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"Seven Principles for Every Project"
by Tom Goodman
August 9, 2007

Leadership is the art of mobilizing people for a common task.  The Old Testament character, Nehemiah, is a great model of this kind of leadership.  He led God's people to rebuild the wall of his ravaged city, Jerusalem.  In an article to pastors, Rick Warren identified seven key principles from the leadership of Nehemiah that can give us insight on how to handle our own ministry projects.

The principle of simplification.  Warren wrote: "Nehemiah kept his plan simple.  The simplest organizations are strong organizations."

The principle of participation.  In Nehemiah's day, though he enlisted all kinds of people into the work, the leaders from Tekoa "refused to help."  (Nehemiah 3:5).  Nehemiah decided to simply ignore them and focus on those who were ready to work.  "In every situation," the Saddleback pastor said, "you're going to have workers and shirkers.  Nehemiah just ignored the latter and focused on those who were willing to work.  He didn't lose sleep, get bitter, or waste time trying to corral them.  If you're a leader, don't worry about people who don't want to get involved.  Focus on those people who want to get involved."

The principle of delegation.  After Nehemiah's pep rally when he got everyone excited, he then organized them into work parties to handle specific sections of the wall.  Warren says that when you delegate:

  • Break down major goals into smaller tasks.
  • Develop clear job descriptions.
  • Match the right person with the right task.
  • Remember that "when something is everybody's responsibility nobody does it."

The principle of motivation.  When you organize any project, help people "own" it.  In Nehemiah, you see again and again men making repairs near their houses.  I imagine this gave them a greater degree of interest in seeing that the work was done, and done well.

The principle of cooperation.  B.C. Forbes, the man who founded Forbes magazine, said, "You spell success: T-E-A-M-W-O-R-K."  Cooperation is a key principle to good organization.  This is true not only in business but in the church, Warren points out:  "In the Bible, when referring to Christians in the church, the phrase 'one another' is used 58 times.  It's as if God's saying, 'Get the message!  Help each other!'  There is tremendous power in cooperation."

The principle of administration.  Nehemiah was always walking around the project to inspect the work.  As Warren says, "People do what you inspect not what you expect."

The principle of appreciation.  I've always been impressed at all the lists of names in Nehemiah's book in the Bible.  He cared enough to recognize these men and women for their work.  As a leader, be sure to express thanks to the hard workers in your organization.

Put these seven biblical principles to work in your own leadership responsibilities and see what happens!


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