Do You Have the Character to Lead?

The Father's House, New Property Prayer


Sir John Franklin lived an exciting life of adventure in the British Navy, which took him to many parts of the world. As a signal midshipman in the Battle of Trafalgar, he transmitted the memorable message from the flagship, “England expects every man to do his duty.” He was a devout Christian and found great strength in reading the Bible. His men said they would rather have him hold a service than most ministers.

In 1845 he was put in command of two ships to look for a passage across the polar seas. The last communication from them came through their contact with a whaling ship in Baffin Bay.

Many expeditions were made in the next ten years to learn the fate of Sir John Franklin’s ships. Pieces of equipment found on beaches told of shipwreck in the icy seas. One of the books was Sir John Franklin’s Bible with the following verses underlined: “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:9, 10). There was also a book of devotions with a page turned down at the verse: “Fear not … When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee” (Isa. 43:1, 2).—Free Methodist[1]

Leadership is challenging.  Real leadership is rare.  Servant leadership is inspiring. I would love to tell you I was a natural-born leader, but that would be untrue.  I learned leadership the hard way.  I made a lot of rookie mistakes.  I tried to lead congregations through radical changes without first building relationships.  I have a head full of leadership lumps to prove it.  It is my hope through teaching about leadership I can help save others from some of those hard life lessons.  Chances are some won’t listen. They may have to learn the hard way.

Our test subject is Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 2, we are going to examine 4 qualities during this series of posts on leadership. Nehemiah possessed these characteristics and they are keys elements to be an effective leader.

God Uses People Who Are Willing to Wait

Chapter one begins with Nehemiah saying, “In the month of Kisley,” which is December. Chapter 2 begins with Nehemiah saying, “In the month of Nisan,” which is the month of April. Notice that there is a time lapse of about four months.  When Nehemiah heard the bad news about the conditions in Jerusalem, he cried, he prayed, and he fasted. He said to God, “Use me, send me to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.” Then what happened? Nothing! At least not immediately, but Nehemiah didn’t lose hope. He didn’t give up on his dream. Instead, he waited.

Patience is a leadership lesson young leaders and some old need to take time and care to value.  I never wanted to be told no.  I was so convinced that the ministry needed to happen yesterday.  Are you like that as well?  Does everything ministry decision seem urgent?  We need to make this decision now; souls are at stake.  So, we push our people faster than we should and are critical of them when they fail to have that same sense of the urgent that we do.

It is often necessary for us to wait on God’s timing. For 40 years Joshua served in obscurity as Moses’ assistant. He did not attract a great deal of attention to himself, but when Moses died, Joshua was ready to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. His time had come. He waited 40 years, and he was prepared.  Oh boy, 40 years.  That seems far too long to be an assistant pastor.  The words of the psalmist ring loudly in our ears. “Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

American Christians hate to wait for anything or anybody. We want what we want when we want it.  That rings true even when it comes to our spiritual life. We want to be spiritually mature, and we want the 30 day crash course. We’re likely to pray, “Lord, give me more patience—and give it to me yesterday!”

There have been several times when new people have come to my church, and after several weeks have offered to “be a leader.”  My response was “slow down there partner.  We have this little clause in our church constitution that you cannot hold office until you have been a member for a few years.”  Looking back, the founder of the congregation added that clause with the leading of God’s divine wisdom.

The inability to wait on God’s timing indicates a lack of spiritual maturity. A servant leader understands that you need to walk before you sprint.

 God Uses People with A Positive Attitude

(v. 2) “In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before…”

The noted English architect Sir Christopher Wren was supervising the construction of a magnificent cathedral in London. A journalist thought it would be interesting to interview some of the workers, so he chose three and asked them this question, “What are you doing?” The first replied, “I’m cutting stone for 10 shillings a day.” The next answered, “I’m putting in 10 hours a day on this job.” But the third said, “I’m helping Sir Christopher Wren construct one of London’s greatest cathedrals.”

Attitude is everything.  Great leaders have a great attitude.  Attitude inspires loyalty and commitment.  If your people are not excited about the direction you are taking them as a leader, stop and check your attitude.

Nehemiah at this point in the wall reconstruction process had been heart-broken about his homeland for four months.   But Nehemiah never let that disappointment show. Instead, he channeled that into a deeper commitment to serve the king with a pleasant disposition.

Negative people make negative followers.  Positive leaders create real followers. Since leaders always have more problems than most people, leaders also face bigger challenges than most people. Leaders need to find the inner strength to rise above their pain and do their job with a positive attitude. Christian leaders especially need to realize that the success of the ministry is not solely dependent on them, if it is, you need to question if this is God’s vision and not yours.  If it is God’s vision, he will provide the means and the timing to make it a reality.

Other posts in this series:


[1]  Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1527). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

45 Comments on “Do You Have the Character to Lead?

  1. I personally don’t think that anyone is born a true leader… I think everyone is born with certain characteristics and while yes those characteristics can shape someone into a good leader they can also not be developed at all. You are definitely right that being a good leader is not for everyone and is very hard work. It is something that has to be developed and continuously developed over time.


    • You are right about that. That terminology “natural born leader” gets thrown around too often. Sometimes it is just an excuse not to work at being a better leader.


  2. I have had more than enough experience working with bad leaders in the corporate world. They think being tagged as a “leader” gives them the right to demean and design unreasonable workloads. That is one of the main reasons I quit being a corporate slave. Honestly, I feel that there is only one true leader, that is God and it is His Ways that should be emulated as true leadership.


  3. While I do believe that some people are natural-born leaders…it takes dedication and commitment to developing those leadership qualities in order for them to truly make a difference.


  4. I truly believe that everyone is a leader, we just all lead in different ways. For example, that team player type of person who just jumps in a does what is needed … he or she is leading by example. I believe that leadership takes many forms and you just have to tune into what your style is. At an old job, we did this activity called the Leadership Compass and it talks about just that.



    • Interesting program. I think I have heard of that but I will check it out. I too believe that there are many different leadership styles and they all need to be valued.


  5. Your post makes a nice read! I believe that no one is born as a true leader but people gain skills throughout their life to become a great leader.


  6. Leadership is such a powerful skill and it is such an important point that positive leaders create positive followers. We often forget that!


  7. There are people who were born leaders and there are those who were trained. I don’t think it matters how you become a leader so long as you a good one. I have to agree, it’s how we use that power, our attitude and mindset.


  8. I guess I am a leader, but that comes from many years of being well somewhat walked all over. It was once having children that I found my voice and my inner leadership skills came to the surface, I am much better at standing up for others than I am for myself.


  9. Great content. It’s important to be patient and respect the process as much as the end goal…tough times and setbacks will come, but remain positive at through it all.


  10. I sometimes wonder about my ability to lead. I do have a team that I supervise and I keep them at the forefront of what I’m doing as much as possible. I also report several higher ups, so balancing the two can be difficult. I hope I’m doing the best for my team.


  11. Thank you for bringing up about Nehemiah. He is a great example of a leader! Being a leader is not only about leading but also know and want to be a ‘servant’ in certain situations.


  12. Interesting article. Its amazing how a positive attitude can accomplish so much in life. It can overcome fear and face lifes challenges head on and help bring us through to the other side.


  13. I really enjoyed reading your post! Great insight! I would have to say I was not a leader until I had children. This is when I built my voice and my patience.


  14. Leadership has always been a difficult concept people find very hard to understand. Being a leader and being in leadership are two different things.


  15. Pingback: Do You Have the Desire to Change? – The Light Breaks Through

  16. Pingback: New Years Resolutions: Do You Have the Desire to Change? – The Light Breaks Through

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