#373 Nehemiah: Blaze the Trail™ 

May 8, 2024 

Nehemiah served the people of Jerusalem by clarifying the vision and calling the people to live by their values. He also demonstrated the third action of serving leaders, Blaze the Trail,  by keeping everyone focused on the mission. Serving leaders clarify for their team what activities bring the success that will accomplish the mission. They ensure that these activities are consistently practiced, and they work to remove any obstacles that would hinder progress toward the mission. One obstacle for Nehemiah was the enemies who wanted to stop the work and distract the workers.    

1When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates—2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer (Nehemiah 6:1-4, NIV).  

Nehemiah’s response models how serving leaders Blaze the Trail for those they lead.  

Serving Leaders Blaze the Trail by mentioning what matters  

Nehemiah responded to the message by stating “I am carrying on a great project.” He wanted it to be clear to those on the wall and those far away that what was critical was not meetings but putting stones on top of one another!  It was hard, sweaty work but Nehemiah understood exactly what would bring success, consistent focus on laying one stone on top of another! This was all that mattered for the mission to be accomplished. And he gave meaning and purpose to the task by calling it a “great project.”  

Some leaders are not crystal clear on what activities will bring success to their organization. Others understand but have not communicated them clearly to everyone on their team. But serving leaders clarify what brings success and make sure that everyone understands.  Serving leaders mention what matters.  

Serving Leaders Blaze the Trail by minimizing distractions  

The invitation for a meeting came under the guise of finding a peaceful resolution to the nagging opposition. Nehemiah recognized that going to a meeting in a nearby village would be a distraction that would take him away from the work for several days. The distraction may have been an attempt to take his life, or to attack the workers while he was not present. In any case, Nehemiah refused to be distracted. “I…cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”  

Some leaders allow themselves and those around them to focus on things that are not actually important to the mission of the organization. But serving leaders work hard to ensure that everything they are doing is mission critical and that those working with them are doing the same. They remove obstacles and minimize distractions.  

Serving Leaders Blaze the Trail by maintaining consistency     

Nehemiah’s challenge was repeated four times and “each time I gave them the same answer.” He remained consistent and kept his focus on putting one stone on top of the next.  

Some leaders hold true to their mission for a time, but when there are repeated distractions, they lose their focus. But serving leaders keep themselves and everyone else focused on what really matters to the organization. They don’t stifle innovation, but they insist on doing the right things again and again. They serve with consistency.   

For further reflection and discussion: 

  • How clearly do I understand our mission? Do I know what activities bring success to us and what activities are a waste of time? How well do those serving with me understand our success factors? (Use the free tool below to help you with this process.)  
  • What things am I tempted to do often that are not essential to our mission? What do I need to do to eliminate them? For those on my team, what distractions do they face and what can I do to remove them?  
  • How consistently do I focus on activities that bring success to our organization? How does this impact my leadership?  
  • Read the story of Nehemiah and reflect on other ways that he demonstrated this action, Blaze the Trail™. (Focus especially on chapters 4 and 6). What do you observe from his life and in what way can you follow his example?     

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

In the next issue, we’ll look at ways that Nehemiah built teams by focusing on strengths.   

Finally, as a free gift to you, click here to download one tool to help you put this action into practice in your organization.  

For more information about The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ read the book, The Serving Leader, or visit www.CenterforServingLeadership.com.