I am fascinated by the subject of leadership. I am almost always somewhere in the middle of one or two books on the subject that I either downloaded from Amazon to check out for the first time, or pulled from my shelf to go through again. Whether spiritual or corporate; new and outside the box or time honored and classic in it’s approach, I find it interesting. I especially love books about entrepreneurs who start companies that lead to revolutions in their industry and beyond. People who are gutsy enough to challenge the status quo and take steps to change the world.

The themes of: culture, vision casting, implementing systems, brand and identity, communication and maintaining momentum get my blood pumping and fill my moleskines up time and time again. God has revealed flaws in my leadership skills through books written by bank presidents and heads of software companies just as He has through books written by pastors and Christian leaders.

I just finished reading Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O’Dell and am currently reading Church Planter by Darrin Patrick and What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith and I have gone through another half-dozen or more on the subject this year.

But, hands down, the best leadership book I have ever read is the book of Nehemiah. Yesterday I wrapped up an 18 week long study through this Old Testament book and from beginning to end I was blown away by the leadership lessons it contains. Long before Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Fred Smith or Henry Ford, Nehemiah was someone who took on a project big enough to change the world and though many thought he was crazy, that was exactly what happened–he changed the world. He took radical steps to live out the dream that God put in his heart, regardless of the cost or consequences, and never gave up.

He looked at the world and didn’t see what was, he saw what could be. And when he spoke of the future he saw others followed him there. Not because he had a great plan (though he did) but because he had a great vision. He inspired people. And he drew out the best in them, pushed them to be all that God had called them to be and empowered them to do all that God had called them to do. In fact, I think his building up of the people around him was potentially a greater accomplishment than the walls that he is remembered for building.

It wasn’t all roses and rewards for Nehemiah, it never is for those who will change the world. He knew full well the truth of the statement, if you want to lead you must be willing to bleed. He faced criticism, opposition, danger, and betrayal. And perhaps nothing caused him more pain than the prospect of his greatest accomplishment, the spiritual health of the people he loved, unraveling at the seams as they headed into an uncertain future. But no matter what he faced, he kept the vision God had given him front and center and refused to budge.

I found myself applying principles gleaned from Nehemiah to every area of my life. From the way I lead in my home to the way I lead at fresh life, even the way I write on this blog! The book of Nehemiah was basically just Nehemiah’s blog that God chose to include in the Bible. I am thankful that he took time to write down the things he was learning and living and hope to encourage others by doing the same.

I can’t wait until I get to meet Nehemiah in heaven and thank him for his example. Until then I plan to follow his lead and serve the Lord with a sword in one hand and a shovel in the other!