One of the characteristics of truly great leaders is that they take the initiative. This makes them the trendsetters rather than the trend followers, and that is often a great characteristic of leadership.
Nehemiah is a good example of leadership. When he found out that Jerusalem was in disarray and broken down and its gates were burned with fire, Nehemiah 1:3, that sparked something within him. Even though he lived more than 750 miles from Jerusalem, and even though we had a great job at the king’s palace, he was so moved that he decided to take action.
Great leaders take action! We need leadership with initiative today in the church!
IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM
When Nehemiah discovered that Jerusalem was still in ruins, he immediately identified the problem and began praying about it.
So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
He immediately realised that although the apparent problem was the broken down walls of Jerusalem, the real problem was the faithlessness of the children of Israel.
let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.
Nehemiah showed leadership with initiative from the outset.
DISCOVER A SOLUTION
Nehemiah not only identified the problem but he also discovered a solution, and he recognised that he was the one whom God would use to provide the solution…
O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
Now I was cupbearer to the king.
Furthermore, he did not come before the king with some vague idea all wish that things would be better. By the time he came before the king, he already had plans and solutions happening in his head, and he was ready for the questions the king asked.
And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.
In addition, he also recognised the permits and letters that he would require to do the job properly…
And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
So we see that Nehemiah, although not a stonemason himself, was a brilliant leader and organiser, who knew exactly what was required to do the work of the Lord. He knew leadership with intiative was important.
So rather than just feel sad for Jerusalem and the plight of God’s people, Nehemiah illustrates effective initiative that is long-term, well-planned and well researched. True leaders have this sort of initiative, which not only starts the journey but sees it through to the end, mobilising people along the way.
Nehemiah realise that he could not be at every part of the wall at once, so he decided to delegate responsibility, appointing trustworthy men to oversee sections of the labour, according to their abilities.
This was the only way that the walls of Jerusalem could be built in such a short time. And this is where many leaders fall down… They have the ideas, they may even have the plans, but they failed to delegate responsibility.
In Nehemiah 3 we see that he knows and understand his workers, and he assigns them to work on locations that are close to their homes. This is another act of brilliance on the part of this excellent leader.
Great leaders not only take the initiative but they make the most of each of their worker’s labour. Assigning each work at two parts of the wall close to their house gave them extra incentive to do work, because no one wants sloppiness around their own home. Leadership with initiative mobilises others.
KNOW HOW TO MOTIVATE PEOPLE
By the time Nehemiah arrived in the city, the temple had long been built, but the walls were in disarray. So visitors to the holy city would be greeted by massive piles of rubble surrounding the city, which spoke again and again of the faithlessness of the Israelites.
So after 100 years of building, a newcomer like Nehemiah was able to motivate people to rise up and build the wall.
And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
It wasn’t rawhide or financial incentive that may people want to build the wall, it was that he shared his vision in a way that they could understand and receive it, then make the conscious decision to join it. Then he encouraged them in the task at hand.
WORK WITH PEOPLE
Nehemiah was not a passive leader, and good leaders never are. They never ask others to do what they are unwilling to do themselves, so when Nehemiah got stuck into it, he worked with people towards a result…
So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out.
He was so dedicated to the work that he didn’t take regular breaks, not even to wash his clothes, but toiled non-stop until the task was complete.
I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work.
He was relentless, totally dedicated to the work and despite opposition, he worked side-by-side with people, completing the wall in just 52 days!
During this time, Nehemiah overcame obstacles, refused to bow to pressure, motivated and equipped the people for the job at hand, and actively protected them from external attack. In so many ways, Nehemiah was a brilliant leader who showed great initiative then followed through all the way to produce an outstanding result.
And that is the challenge to us as leaders today… Not just to come up with a great idea, then throw it over to someone else. We are called to be great leaders in the church, to have the initiative, harness the ideas, inspire the people, delegate the responsibility and join with them to see it through to the very end.
How can you show initiative as a leader today, and how can you see it through?
Leadership with initiative is what we need today in the church.