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Lessons for today from the Old Testament: Leadership principles from Nehemiah

Updated on January 31, 2015

5 important Leadership Principles Nehemiah Used.

Great Leadership Principles

Leaders often become what they are because of the challenge that faces them at a particular time.These are sometimes referred to as situational leaders in contrast to appointed leaders. Their success can be measured by achieving the goal that they set for themselves. The question then has to be asked; did Nehemiah achieve the goal he set out to achieve? In Nehemiah 6:15 the writer states “so the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty two days.” (RSV)

To achieve that result was undoubtedly a miracle of human endeavor and leadership. Only a short while before, Nehemiah had been working as the cup-bearer to the King Artaxerxes of Persia, the ruling power of the day. The city of Jerusalem had been captured and destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC and the population taken into captivity. In 539 the Babylonians were defeated by the Persians and now in about 445 BC the Jew, Nehemiah, was working as a personal assistant to the king. It was a really bad time for the nation of Israel!

Then the news came to Nehemiah about the terrible situation that existed in Jerusalem, the city that had for many years, been the centre of Israel’s faith. Now it lay in ruins and the temple no longer existed; a fact that was both shocking and heartbreaking to any Jewish person. Nehemiah could have listened to this story of disaster, regretted it deeply, and kept on doing what he was now trained to do, or he could do something about it. He chose the second path and the first six chapters of the book of Nehemiah provide an example and blueprint for leadership in any time.

Firstly Nehemiah was moved by what he heard.

The Biblical record says that he wept, mourned, fasted and prayed for days. No leader can hope to achieve anything without passion and the description by Nehemiah of his own actions (1:4) shows how deeply he felt about the situation.

Secondly he had a plan and acted to put that plan into action.

A deep faith gives strength and courage and the record tells us that this certainly was not lacking in Nehemiah’s case. He may have been living in another country, far removed from the foundation of his faith, but he still cared and so he turned to God in prayer. His faith was not an airy fairy feeling but something that demanded action. James was to write much later “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I, by my works, will show you my faith.” (James 2:18 –RSV) While Nehemiah prayed and fasted he began planning what needed to be done. A leader needs to have a plan, a vision and a dream.

Thirdly he used the resources available

As a great leader Nehemiah used the resources that he had available. He approached the King and used his position to gain the help he would need if he was to put the plan into effect. He knew the time it would take and requested the authorization he would need.

Nothing great happens by accident. As Nehemiah, in his new role as city restorer/wall builder, put into practice the task he had become involved in, he proved to be a great motivator and organizer.

Fourthly he delegated work and responsibility.

This was not a task he could do on his own and so he gathered together the people he needed and delegated to each, the task each was to perform. Opposition came, as it always does, but Chapters two and three record the masterful way that this great leader ignored those who tried to stop the project.

In the firth place he set the example.

As a leader Nehemiah not only motivated but joined in the hard work. In 2:17 the writer records the words of this great man; “Come, let us build the walls of Jerusalem, that we no longer suffer disgrace.” In the next verse he exhorts; “Let us rise up and build.” And so they did.

The task was not easy and Nehemiah had to face the corruption of officials and continued danger towards those who were doing the work. Some did not want the task completed. At times he “took counsel” with himself (5:7), gave up his own rights for remuneration (5:18), and yet he believed and continued to complete what he set out to do.

In Chapter 6:15 the writer records the words that were mention in the beginning of this study of an example of great leadership principles; “So the wall was finished…” What most people would have considered impossible had been achieved in a very short and action filled time. Today this amazing story of leadership continues to be an example that is well worth looking at again. The principles of good leadership for every age leap out of the pages of this Old Testament book.

It was achieved because of the vision of one man, his faith and determination and the hard work of the people who he inspired. Oh for that same leadership in today’s world! What a difference that would make to countries, companies, churches and families. Do yourself a favor and read the first six chapters of Nehemiah- it may surprise you what it could lead you to do!

References; RSV translation of Bible: 1962 by A. J. Holman, Company. London.


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    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 4 years ago from East London, South Africa

      A pleasure.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Thank you for this hub and the lessons that are there.

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 4 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks for the comments. We certainly can learn from people like Nehemiah.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Excellent article. Yes, a deep faith certainly gives strength and courage no doubt about that fact! I agree, the leadership of today could learn much from Nehemiah.

      Up and more and sharing

      God bless you. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Well I will just certainly have to do that; thank you! Tonight if I can at all. Somehow these people seem to have something special though as in how they are still Davids against Goliath... and I support them fully. ^+