Monthly Archives: August 2014

Nehemiah: Motivation and Change

Nehemiah is an excellent Old Testament exemplar for motivating followers.  Effective leaders are aware of how important motivation is so followers develop a sense of personal ownership.  One of the best ways for building ownership is to have people participate in establishing the goals and then enable them to make their best contribution for reaching the goals.  Here are some examples of how Nehemiah effectively motivated the people he served:

Working with the followers to set priorities.
Sacrificing financially.
Taking courageous stands against opposition.
Working for justice—reforms.
Building upon competitiveness, pride—each family rebuilding a portion near them.
Modeling perseverance.
Using extreme focus for a limited time; people totally committed to see progress.
Affirming those who are participating in the work.

From his life we can draw some principles about motivation:

1.  Effective leaders are aware of motivational techniques to use with their followers.
2. Successful change agents know their followers well. Opinion leaders should be identified and their support cultivated toward the changes being attempted.
3. Modeling perseverance in the face of difficulties is a strong motivating factor.
4. Use various influence means to accomplish the task.
5. Use affirmation to motivate followers.
6. Leaders in ministries must have a clear sense of receiving their work from God, for they are called to influence followers toward God’s purposes, not their own.

Knowing his work was from God, as evidenced through the phrases, “the Lord put it in my heart,” and, “the hand of my God upon me,” gave Nehemiah the firm conviction that enabled him to motivate followers, to motivate himself, and to persevere in spite of constant opposition.  Motivation is clearly a key to bringing about change, and one neglects it to his or her own peril.

There is nothing more satisfying than for a person to make progress toward a desired goal.  When personal contribution is aligned with organizational priorities there is a clear win-win.  In recent years, coaching has become a preferred means to help people identify how they can best contribute to mission tasks by tapping into intrinsic motivation. Although the term coaching was not used back in Nehemiah’s day, the concept can be seen throughout the book.  Most people in any stage or walk of life respond well to a coaching conversation.  You might find this short Harvard Business Review article on leadership and coaching insightful.

Motivation and change are inseparable if getting things done is important.  The better we can identify and engage people’s heart motivation, the more they will find satisfaction while advancing some common cause.  I think this well-known leadership guru agrees: “You can’t manufacture passion or “motivate” people to feel passion.  You can only discover what ignites your passion and the passion of those around you.”  (Jim Collins, Good to Great. p. 109) May we grow in our ability to lead in a motivational way that produces deep change.

For a good read on motivation consider: Influencer: The new science of leading change. (2013).

Next Blog: Nehemiah Review








Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Nehemiah: Skills Needed to Facilitate Change

As a leader, Nehemiah was aware of his God ordained role and his delegated authority from King Artaxerxes.  He was also aware of his modeling and its impact on the people.  Building upon his self-awareness he starts the work of rebuilding the wall by exercising positional authority but this alone does not bring successful change.  Personal involvement and competency (what we can call personal authority) play an even more important role in the change he was able to introduce.  He knew what needed to be done and his vision resonated with the urgent felt need in the followers—a wall to protect the city.  When a secure and confident leader meets an urgent felt need, positive change will result.

The scope of his leadership skill as a cupbearer to the king is uncertain but when any person accepts a challenging assignment, growth will occur.  Here are some of the skills we can see Nehemiah exhibiting.  As you read this list, find a couple skills that are especially relevant to your current role that can be developed.

He had a clear sense of mission.
He established reasonable and attainable goals.
He enlisted others after he understood the situation well.  He was a team builder.
He modeled what a good change agent should model.
He cultivated his allies.  Note especially his work on behalf of worship leaders and other religious leaders.
He cultivated those who were neutral about change.  Note his work for the poor.
He countered his unfavorable participants.  Note his hitting conflict head on. He did not argue with opponents.
He worked hard to get ownership by others.
He listened to the people and stayed in touch with their concerns.
He got ongoing commitments to sustain change.  Note the signing of the covenant.
He selected leaders to maintain the change.
He courageously used his authority when necessary.
He was decisive.
He planned, organized and delegated effectively.

Driving successful change for Nehemiah was due to his strong sense of calling, his character that could withstand the opposition to such a task, and his abilities (what some would call natural talents and acquired skills).  There are enough forces that restrain positive change (the flesh, the world, and the devil to name just a few) that we who labor for the advance of the Gospel must learn and practice healthy change dynamics.

Clearly there are skills that we should develop as long as we live.  To stop learning is to stop growing and to stop growing is to stop living.  In fact, The Center for Creative Leadership ( has summarized the three most critical aspects for leader development as: Assessment, Challenge, Support.  All three components can be seen in Nehemiah chapter 2.  How well are you prepared for success in the change challenge you face?  How clear is your assessment of the task and your competence?  Where will the challenge require development on your part?  What support must you have to succeed?

Regardless of what we focus upon developing, all development requires motivation.  Few people are able to stay motivated when learning some challenging skill unless there is a clear sense of need or urgency coupled with the needed encouragement to continue through the difficulties.  The topic of motivation comes next.

Next Blog: Motivation & Change

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized