In chapter 3 of Nehemiah’s book, we see a long list of people doing different things. This can be a boring list of names and jobs but in it, we see a very real and practical leadership/administration principle: Leaders delegate. A Leader can’t get things done alone, this is why he/she casts vision: to get others on board so they can help make the vision come to be. Without people following you, you aren’t a leader. A leaders job is to cast vision, then manage the vision coming to fruition. It’s as John Maxwell says in his book Developing the Leaders Around You “A leader’s success can be defined as the maximum utilization of the abilities of those under him” (Maxwell, p. 15). Nehemiah couldn’t have built a city wall by himself; to try would have been foolish. He needed people around him and he needed to pour into these people the vision and mission of what was to come.
Nehemiah, we can see was able to rally several people to the cause and also give them specific jobs. Maxwell says that leadership is influence and to a degree, I agree with him and I think in this type of leadership role, Nehemiah had to have a ton of God given influence. Like Maxwell says in Developing the Leaders Around You: “Leadership is influence. Every leader has these two characteristics: (A) he is going somewhere and (B) he is able to persuade others to go with him” (Maxwell, p. 49). Nehemiah needed to be able to persuade people to follow him in order for him to delegate. Again, as we can see in Chapter 3, he was able to do this.
Along with this idea of delegation, a leader must know who to place where. In Nehemiah 3, we see certain people doing certain jobs. Nehemiah must’ve known who would work best where and so he placed them in their area of strength in order to get the job done to the best of their ability. This also means, that Nehemiah knew the people well enough whom he was leading to put them in their areas of strength! He took the time to assess each individual to then place them where they needed to be. This is a powerful lesson in leadership! We, if we are to be good leaders need to know the people we are leading so we can fit them into the role they can work best in!
Lastly, this area of delegation shows us that each individual had their own task to complete. Not everyone can do everything and each person needs to be assigned a specific job that only they can do. This creates unity as well as autonomy. People need to feel needed and when they don’t, they jump ship. A perfect example of this (albeit unhealthy) was a guy named Jimmy T. on the recent Survivor show. This guy needed to be needed and when he didn’t feel needed, he unwittingly sabotaged his team. He felt his gifts weren’t being used, so he complained and whined and brought the whole of his team to his sad level. He couldn’t function on a team where he felt unnecessary. Although he was a bit paranoid, the truth of his feelings rings true and every leader needs to learn this lesson of people needing to feel needed. Nehemiah made sure that each person who he was leading had their specific role where they could shine and do their work well.
Leaders Deal with Opposition (Nehemiah 4 & 6)
When God uses people to do great things, or when great things are done there will almost always be opposition. The wall to the enemies of the Israelites represented stability and safety and so when they saw great progress being made on the wall, they were angry (Neh. 4:7); “And they plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it” (Neh. 4:8 ESV). They were going to mess up this progress that was happening in Jerusalem, it was not going to happen on their watch, but God often defies the desires of sinful men!
Nehemiah knew how to handle this type of opposition and he was ready for it! Once he saw what the enemies of Jerusalem were plotting, he gathered people together to pray. As a leader, he knew he was also a follower of God; he knew his role and sought God for advice. God had asked him to build the wall, so God must have a plan to protect the wall from being destroyed again!
After praying, Nehemiah came up with a battle plan: set a guard day and night as protection (Neh. 4:9).
So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:13-14 ESV).
He also set up people ready to fight and we hear that this frustrated the plans of their enemies (Neh. 4:15). This battle plan stopped their enemies in their tracks, because the Jews were ready to fight when their enemies expected them to be vulnerable while building. However, Nehemiah didn’t rest assured with just frustrating their plans; he insured the safety of his people. Once opposition came and left, he wasn’t under the delusion that it wouldn’t pop up again; in fact he readied his people for it to happen at any moment! He prepared them with weapons as well as a plan of action if some more opposition were to creep up on them.
From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us” (Neh. 4:16-20 ESV).
Nehemiah prepared his people for more trouble and this preparing of his people is a great principle for leadership! We as leaders need to see this principle of leadership and apply it, because we need to prepare our people for opposition and show them how to deal with it when it comes. This may not ring as true in the business world as it does in the ministry world but none-the-less it is a great principle.
We in church leadership are going against our enemy just by being there and so we must expect opposition to come. It is then upon us to lead our people through opposition and help them through it as well as preparing them for when it comes. Satan is a lion, waiting for his prey (1 Peter 5:8) and God’s people need to know how to have a hammer (to do the work of God) in one hand and a sword (to fight off the enemy) in the other. This picture is one that rings true for the Christian life and we as leaders should be helping the people we lead how to live with the expectation of opposition and give them to tools to fight it.