Deep within the heart of every leader is a dream to make a better tomorrow. Whether it’s through a church, non-profit, business, or global cause, leaders aren’t content for the world to stay the same. However, leaders are also keenly aware of the need to inspire people to follow. Noble dreams and solo leaders don’t mix well. Every dream requires Four Types of Team Members. So how does a leader inspire people to follow?
The Old Testament book of Nehemiah provides great leadership lessons. From his life we learn How to Capture a Vision. But Nehemiah also shows us how to turn that vision into reality by building a team. From his life we learn four important lessons on how to inspire people to follow.
1. Identify with the people’s needs
It’s one thing to ask people to follow your dream, but it’s entirely different to have a dream that resonates with the hearts of people. Nehemiah understood this principle.
The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire… (Nehemiah 2:16-17a)
Nehemiah’s first step to inspire people to follow was to connect with the people around the city’s biggest need. Lesson: Identifying with people begins by identifying with their needs.
2. Inspire the people with a vision to meet the need
At the heart of Nehemiah’s dream was the desire to meet the city’s greatest need. Nehemiah 2:17b says, “Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” To inspire the people, Nehemiah went straight to the heart of the issue. The real issue wasn’t the rebuilding of the wall, but rather the removal of disgrace. Nehemiah appealed to the people’s desire for honor and respect. Having their walls destroyed resulted in ridicule, so Nehemiah inspired the people with a vision for renewed dignity.Lesson: Vision finds its power when it moves beyond a physical task and becomes an emotional catalyst.
3. Inform the people of God’s favor
The people could have easily rejected Nehemiah’s vision by saying, “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.” In Ezra 4, King Artaxerxes commanded the people to stop rebuilding the city. One failed attempt could have easily overshadowed all future attempts. But Nehemiah saw the potential behind the problem. Nehemiah 2:18 says, “Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king. They replied at once, ‘Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.’”
Nehemiah’s vision was legitimate because its origin was found in God. The same King who commanded the rebuilding to stop gave Nehemiah permission to build again. Nehemiah was wise enough to point to God’s favor on the dream. Lesson: Dreams that inspire followers have a spiritual lineage that traces back to God. It’s a God idea, not just a good idea.
4. Include the people in the work
Finally, Nehemiah created an opportunity for everyone to serve their city. The entire third chapter of the book of Nehemiah describes the role everybody assumed in rebuilding the wall. To inspire people to follow requires opportunities for people to serve. Lesson: People aren’t inspired by what I can do, but what WE can do.
Question: What else is essential to inspiring people to follow?