THE NEHEMIAH SCHOOL OF LEADERSHIP

 

Leadership is the simple most important factor for success in every unit of society. Leadership is important for the success of the family unit, the community, the workplace, government at all levels, and so many other units of society. As a fact, any group of people having a common goal to achieve require leadership to realize such set goals. The success of any group or the society at large, depends on the type of leadership in place to harmonize individual energies and mobilize resources for collective good of all. Where there is no leadership we will have a situation like that of a flock of sheep without a shepherd, or a ship without a captain, or an aircraft without a pilot. In the absence of leadership, everyone will try to achieve individual goals with the resources available to the group thereby creating conflict of interests. In the end, no progress will be achieved instead fights and destructions occur. Given the importance of leadership, it is important to have the right kind of leadership. A wrong kind of leadership will do as much or even more damage as a no-leadership situation. It is for this reason that we need to examine a model school of leadership worthy of example, the Nehemiah school of leadership.

There are many schools of leadership which are followed by many leaders all over the world. There are students of the Machiavelli school of leadership, the Robert Greene school of leadership, the Fred Fielder school of leadership and a host of other schools of leadership. These are all different schools of thought on leadership having proponents who have outlined principles for leaders to follow to achieve success.

The problem of leadership still persists despite all the propositions available on good leadership principles, and this therefore implies that either leaders are not following the prescribed principles or there are inefficiencies in the theories of leadership men have laboured to expound. I think the latter case is the reason for the poor situation of leadership all over the world. In the light of this, I encourage you to join me as we consider another school of leadership, which is not so popularly expounded, contained in the time tested manual of life, the Holy Bible.


Let us turn to the book of Nehemiah in the old testament section of the Holy Bible (please try and get a copy of the Bible so that we can read together as we move on). This is a book of the Bible that was written in the period between 445 – 420 B.C. This is a book that chronicles a time in the history of the nation of Israel, when they were being granted liberty to go out of captivity from Babylon, the then world power, and to build up the walls of their city again which had been broken down by the Babylonians. We see in the first and second chapters of the book that Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah, is charged with the responsibility of leading the freed Israelites back to rebuild Jerusalem. In the thirteen chapters of this book, we have a record of the leadership of Nehemiah as he mobilized his people in the task of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. Here is an example of a very important leadership style all leaders ought to know and to follow to achieve success just as Nehemiah achieved. We have the advantage of having not just principles expounded to us, but to see the example of the principles in practical application in the book of Nehemiah.



The beginning point of Nehemiah’s leadership experience is shown in the first chapter of the book, where he received some Jewish visitors while in the palace of Susa, who told him the situation of the city of Jerusalem which lay in ruins and the affliction of the remnant who had escaped the exile to Babylon. There is here shown the crucial starting point of leadership – the motivation. Nehemiah after having heard this report develops a strong burden to see transformation happen in Jerusalem, the city of his birth. He had a measure of comfort and success even as an exile in Babylon, serving as the King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer. He probably would have had a good remuneration to live off without troubles, and of course he lived in the palace. However, he was very concerned about the situation of his country and sought not just his personal comfort, but the comfort of his people who were in affliction. An effective leader who will succeed at leadership must have the right motivation. Many people undertake the role of leadership with a motivation different from that of bringing positive transformation to the group of followers they are to lead and this always has accompanying failure at leadership. We must, like Nehemiah, have a good understanding of the prevailing situation of the family, our group, community and the nation, and develop a burden (or vision) for bringing about positive transformation before taking up the position of a leader.



Therefore, on the background of the right motivation, leadership is not a quest for a position of rulership over others, or avenue to get fame, or a task undertaken to get better remuneration or riches, but a call to service of the people to bring about positive transformation of lives and the community. A good motivation is at the core of a good leadership. The failures in leadership today is due majorly to leaders having wrong motives for taking up the responsibility of leadership. The case of political leadership failures is a notable one which has its foundations on wrong motivation. Despite the colourful manifestos prior to elections, it is common for politicians to aspire for positions for several reasons apart from having the interest of the people at heart. We must therefore deal with the leadership challenge from the source, and ensure that we as leaders or aspiring leaders get proper motivation for leadership and also ensure that only those who have the people at heart and are committed to bringing about positive change and achievement of set goals are brought into the position of leadership.


Nehemiah presents himself willingly to undertake the responsibility of leadership. It is crucial to note at this point, that having appraised the situation of Jerusalem at this time and developed a burning desire to see transformation, he turns to God in prayer (Nehemiah 1:4-11). He entreated God’s mercies to restore his people to their land and turn away their afflictions. It must be noted that a true leader cannot afford to set about anything without surrendering to God. It is God alone that makes leaders successful. Having acknowledged God and submitted to His supreme authority, Nehemiah finds occasion in the king’s palace to bear out his heart’s burden to King Artaxerxes. By the great hand of God upon Nehemiah, this king finds Nehemiah’s mission pleasing and therefore commissions him to lead his people out on the task of rebuilding Jerusalem. Hence, no good leader can be drafted into leadership by coercion otherwise he or she will have no passion for the cause he is to lead others to achieve. Also, no good leadership can come about by tyranny, imposition, or subjugation of the people. True leadership comes by a willing acceptance of the responsibility to lead by the leader and the acceptance of the leader by the people he is to lead. It is true that the leader may not get the acceptance of everyone to become the leader, yet his or her credibility should not be in question and should be known by the people he will lead. A leader should have his commission first from God, then those at higher hierarchy of leadership and also by the people or group he leads.


Another vital step a leader must take is that which we see Nehemiah do in the book of Nehemiah 2:9-16. After having been commissioned he went to Jerusalem and had a physical inspection of the city to confirm the report he had before hand. He needed to get a fuller picture of the situation in order to put the right perspective to the enormity of the task to be undertaken. He would not only rely on other people’s report but made personal effort to find out crucial information. A leader who will succeed at leadership has to strategically gather relevant first hand information about the state of the group he is leading. This can be done by personally finding out the problems that confront the community, investigating efforts that had been made by past leaderships to solve such problems, their level of success and what factors may have hindered past leaderships from solving the problems. This important step enables the leader to develop a winning strategy, taking into account limitations and ways to overcome them. Many leaders rush into the task with no such thorough personal assessment of the group’s situation. They rely on the briefings they may get from others about the group’s challenges, and often they do not succeed because they never put the task in proper perspective. It is therefore very important to holistically appraise the prevailing situation before developing policies and strategy. After Nehemiah had done his personal appraisal of the task, he was then able to formulate a coherent mission which he presented to the people and enlisted their support. Nehemiah 2:17 records this “Then I(Nehemiah) said to them(the people), ‘You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gate burned. Come let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision'”. What a powerful mission statement! We see that the people knowing that their leader fully understood the task and was committed to lead them, declared, “‘Let us rise and build’, so they strengthened their hands for the good work” (Nehemiah 2:18). This is indeed the pattern of leadership we must follow to succeed at any form of leadership we may undertake, whether it is being a prefect at college or being president of a nation.

(This is the first part of this publication, please read up on more principles on the second part Click Here

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