It is Chinua Achebe who said that the problem of Africa has everything to do with poor leadership –simple and square. Weigh our elected leaders on a scale and you will find them too light for your liking. But there was one leader who was worth his weight in gold-Nehemiah .Nehemiah was one of the leaders in the holy Bible who can demonstrate to us what leadership is all about. When he learned of the condition of Jerusalem and how miserable fellow Jews were, he offered visionary leadership out of their quandary. He was having it good in Susa the capital city of Persia but confronted with a choice between his comfort and the helping his people, he choose the latter. True leadership is not about the leader and what is in it for him but rather serving your followers. Lesson number one –leaders guide their people to the Promised Land flowing with honey and milk!
But before doing anything Nehemiah prayed to Almighty God to make his choice successful. He also approached the government in Susa for necessary approvals and resources. Lesson number two-in leadership you cannot do it all by yourself. Seek guidance from God and lean on him for the unshakable support. You will need it when things turn ugly. Also be faithful in small matters .When the big moment comes, powerful people in your social circles will be willing to rally support for you. Nehemiah got the support of King Artaxerxes, something unlikely to have obtained if it was a proven fact that his conduct was lower than the belly of a snake.
Lesson three: learn the problems first and then other things will follow naturally. Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem on a mission to help put Jerusalem on its feet by re-building city wall. However when he arrived he did not announce his objectives immediately to all and sundry. Choosing his actions carefully, he first went on a fact finding mission- inspect the city wall alone at night. This afforded him the opportunity to learn the scope and complexity of direct problems he would be facing in his leadership. Once you diagnose a disease correctly, it’s much easier to resolve it .A leader should not over rely on second hand information. Often times pound the pavement yourself and see the pains and problems your people are going through. Then you will be in a better position to argue their case and provide solutions that make a difference .Here Hon Matiangi education Cabinet secretary comes to mind.
Fourth work by consensus-armed with facts Nehemiah told the priests, leaders and officials that the City wall was in ruin and they needed to rebuilt it-to put an end to their disgrace. Then to give unassailable strength to his vision he informed them how God has been with him and helped him in the past. Furthermore he told them, that what he was asking them to support had all the backing from all important people including the King. .From this we learn that the people will not just agree with your agenda and vision. You have to earn follower ship through word and actions. .Start by anticipating internal opposition and resistance you are likely face and solve it in advance. Collect objective information about the situation on the ground: problems, internal stakeholders and more importantly the views of the ordinary people .It helps if you support your arguments with tangible first hand evidence and information. This way you avoid all kind of pitfalls and at the same time boost your street credibility. Also demonstrate that you are God fearing person and mean what you say and say what you mean. And to put all contentions to rest, get endorsement from credible quarters. This will result in a consensus on your leadership agenda. From here, hit the road running.
Lesson Five: leverage labor. Nehemiah ran an organized and tight ship. All the work was split into manageable chunks and each piece signed to a leader with is team of workers. Then they were left to their devices to finish quality work output. Nehemiah focused all his energies on coordinating the entire enterprise and eliminating obstacles in the path of progress. He facilitated smooth flow of work ,treated all people without partiality ,and boosted their morale when external forces led by Sanballat,Tobiah ,Geshend and company were threatening violence. Lesson: once the ball start rolling, the leader should get out of the limelight until when there a problem. Then he should promptly make evidence based decisions and solve all obstacles to progress. He should provide forward thinking for the team and not listen to lies and all kind of petty politics .And to put icing on the cake he must address all issues in a transparent fashion. If the reverse is the order of the day then everyone will become deceitful and a small time politician-but the most important task will suffer neglect!
Last lesson-Overcome external opposition. -Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem were foreigners and were not happy that someone had come to help Jews out of their misery. Why? Because it was in their interest for Jerusalem to remain in ruins, so they could continue to exploit the situation for personal gain. First these people demonstrated by their utterances that they did not have knowledge about Nehemiah leadership and the level of support he had with the government of the day for this enterprise. But when they realized their grave mistake they hatched a plot to attack the workers and create confusion. The plot planned was discovered. Nehemiah armed the workers and prepared them for any ambush encouraging them stand their ground and fight for their country and children. When the possibility of an open attack failed, Sanballat Tobiah and company resorted to treacherous operations but Nehemiah destroyed all their hope of ever gaining an upper hand through their cunning.
Lesson: beware of vested or invested interests that your vision will put out to pasture. They will literally stop at nothing to delay and if possible kill your vision. To overcome this, pray to God for guidance and wisdom. Do not allow the enemy to cause division among your ranks. Create goodwill among the regular folks and they will give you a heads up in case of an evil plots by the opposition. You will have intelligence on your opponents for free. Craft a strategy to defend your position and if need be fight back to win. Finally the leader must be brave and virtuous – ready to stand in the line fire to protect his people. All cunning will in the end fail to derail a courageous and upright leader.
Nehemiah persisted in great difficulty with this enterprise and after 52 days of work the entire wall was finished. That is one of the highest level of effectiveness and efficiency you will ever read about in the history of the world. No wonder he was latter appointed governor of Jerusalem by the King.