As far as leadership traits are concerned, Nehemiah was not that different from outstanding people whose names are far more familiar to us. Our nations twenty-sixth president, for example, was a hard-charging leader. Throughout his days in office Theodore Roosevelt was either hated or admired. An ardent admirer once exclaimed to him, “Mr. Roosevelt, you are a great man!” In characteristic honesty he replied, “No, Teddy Roosevelt is simply a plain, ordinary man— highly motivated.” It is safe to say that his answer describes most great leaders, including Nehemiah: plain and ordinary, yet highly motivated.

Edwin Markham expressed similar admiration for Abraham Lincoln: “Here was a man to hold against the world, a man to match the mountains and the sea.”

It doesn’t sound as if such lofty words could describe an ordinary person, does it? But wait a minute. When God puts His hand on a plain, ordinary person whom He has destined for leadership, that person is given mountain-matching abilities, whether he be a Roosevelt, a Lincoln, a Nehemiah—or a person like you or me. He motivates leaders to accomplish goals, to keep on working, to pass the bricks!

Nehemiah, although an ordinary man underneath, emerges as one of the most significant leaders in history. He was highly motivated to do a job for God that had many difficult circumstances surrounding it.

Before we get into the exciting specifics of learning effective leadership from Nehemiah, we need to get some quick history under our belts. Trying to study and appreciate Nehemiah without a knowledge of this transitional period of history would be like visiting old Concord Bridge in Massachusetts or the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia with no knowledge of the Revolutionary War. So take a moment in the remaining few pages of this chapter to catch a glimpse of what led up to the times in which Nehemiah lived. Then we will be ready for a careful study of Nehemiah the leader.

Charles R. Swindoll, Hand Me Another Brick (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998).

I have just completed a series of lessons based on the book of Nehemiah. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.