Leadership 101: What Motivates a Leader?

When a church makes an effort to grow, the members of the congregation usually fall into one of three categories. The doubters who say, “It can’t happen” _ those who look around and say, “Hey, look what’s happening” _ and then there are those who get involved and say, “Let’s make it happen,” then roll up their sleeves and go to work. Notice that I said “let us” and not “I” _ the naysayers are usually obsessed with “me, myself, and I” while the doers are able to see God’s lead and then invite others join them in the process. Let’s call the latter leaders.

God’s method for getting things done usually begins by calling leaders. That is why we need to develop leaders. In Nehemiah 5:14 we see that development in Nehemiah. “…from the 20th year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah.” Do you remember what Nehemiah’s occupation was when we started this study? He was a slave, a cup-bearer to the king. When he landed in Jerusalem he became a contractor, and a labor manager. Now we see that he had been appointed governor of Judah.

How did that happen?”Well, that’s simple God had chosen Nehemiah to be a leader. And why was he chosen? Nehemiah was a man of God. And what does a man of God look like? There are qualities like integrity, compassion, prayerfulness, humility, an ability to stand up under criticism, an ability to endure discouragement and the courage to face adversity _ a willingness to give God the credit and the glory

Admittedly it’s not easy to be a leader. You find yourself trying to fight off discouragement…you have to tackle big challenges…you end up working long hours…you become the object of criticism…It’s just not all that easy. And for some, it’s not worth it.

If getting lots of recognition and bossing people around is what motivates you to become a leader, then you’re in for a tough ride. But if you’ve got the right characteristics _ if you are motivated by the right things, you can become a great leader. So what are the “right things” that motivates a person to become a leader? First there’s…

   A Love for God

Let’s look at a couple verses from Nehemiah 5. “The earlier governors _ those preceding me _ placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall.” (Nehemiah 5:15-16)

Did you catch Nehemiah’s motivation for doing the “right thing”? “Out of reverence for God, I did not act like that.” Throughout history people have abused the power of leadership. Rulers, kings, priests, popes, governors, preachers and lawmen have all fallen prey to the seductive lure of power. Nehemiah could have taken advantage of his position, but then he wouldn’t have been a great leader and I would be talking about someone else. Nehemiah refused to use his position as a means of personal gain.

Someone once said to Mother Teresa, “I wouldn’t do what you do for a million dollars.” Mother Teresa replied, “Neither would I.” Unfortunately for every one-hundred people who can handle adversity, there’s only one who can handle power. I’ve known people who remained faithful to God during times of trial, and then deserted Him during times of prosperity. Not everyone can handle success. For Nehemiah, success wasn’t the issue. Serving and honoring God was. He loved God too much to abuse his power.

Yes indeed, love for God and having godly principles is an absolute essential when it comes to being an effective leader. That being said there is something else that is essential for becoming a godly leader. It’s the 2nd half of the “royal command. It’s…

   A Love for People

We see Nehemiah’s love for people in how he treated people when he came into power. “The earlier governors-those preceding me-placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall.” (Nehemiah 5:15-16)

Leaders are highly-motivated, driven people and sometimes they can be so driven that they bully people. Too often, a leader has the tendency to be insensitive and demand too much from the people he leads. Nehemiah was a great leader because he was able to keep his eye on his objective-rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem-without losing his compassion, his love for people.

   So what’s the point?

I don’t think I’ll shock anyone when I say that our world is a mess. The good news is that there is a solution. Now the solution won’t be found in a bill of congress or an executive order signed by the president or a decision handed down by a judge. The solution is for people to come into relationship with Jesus Christ.

I don’t know what God has called you to do but one thing I am certain of is that He hasn’t called you to sit around and do nothing. Ask yourself. Am I honoring God in all I do by living for something _ for some One bigger than me? Am I investing my life in building people up by helping and inspiring them to move toward God? Am I helping make the world a better place? Am I a godly leader? Am I consumed with bringing glory to God? What motivates a leader? Great leaders are motivated by a genuine love for God and a genuine love for people.


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