Motivation is an indispensable part of leadership. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this article, Nehemiah gives us a master class in motivation in Nehemiah 2.
I shared these four principles of motivation drawn from that chapter:
- Expect opposition.
- Wait for the right time.
- Get the facts first.
- Identify with your people.
This week, I’ll share four more:
5. Dramatize the seriousness of the problem.
Nehemiah didn’t hold back when he told the people in verse 17, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” (NLT).
Nehemiah chose his words carefully. He painted an emotional word picture with phrases like “Jerusalem lies in ruins” and “end this disgrace.”
Nehemiah dramatized the seriousness of the problem because the people had been living with it for years. When you live in a difficult situation long enough, you ignore it. Nehemiah knew this. He had to get the people to face the facts.
Leadership requires us to make people face uncomfortable truths from time to time. Change never occurs until we become discontent.
Your team can never move forward if they never face the truth of their situation.
6. Ask for a specific response.
Once Nehemiah made the people face their problem, he pivoted to action. In verse 17, he said, “Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem” (NLT).
Nehemiah gave the raw truth to the people: The wall was in ruins. But he didn’t stop with that bit of realism. He reminded them of what they could do together: “Let us rebuild.”
Leaders see both the real and the ideal. They see what is, but they also see what can be when everyone works together.
It’s not always comfortable to ask for help. Yet, if we don’t ask people for help, the wall won’t be built.
7. Encourage with a personal testimony.
After Nehemiah gave the people the plan (“Let’s build the wall”), he shared his own story of how God called him into this work, and how other people (such as the king) backed him.
The Bible says, “Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king” (Nehemiah 2:18 NLT).
Nehemiah knew that people aren’t motivated by plans alone; they’re inspired by other people. His personal testimony showed the people he wasn’t just a self-appointed leader. He was divinely appointed.
True leadership isn’t just about competence. It’s about legitimacy and authenticity. It’s about a God-given call others see and can rally behind.
8. Answer the opposition quickly and confidently.
As with any leadership endeavor, opposition was inevitable for Nehemiah. The longer a project lasts, the more opposition comes. Verse 19 says, “But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. ‘What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’ they asked” (NLT).
At first, Nehemiah had two opponents. By verse 19, he had three. In time, there would be six different sources of opposition.
But Nehemiah didn’t argue with his critics. Instead, he told them the project was God’s idea, and they would trust him for the results: “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:20 NLT).
Nehemiah’s response stunned the opposition, at least temporarily. It also boosted the morale of Jews in Jerusalem. After facing defeat for years, they finally had a leader who wasn’t afraid of standing up to the critics.
Pastor, you will have critics. The apostle John tells us, “Don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13 NLT). The only way to stay away from criticism is to do nothing.
Like Nehemiah, we need to answer our opposition quickly and confidently.
As we’ve seen from Nehemiah, motivation is much more than just pep talks. It’s a multi-dimensional process that includes everything from timing and identifying with those you lead to sharing your story and confronting critics with confidence.
With these principles in hand, you can become a leader who not only expects great things but makes them happen as well.