I believe that it is time to continue this journey that we are on, as it relates to leadership. I paused for awhile, just because I was having doubts about my own ability to continue this series. It is true that leaders don’t always feel like leaders, but it is also true that leaders don’t always know what leadership is. We have talked about leadership being born in the rubble and ashes of life, and not from the throne. I feel the need to encourage many of you, who like me believe, or have believed the lie that there is nothing of leadership within you. The fact is that every day you are leading someone into something. Every day, someone is watching you to see how you respond to hardships and challenges. Leadership is one of those authentic traits that forces us to tap into who we are in order to do it effectively. If I try to lead like my Pastor, I will fail. I may imitate what he does, but it has to come from a place of security in my own identity if the leadership is to truly take hold and do what it has been tasked to do.
All of this being said, I want to focus in on a very small happening in Nehemiah 2 which I believe is integral to growing in leadership. Following Antaxerxes sending Nehemiah back to Jerusalem with almost everything that he would need to be successful in resources, we see Nehemiah coming out late at night to inspect the walls.
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 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. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
While we already saw that Nehemiah had been told what the state of the walls were by his brother in chapter 1, what stands out to me about this passage is that Nehemiah went out by night, without telling anyone, to go and inspect the walls for himself. How easy would it have been for him to simply grab a group of elders, or form a committee, to analyze everything upfront? How effective would it have been though? See,
Leaders, you MUST use your own vision.
I believe in the strength of a team. There is no denying that fact. But, as important as it is to get perspectives of others, it is just as important to initially take some time and inspect the issue yourself, using the vision that God has given you to diagnose what needs to be done. For me this can be a terrifying ordeal.
What if I don’t see an answer?
What if I see the wrong thing?
When I think about this more, however, I don’t think that the purpose of Nehemiah’s trip was to seek answers, though I believe that God did supply him with some vision to move forward. I believe that God wanted Nehemiah to take some time alone and allow God to show him the situation through HIS eyes. It is almost a situation of God saying, “Ok, I know you’ve heard how bad this wall is looking, but let me show you what things look like from my end of the spectrum.” God wanted to strengthen Nehemiah’s personal resolve, so that when it came time to consult with the leaders, Nehemiah already had the inner strength to listen to them, but then tell them what must be done, and how to do it.
A leader considers the opinions of others but dares not act only on those. A leader has to make the choice that aligns itself with the will of God, even if that decision makes him unpopular.
In verses 17-18, Nehemiah lays out the vision for the rebuilding of the wall. While God gave him this vision before he reached Jerusalem, I believe that God solidified the vision while he stood among the rubble, taking in the sight for himself. The beauty of this is that when Nehemiah had finished, the people agreed wholeheartedly. I firmly believe that whether they agreed initially or not, Nehemiah still would have been successful, but the fact that Nehemiah took the time to assess the situation alone gave him even greater standing among his people.
God wishes to do that with every leader. Listen to others. Listen to your staff. But, in the end, take the time to look at the situation for yourself. You have to know what you’re up against, in order to know how to best overcome the challenge.
Use your sight. What are you seeing? What vision has God given you? That’s what you follow every time.