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 (http://www.ccl.org/Leadership/index.aspx) 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