leadership. This is still true today.

As A.D. Clarke confirms in his biblical theology on leadership, “Leadership in the Bible is framed within the overarching context of divine sovereignty.” I am not talking about the common misleading verbiage “Leaders are born”. I am talking about God’s willingness to intervene and assist us when we ask for His help.

 

  1. Leadership is Spiritual Hard Work

Nehemiah exemplifies the interplay between prayer, planning, and implementing strategic hard work. These work in tandem. Andy Stanley sums this up well in his book, Visioneering: “This [Nehemiah] is a tale of hard work, prayer and (behind the scenes) divine intervention. Nothing out of the ordinary here.” There are no shortcuts in leadership, but God can make the learning curve much shorter.

 

Admittedly, there is a grind to leadership—a continual pressing forward in planning, preparing, navigating conflict, executing and finishing. The dramatic rise of leadership studies and the attention that many leaders attract may cause some to miss this simple fact: Leadership is challenging and is not without strong effort.

 

  1. Leaders Use Projects to Build People

I do not think Nehemiah used people to build a wall; I believe Nehemiah used the wall construction to build a people who were beaten, distraught and unmotivated.  The people were not his means to an end. Although Nehemiah faced a daunting project of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, this project was secondary to the plight of the people. Stephen Dempster writes, “Nehemiah is regarded as the wall builder in Jerusalem, and this is the theme that resonates in the book. But his story is not only about building the physical walls of Jerusalem for physical protection, it is also a story of building spiritual walls around the people with the Word of God and thus was primarily building up the people.”

 

We must never forget – God created us to be people focused, not project focused.

 

  1. Leaders Persevere

Finally, as Mark Dever notes, “A godly leader keeps leading.” Projects end. Visions are reached and tasks get accomplished. But a leader continues to lead. There are always new places to take others where they would not go on their own. Certainly, Nehemiah faced adversity and conflict in the midst of building the wall, a task that required fortitude to see it completed. Yet, when the wall was built, he continued to lead through political, social and spiritual means as a governor. New leadership challenges emerged, but the call was the same: Remain steadfast and faithful; Lead. Good and great leaders persevere through the changing seasons of leadership, remembering the call to long-term faithfulness.

 

The book of Nehemiah concludes with a prayer regarding the leader’s legacy: “Remember me, O my God, for good (Neh. 13:31). Nehemiah’s heart bled for a dependency on God in the pursuit of his faithfulness. Godly leaders recognize their time of leadership will certainly come to an end, but he sought God’s presence and help for as long as his leadership was exercised.  May we all have the same heart and bleed with that same passion.

Dean

 

 

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Are You Here or Are you There?

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Andy Stanley coined the term “visioneering” to describe the act of creating and reaching a vision. Visioneering is an important part of leadership because “leadership is the act of taking others where they will not – or cannot – go on their own”. To lead others to where they have never been requires the necessity of knowing where to go and how to get there; i.e., visioneering.

It requires more than being an “idea man”. A million great ideas have never been given birth to, or die prematurely, because of one’s inability to know how to develop the path from getting here to there.

Below is a “readers digest” version of developing the ability to reach our goals:

 

Ask the question. Too often when we think about what we would like to see accomplished in the future our fear or negativity holds us back. To achieve it, we have to put proper focus on what we would like to achieve in the future. It begins with a simple question: Are you here or are you there? Your mind and interest must be there – pondering what the future could/should be like – rather than where you are at present; you need to start on the path and give significant attention to there in order to eventually reach the goal. By adopting your future mindset now, you can push all that self-doubt aside, and each calculated step along the way becomes the building blocks to accomplish your vision. This is the most powerful part of the entire exercise.

Write it down. Use a large whiteboard to write all the mini-goals that are the steps along the way to reach your ultimate goal.  No one just jumps from here to there – there are calculated steps along the way. Then set as your immediate goal the first step in the process, then the next step, and the next while keeping an eye on the ultimate vision. The more steps that are successfully achieved, the more energy will grow for you and the others taking the journey with you. Remember to celebrate the success of each step along the way!

 

Keep your eye on the ultimate goal. You and your team might have come up with fifteen or so steps that have been accomplished and everything seems beautiful and rewarding. Sometimes so much so that we might intentionally or unintentionally be content to drive our stakes in the ground and settle in part way along the journey. Don’t take your eye of the ultimate vision – it has been determined to be an honorable goal and worthy of your continued attention and progress.

