Having just returned from Catalyst…an amazing Christian leadership conference where 13,000 leaders from across the United States and around the world converged on Atlanta—truly a revolution of ideas that challenged the process and encouraged all to think unconventionally…but, now I am forced to sit and ponder–what do I do with all that I have learned, all that I experienced, all that God has set upon my heart. As many have experienced…one almost has to decompress after hearing so many great speakers, thoughts, and ideas.
So first thing first…back to basics….strip away all the clutter and examine true leadership–Nehemiah….and build up from there (with a few quotes from Catalyst speakers)..and see what happens.
Nehemiah: The long and short of the story…upon learning of the distress of his people, Nehemiah receives permission from Artaxerxes, the king he was serving, to go help them rebuild Jerusalem’s wall. Despite obstacles and much opposition, he discerns a challenging vision and leads the people in accomplishing it. Imagine if we could find solid leaders like that today…simple…no frills…vision combined with total leadership.
Anyone familiar with DeMarco Banter knows that vision and passion are two concepts that are paramount to leadership success. Nehemiah was the leader who first articulated his vision. His people confirmed that vision and committed themselves to the task. The unique gifts of the entire team were required to achieve the end goal.
As is always the case, accomplishing the vision was not easy. Divisions and hard feelings, combined with outside opposition, made faithfulness and progress very difficult. Yet, Nehemiah and his people persevered and succeeded in their accomplishment.
Andy Stanley kicked off Catalyst on what makes a Leader… Nehemiah ran head on into all three.
1) Unexpected Opportunity: Rebuilding the wall
2) Unavoidable Adversity: Physical, mental and spiritual…
3) Unquestionable Calling: God’s vision and the rebirth of the Israelites
1: Leaders exude passion
Nehemiah possessed a deep passion for God, his people, and his country. He heard of the destruction of the wall in Jerusalem and became overwhelmed with grief for the disgrace of God and his countrymen. A passion was ignited within Nehemiah to ask permission from his king to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall of the city.
“Always play to the size of your heart and not the size of your audience!” Jon Acuff, Catalyst 21012
2: Leaders are humble
Nehemiah ranked high in the Kingdom of Artaxerxes- he was cupbearer to the King. At the same time, he understood the stewardship of his role. He arrived in Jerusalem only with the animal he was riding when he could have asked the King for many more men to help him and escort him back.
“The greatest thing you do as a leader may not be what you do as a leader but who watches you do what you do.” -Andy Stanley, Catalyst 2012
3. Leaders care for people
Nehemiah listened to the voice of the people. He showed concern for their situation. Nehemiah identified with the people. He thought in terms of “we” and “us” ….NOT “I” or “me.”
“The technical term for a leader who won’t hold people accountable is a ‘wuss.’” –Patrick Lencioni, Catalyst 2012
4. Leaders define reality
When Nehemiah said, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned,” he was not describing his personal agenda but assessing the common situation faced by all the people. Unless reality can be described honestly, progress is impossible.
“People will only follow you for one of two reasons, if you manipulate them or you inspire them.” –Simon Sinek, Catalyst 2012
5. The Leader seeks God’s direction…
Nehemiah was always seeking God’s vision for him. The vision must be “what God has put into my heart.” The vision emerged in the midst of a devastating situation, and it would have been easier to give up in despair; but a leader tracks on the vision, even in difficult times.
“Prayer is the difference between you fighting for God and God fighting for you” –Mark Batterson, Catalyst 2012
6: The vision is simple
Visionaries have the ability to see what others do not see. (Nehemiah 2:11-12a)
God’s vision tends to be very simple…people build complicated systems… For Nehemiah the vision was captured in three words: “rebuild the wall.” Without this vision, any other needs could not be met. . –
“It’s better to make a difference than to make a point.” -Andy Stanley
7. Leaders build teams
Nehemiah gained the trust of the people. This permitted him to build a team that, in turn, could make the vision a reality. No one person, not even Nehemiah, could accomplish this vision alone. Nehemiah began with a few, then he expanded the team to include virtually everyone. The people committed themselves to the “common good.”
“We’re told to go and make disciples, but we often just sit and make excuses.“- Francis Chan
8. Leaders keep focus
The vision was to rebuild the wall, but the wall was not the important part of the vision. The wall was a means to an ends. What Nehemiah and his people were really doing, was reclaiming their identity as people of faith. What was at stake was not just a wall but indeed their very identity.
“We need to stop saying World, discover me, and start saying God, develop me.”- Perry Noble, Catalyst 2012
9. Leader are not discouraged by adversity
Nothing worth anything is ever easy….as they rebuilt the wall, they were ridiculed and mocked. Their enemies did everything possible to discourage them, but through it all Nehemiah knew he was “doing a great work”
“Stepping toward your destiny means taking a step away from your security.” Craig Groeschel, Catalyst 2012