Hand Me Another Brick: How Effective Leaders Motivate Themselves and Others by Charles Swindoll. Thomas Nelson. Revised edition 1998. 237 pages.
I recently re-read this book, which was one of the first books I read as a new believer in the mid-1980’s. The material in the book was originally delivered as sermons by the author to his church in California.
This book is based on the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. The author tells us that the main theme of the Book of Nehemiah is leadership, and that what the book has to say concerning leadership speaks to the same issues that we face today.
Early in the book, Nehemiah is the cupbearer to the king. Midway through the story, he is the builder of the wall. In the third part of the book, he is governor of the city and surrounding sections of Jerusalem.
The author tells us to think of the Book of Nehemiah as being divided into two main sections. In the first six chapters, there is a reconstruction of a wall; in the last seven, there is a reinstruction of the people who built that wall. The first six chapters tell the story of a dominant character (Nehemiah) who was the builder and superintendent over the job and ultimately became governor over the people of Jerusalem. In the last seven chapters, the leadership shifts to Ezra who was a priest and scribe. But throughout, there is one central theme, leadership—how God uses one person to motivate and encourage others into new fields, new vistas, new actions for change. In the first six chapters, God uses Nehemiah to teach us sound principles of leadership; in the last seven, He uses Ezra.
Nehemiah had one task, and that was to build a wall around the city of Jerusalem. Like our daily work, this may not sound very spiritual, but it was God’s will for his life. And prayer was the first major step Nehemiah took in his journey to effective leadership.
Themes in the book include prayer, opposition and criticism, discouragement, discernment, insight, and passivity. The book includes a helpful “Study Guide”, which makes it a good book to read and discuss with others.
Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
- You lead someone to the measure you influence him.
- The more responsibility we shoulder, the more time we need for contemplation before our Father.
- All who lead must place a high priority on prayer.
- Going out by faith doesn’t mean you’re going out in a disorderly or haphazard manner. You think through a project and count the cost financially.
- Experiencing criticism and opposition doesn’t necessarily mean you are outside God’s will. Rather, it may reinforce the fact that you are in the very center of His plan.
- God honors orderly thinking.
- When you cast blame and criticism, you squelch motivation. When you identify with the problem, you encourage motivation.
- If you never get criticized, chances are you aren’t getting anything done.
- For the leader, opposition is inevitable.
- Every leader must develop the ability to measure the value or worth of criticism. He has to determine the source and the motive, and he has to listen with discernment.
- Sometimes the best course of action is to respond to criticism and learn from it.
- The very first thing that ought to result from criticism is prayer.
- The problem that plagued Nehemiah was that of discouragement.
- Guard against the subtle teaching that suggests that God does everything and you step back and do nothing.
- Self-control is a virtue the leader cannot afford to be without.
- Correcting any problem begins by facing it head-on.
- Discernment is a God given quality a leader must possess. Discernment allows you to read between the lines.
- Insight is an essential trait for leaders. A leader must be able to see the big picture, to project into the tomorrows of any undertaking, to visualize the outworking of a plan.
- The distinction of a godly leader is that when he does business, he does it with integrity.