Talk out the story. Again and again, highlight how far you have come; have fun with it and include everyone in the excitement of reaching the ultimate goal which is now closer than it has ever been! You know you have done a good job if everyone is excited, and a bit anxious about what is still in front of you. Talk the story; live the story!

 

Broadcast the impending achievement. As the final vision draws close on the horizon, unveil the vision to all who will benefit from it. Until now it has been the production of some, maybe many. But in reality, any great vision has a long reaching effect. It is now time to turn everyone’s eyes on the approaching victory. This last step helps to renew the energy of all who have become weary in the journey and brings excitement to reach the final achievement. Even more significantly, it brings credibility, trust, and excitement to the others whose eyes have just been opened to the approaching summit. There is nothing quite as exciting as a new sunrise promising an exciting new day!

 

There will be an overwhelming consensus that what seemed so out of reach just yesterday now is within our reach. All of the “I wish”, “I think”, and the “maybe” is swallowed up by the “Wow! We did it”. An analogy is the Dave Ramsey victory cry of each achiever screaming “I am debt free”!

 

The question that begins the journey is: “are you here or are you there”?

 

Joyfully in journey,

Dean Hammond

 

 

INCREASING ONE’S LEADERSHIP EFFECTIVINESS

Several years ago I purchased and read John Maxwell’s book, The Five Levels of Leadership. The essence of that book is worth sharing with anyone who desires to increase the quality of his/her leadership whether in the home, in the church, at work, or in the community. It is not the title of leadership that makes one an effective leader; it is the strength of relationships that enables one to lead effectively.

True leadership isn’t a matter of having been given a certain job or title. In fact, being chosen for a position is only the first of the five levels every effective leader achieves. To become more than “the boss” who people follow only because they are required to, you have to master the ability to invest in people and inspire them to move beyond status quo. A leader is one who takes others where they would not go on their own. If they would, they would not need a leader.

To grow further in your role, you must achieve results and build a team of others who produce. You need to help people to develop their skills to become leaders in their own right. And if you have the skill and dedication, you can reach the pinnacle of leadership – where experience will allow you to extend your influence beyond your immediate reach and time for the benefit of others.

The 5 Levels of Leadership are:

                  FIVE LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP

  1. Position – People follow because they have to.
  2. Permission – People follow because they want to.
  3. Production – People have respect and follow because of what you have done for the organization.
  4. People Development – People follow because of what you have done for them personally.
  5. Pinnacle – People follow because of who you are and what you represent.

 

It is character, authenticity, trustworthiness, passion for others, and absence of pride that fashions a person to become one who is respected and safe to follow anywhere.

 

Dean Hammond

The Essentiality of Effective Leadership

                                    

Effective leadership is essential to the success of any cause.  It was evident in the Christian revolution during and following the life and death of Christ.  It was indispensable in the American Revolution.  It was an absolute necessity in the winning of both World Wars.

It is as essential today as it was in yesteryears.  It is essential in the success of any and all causes you support and in which you invest, mentally, emotionally, socially and financially.  Effective leadership is essential to the success of any cause.

What cause do you invest in? Your family? Your church? Your employment or entrepreneurial venture? A social or school activity? Whatever the cause, without solid leadership it will be difficult for that cause to experience any success.

Every cause – your favorite cause! – requires the disciplined involvement of people, sometimes a few, sometimes more than many. The investment and energy of many is critical. Very few if any great causes have successfully advanced with the effort of a single person.  “It takes a village” may not be the finest description of people involvement but it does convey a certain truth; cooperation of many in a well orchestrated approach is imperative to the achievement of any cause.

Every orchestra, every cause needs a leader – someone who is competent and compassionate about taking others where they will not go on their own; someone who is able to successfully give direction and motivate others to effectively participate cooperatively to advance the cause.

Nowhere is it more critical than in the success of healthy family life – a cause near and dear to many of us. Our current culture is severely pock-marked with the disease of anemic family leadership, if not the total absence of it.

So, what constitutes effective leadership in the home, or in any cause?

A leader must have a detailed vision of what the home should be. He/she must know how to develop a step-by-step strategy for reaching the perceived goal of a healthy family (it won’t “just happen” because you want it). A leader must know how to draw from others to compensate for his/her personal limitations (we all have them!); this certainly includes prayer and a dependency upon the Lord’s leadership in and through us.

