Ever met a slightly unhinged leader?
You know the sort. Out of balance. Over the top.
They get things done but in a different kind of way.
Nehemiah was a slightly unhinged leader.
He certainly wasn’t a balanced, run of the mill guy.
He was slightly unhinged.
However, he did have other redeeming characteristics that helped people cope with his at times slightly unhinged behaviour.
If you want to be a fruitful leader and grow a healthy church then emulate these characteristics of one of my favourite Old Testament leaders.
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Weep
Nehemiah wept when he heard about the state of Jerusalem. Neh 1:4 He was a man who was deeply concerned for the well-being of others.
His burden was expressed in concern for the well-being of Jerusalem and its people and then ultimately in the sacrificial leadership of those people.
2. When In Trouble, Pray Like Crazy!
Nehemiah’s burden translated into prayer.
We not only see Nehemiah as a man of consistent prayer but he knew how to pray on the run.
When he was serving the King he sent up a quick prayer,
The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king
Prayer is an expression of dependence upon God.
When leaders pray they are saying, I can’t do this by myself, I can’t fulfil this vision in my own strength. I need help!
3. Get Smart
When he got to Jerusalem he surveyed the damaged city during the night.
I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem.
He didn’t want to arouse curiosity by making a big song and dance about his arrival and especially about his vision.
He quietly, and smartly went about his analysis, telling no one what was in his heart.
Smart leaders know when to zip their lips.
4. Don’t Go Quietly Into The Night
Leaders have enemies.
Jesus said it’s not good when all men speak well of you Luke 6:26.
Now you don’t need to go around poking the bear to arouse opposition. Just focus on the vision God has given you and trust me, enemies will emerge out of the woodwork.
Nehemiah’s actions provoked hostility from the enemies of Israel.
I’ve got no doubt that his visionary activity ruffled the feathers of those with established political and economic power.
They didn’t want a shift in the balance of power. They were more than happy with the status quo.
Nehemiah refused to bend to their various tactics.
They mocked Neh 2:19
They ridiculed Neh 4:1-3
They slandered Neh 6:5-9
Nehemiah’s three-fold response incorporated prayer, specific strategic action and courageous words.
And ultimately his enemies were confounded and fearful, Neh 6:16.
5. Cope With Diversity
Nehemiah galvanised people from different strata of society.
His leadership mobilised them causing them to work together on the common cause of rebuilding the wall and ultimately the city.
In Nehemiah 3 you see priests, goldsmiths, perfume-makers, mayors, temple servants and merchants working alongside each other.
What a vast array of differences.
Servants alongside priests.
Merchants next to mayors.
A leader’s ability can be measured by the diversity of their followers.
Uniformity equals low-level leadership.
Diversity equals high-level leadership.
When a leader increases their capacity to cope with greater diversity they ultimately see growing health in their followers.
6. Ultimately, It’s About God
Nehemiah walked with God and you see this when the wall is finished.
In the second half of the book, you see a growing emphasis on the people of Israel connecting with God.
There’s a lengthy public reading of the Scriptures, confession of sin and worship filled dedication of the wall of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah’s vision was not just focused on the rebuilding of a wall or even a city. These were just tools to enable God’s people to gather to worship and honour Him.
7. Do More Than ‘Like’ A World Vision Campaign
Corruption hurts the poor.
I’ve witnessed this in Africa where I’ve seen the ultimate results of corruption. In spite of the immense wealth, I’ve seen poor roads, inadequate infrastructure, deficient school buildings and poorly maintained public spaces such as parks.
When Nehemiah discovers corruption in Jerusalem he does more just ‘like’ an anti-corruption program.
He responds with fury and confronts the greed head-on, Neh 5:6-8.
He publicly rebukes the hard-heartedness and voracious appetites. He is scandalised by the lack of compassion for the poor and forces them to take remedial action.
Want to be a leader? Do way more than ‘like’ feel-good campaigns.
8. Get Slightly Unhinged
In the last chapter of Nehemiah, we see the slightly unhinged side emerge in full HD colour.
And it’s full-on and yes slightly unhinged.
But the world actually gets changed by people who are slightly unhinged.
Out of balance.
Challenging the norm.
We find Nehemiah throwing Tobiah’s belongings out of the temple storeroom that he had wrongfully inhabited, Neh 13:8.
We see him rebuking officials who had neglected to ensure that the Levites received their portion of the tithe, Neh 13:11.
He rebukes the nobles for desecrating the Sabbath, Neh 13:17-18.
He also warns the merchants who were trying to sell their wares on the Sabbath, Neh 13:20-21.
That’s all pretty normal for a choleric type leader who’s chasing down ungodliness.
Then this guy arrives, the slightly unhinged Nehemiah.
He’s so infuriated with those who had intermarried with foreigners that he “called down curses on them … beat some of the men and pulled out their hair”, Neh 13:24-25.
Now while I don’t recommend that you start cursing people or pulling out their hair it does show us that passionate, slightly unhinged leaders can get things done.
Let’s face it. It’s the over the top, slightly unhinged, even eccentric leaders that lead significant change.
When was the last time you got slightly unhinged?
9. Act Today But With Tomorrow In Your Sight
Whether it’s quietly inspecting the city at night or stationing men to guard their families or positioning families by their homes during the building of the wall we consistently find Nehemiah is a strategist.
Strategic leaders think laterally.
Strategic leaders plan ahead.
Strategic leaders assess imminent risks.
Strategic leaders act decisively and rarely hesitate when action is required.
Strategic leaders counter opposition with decisive moves designed to minimise impact.
Above all, they think about the long-term impact of their day to day actions.
Strategic leaders act today while keeping their eyes firmly on the years ahead.
Nehemiah didn’t just rebuild a wall in less than two months, he ultimately rebuilt the city in twelve years.
Want to be a leader? Follow a slightly unhinged leader and become one as well.