The final essential item in a leader’s backpack ties together the things we have covered in this week’s blog. The leader must have a clear objective. This objective is fleshed out by a plan to accomplish the objective. An objective is different, I believe, from an agenda. Some leaders exercise authority or use their position to accomplish an agenda. An agenda, as I am using it here, is not to be confused with an itemized order of business for a meeting. An agenda is a personally and sometimes personality-driven goal that will serve the leader’s need for power, for control, for revenge, for selfish ends. When agenda is used in this context, it is seldom used with a positive tone. An agenda can be devastating in the hands of an out-of-control leader, who is not under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
But an objective has a more selfless, magnanimous outcome. Nehemiah had an objective. He saw a need; the people of his beloved homeland living without security, without comfort, and without protection against the enemies and natural forces around them. His objective was driven by compassion for the languishing Jews who had returned already to Jerusalem under a governor named Zerubbabel.
It was Nehemiah’s objective to meet a need. Not to gain notoriety for himself. Not to become influential as a figure of history or a contemporary leader. Nehemiah’s objective was to rebuild a wall to complete a promise God had made to His people many years before. But his heart was pure; there was no personal agenda driving this project. In fact, it would bring Nehemiah nothing but heartbreak, disappointment, and sleepless nights to offer his shoulder to this task. He would lead, but he would lead in the attitude of a servant who would not seek his own advantage in this situation. In fact, several times in the Book of Nehemiah, he journaled how he would not take food, wine, or any payment for the job he was doing. He was empty of any personal agenda in this work.
As he laid his case before King Artaxerxes, it was with a pure heart. I believe the king saw that transparency in his cupbearer. It is essential, but difficult to live life without an agenda. It is tremendously difficult to lead people without one, and it takes constant self-scrutiny to lead from a posture of humility and servanthood, with a desire only to see God glorified and not yourself. Yet the finest leaders we have known in business, politics, or the church arenas are people who can embrace an objective but reject an agenda.
And serve the Lord before they themselves.
FOR MEMORIZATION: And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” (Nehemiah 2:5)
FOR REFLECTION: A Prayer for today: “Lord, help me to be a servant in my leadership and not a person with an agenda to serve myself. And make it clear to those I lead in my office, classroom, squadron, or workplace that my heart is transparent before You as I lead them. Use me to rebuild, to clarify, to show compassion, and to wash the feet of those in need, and lead from that posture of humility and not self-aggrandizement. As Jesus led, so may I lead. Amen.”