The leader must be a person of genuine character not a character, but possessing n admirable character and sense of authenticity. He/she must be trustworthy, faithful to the cause, absent of personal pride and self-interest. A healthy attitude and the ability to be gentle but firm goes a long way in possessing the ability of motivate others. 

Neither you nor I were born with leadership qualities. Every one of these vital elements mentioned above is acquired through relentless effort and determination. May it be that you will aspire to grow in your leadership so the cause(s) you believe in and support can be enhanced by your developing ability to lead. Make no mistake about it – you are required to lead in some important cause. My prayer and desire is that you will improve in that leadership with each passing month.

Dean Hammond

Say Thank You

parkview_christian_church_mediumThe other day I was going through some old files when I came across my ordination certificate. Confession, I thought I had lost it. The reason it was lost or, shall I say, misplaced in the first place is that it was in my file cabinet because I chose not to hang it on my wall. It’s not that I am not proud to be ordained.  Believe me those words ring out on the certificate that says, “To be set apart to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is hereby cordially commended everywhere as a Minister of Christ”. Those are words I take very seriously, but those are also words that are not easy to live up to. 2 Timothy 2:15 is also on the certificate at the bottom. It says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workmen, who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of Truth. The words “worthy” and “approved” are always hard to live up to.

 

What I am most proud of when I look at it are the names signed on the certificate.  These men and the values that they uphold have been incredible in my life. They have been men that I am sure many times felt un-worthy of the Gospel or the grace that they have received. No one is perfect, but they were men that took a stand for the Kingdom. They were great mentors for me who supported me through tough times. Not all of them were paid ministers, but they were all ministers for the Gospel in their everyday lives. For that I thank them. Thank you for your example throughout the years of being faithful to your calling and most of all your Lord and Savior.

 

Some of these men have since gone on to be with the Lord.  I never really got a chance or, more correctly, took the time to thank them, and for that I will always have regret. So if you are reading this, my challenge to you would be look at some of the people in your life that made a difference and just take the time to say thank you. So with that said, thank you Blair Pride, Hursel Rose, George Pindell, Robert Turner, Al Ginn, Bob Miller, Thomas Friskney, David Conover, Dan Pence, and even my brother Kenny White who made the certificate (He had to have paid someone). I say with all sincerity that these men have all played a part in mentoring and discipling me. There have been others along the way and too many to list today.

 

The second challenge is for you to do the same for someone else. We must live our lives in such a way that we all become ministers of the Gospel. Present yourself to God as one approved and a workman who is not ashamed, but willing to stand up for the truth and be an example for someone else.

 

Brian

 

 

Leadership In the Home

Placing blame on others, victim thinking, and procrastination remain deeply embedded in our culture, as a lack of personal accountability persists in our society. Is it possible that when people at work, church or school place blame and whine, it’s because they were taught to do so at home? And that these dangerous ways of acting and thinking were modeled for them – by mom and dad?!

Leadership begins at home. Until Mom and Dad choose to practice personal accountability in their lives, not much will change – anywhere. Societal problems, which include all the problems found within our organizations, are often rooted in the family.

As parents, we need to ask, “Am I raising children who blame their teachers when they get a poor grade?” We need to do an attitude check of our own parenting; are we failing to develop personal accountability in our children?

Rather than wondering. “When will my daughter start getting her homework done on time?” we need to ask, “Am I getting my home work done, or do I procrastinate and leave the house a mess?” Parents who are good leaders know this: Modeling is the most powerful form of teaching. Dads and moms who accept the mantle of home leadership accept that they – not sports stars, pop culture icons, or Hollywood celebrities – are the role models for their kids.

Leadership at home is captured in this statement: My child is a product of my parenting. Any other view of parenting is irresponsible folly. Excuse-making is never part of a leader’s world. Moms and dads who really grasp that victim thinking is a disease spread from the parents to the kids – that blame is taught and caught, and that procrastination is learned – know what will happen should they fail to fulfill their job at home.

Troubled youth can come from good parenting homes. However, all troubled youth are caught in the web of lacking personal accountability, and there is something we as parents can do to improve that by modeling and training our children in the way they should go, by modeling and teaching personal accountability.

Dean