Leaders have visions and they get excited. Church leaders have (hopefully) God-given visions and they get passionate. And new leaders to communities have the advantage of seeing things the people who have been there a while no longer see. Some who style themselves leaders in situations like this will insist that they know what is best for the community because a) the people there evidently did not understand the situation like the leader does, b) God gave the leader a vision and mission, and c) therefore it is important to get the people to follow the leader immediately.
Nehemiah did not do this. Rather, he invested in preparatory leadership. He had a God-given vision and mission, and he knew what the problem in Jerusalem was, but he had to do some investigating before anything else happened:
When I reached Jerusalem and had been there for three days, I set out at night, taking only a few people with me. I didn’t tell anyone what my God was prompting me to do for Jerusalem, and the only animal I took was the one I rode. I went out by night through the Valley Gate past the Dragon’s Spring to the Dung Gate so that I could inspect the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down, as well as its gates, which had been destroyed by fire.
The first thing Nehemiah did was get to know the people. For three days he was in the city and did nothing else. How can we lead if we do not know the people? It is just as critical to know our people if we are going to lead them as it is to have the God-given vision. If we do not know or care about our people, then why would they care to follow whatever it is that we put forward?
Second, he went out to inspect what needed to happen first-hand. This is important. I am amazed at how many potential leaders I know who truly believe that they alone see the problems clearly and have the answer for them. The people of Jerusalem could see that the walls were destroyed and the gates burned down. They did not need Nehemiah to come in and reveal that fact to them. And Nehemiah was wise enough to recognize the fact that even though he heard about the state of the wall surrounding the city, and even though he saw a portion of it when he arrived, he did not know first-hand the scope of the situation. Therefore, he made a tour of the city to see what the extent of the problem was.
Third, he did not share what he wanted to do until the time was right. Leaders do not think out loud. They keep their thoughts to themselves until they are prepared to share the God-given vision and mission with others. This can only happen once the leader knows the people and has first-hand knowledge of the problem at hand.
For leaders to have success, they need to take the time to prepare. Know the people. Get the facts. Then share the vision. Only then can the vision be shared in such a way as to take into account what the entire scope of the problem is and how best to communicate the vision to the people will willingly accept it.