Leaders must be able to motivate others. Success in leadership is never a solitary endeavor.
One of the biblical figures who understood this the best was Nehemiah.
Nehemiah knew that rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem was not a task he could accomplish alone. When he arrived in the city, he found the people defeated and apathetic, living among ruins. Previous attempts to rebuild the wall had failed twice in the last 90 years, leaving the people without confidence and mired in negativity. For nearly a century, they had been convinced that the task was impossible.
But Nehemiah’s arrival marked a turning point. Within just a few days, he rallied the support of the entire city, mobilizing them to rebuild the wall in a mere 52 days—a feat they hadn’t achieved in nine decades. So, what set Nehemiah apart when others had failed? He wasn’t a miracle worker. He was simply a great leader who understood the principles of motivation.
During the next two weeks, I’ll share the eight principles of motivation Nehemiah shows in Nehemiah 2:10-20. Here are the first four.
1. Expect opposition.
Whenever God’s people decide to build, Satan raises up opposition. People resist change for a variety of reasons. Leaders figure out what those reasons are and deal with them.
Nehemiah heard critics before he even arrived in Jerusalem. Nehemiah 2:10 says, “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites” (NIV).
There is no opportunity without opposition. If you’re motivating people to make a change, expect opposition.
2. Wait for the right time.
Timing is everything when you’re motivating others. It can make or break a plan. Nehemiah understood this well. Nehemiah said, “I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days I set out” (Nehemiah 2:11 NIV). We don’t know why Nehemiah waited for three days, but the timing turned out to be right.
Ecclesiastes 3:7 reminds us there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak,” (NIV) and Ecclesiastes 8:6 adds, “There is a proper time and procedure for every matter” (NIV). Timing is essential. If you’re trying to make changes, you must wait for the right moment. Even Jesus demonstrated a profound sense of timing in his ministry, often saying, “It’s not time yet. My time has not yet come.”
3. Get the facts first.
You’ve heard of Paul Revere’s midnight ride. In verses 12-16, we get Nehemiah’s version of the midnight ride. Nehemiah embarked on his midnight ride to inspect the walls of Jerusalem. He didn’t make a grand gesture; he did it in secret. He said, “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” (Nehemiah 2:12 NIV).
Nehemiah’s midnight ride wasn’t about spectacle; it was about doing his homework. This is the unglamorous part of leadership, the part that goes unseen. It’s about preparation, checking out the situation, and gathering facts. The passage even describes how he had to dismount his horse to walk through the rubble, perhaps realizing the enormity of the task ahead.
4. Identify with your people.
Effective leaders understand the importance of connecting with their people. Nehemiah exemplified this when he said, “You see the trouble we are in . . . Come, let us rebuild . . . and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17 NIV). Notice the use of “we” and “us.” He didn’t approach the people of Jerusalem as an outsider or a critic. Instead, he identified with them, accepting shared responsibility.
This approach isn’t about avoiding blame; it’s about increasing motivation. Nehemiah didn’t present himself as an outside expert or a savior. He said, “I’m one of you, and it’s our problem.”
Good leaders identify with their people. Identifying with your people fosters a sense of unity and shared purpose, which will help you motivate those you lead.
Read Part 2 of this article HERE.