In leadership, counterproductive elements are people or things or behaviours that are hindering the attainment of a desired goal, and in most times, it is manifested in people doing things that are inimical to the progress of an organization or even a nation, as the case may be.
Now, in the example that we want to consider, we can see how Nehemiah stood his ground against certain rich folks who were taking advantage of the poor among them, by placing high usury on whatever they borrow from them. Now before this time, there had been record of victories for the people of God. In Nehemiah Chapter four, we have read how they have made progress in rebuilding the walls despite the presence of opposition in Sanballat and Tobiah.
But back home in their own camp, there were raging issues, to the extent that if not properly addressed, it could hinder the work of rebuilding the wall going forward. So, when the complaints was brought before Nehemiah, there were certain steps that Nehemiah took as a leader, which is quite profound, which every leader must take note of. Certain folks had come to report their fellow brethren to Nehemiah about how they were being maltreated, and Nehemiah took the following actions:
1. Nehemiah Showed His Displeasure Towards The Actions of Those Few (Verse 6): As a leader, when you witness or see certain actions that are inimical to growth or progress within your organization, never allow such behaviours to go unaddressed because if you do, the people might as well think you are also in the know or that you sanction such actions. In this verse, when Nehemiah heard about the matter, the first thing he did was to show his displeasure towards it.
"And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words."
2. Nehemiah Rebuked Those Involved In Such Practices (Verse 7): Nehemiah rebuked those in charge of such un-awesome practices. Now, notice he didn't rebuke them in the corners. He called them out in the great assembly, so that they can be made a public spectacle with the intents that others would learn and desist from such acts. Why? The Bible says "Open rebuke is better than secret love." (Proverbs 27:5). Now, the importance of rebuking in the open is that it serves as a deterrent to others.
"After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, "Each of you is exacting usury from his brother." So, I called a great assembly against them. And I said to them, "According to our ability, we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?" Then they were silenced and found nothing to say." Then I said, "What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?
3. Nehemiah Got A New Commitment From The People Involved (Verse 12-13): Now, after rebuking such counterproductive elements, and they have taken to your correction, it is important that you get a commitment from them to be of good behaviour afterwards, and the consequences that will follow if they refused to abide by their commitments. From this story, we can see that Nehemiah got a new commitment from the people never to involve themselves again with such counterproductive behaviours.
"So they said, we will restore it, and will require nothing from them; we will do as you say." The I called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to this promise. Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, "So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise. Even thus may he be shaken out and emptied." And all the assembly said "Amen!" and praised the Lord. Then the people did according to this promise."
4. Nehemiah Lead by Example (Verse 14-15): Nehemiah modelled an example from verse fourteen, and this is essential for every leader. One of the best ways to deal with counterproductive elements is to set an example before them. Don't do what you don't want your followers to do, and do exactly, what you would want them to do. Leadership is by showing example.
"Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the governor's provisions. But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God."
So, in summary, dealing with counterproductive elements requires that you take displeasure in such actions, rebuke those involved sharply so that it can serve as deterrents to others, get a new commitment from those involved never to engage in such behaviour any longer and; lead by example as a leader.
I believe you have been blessed!
[Centre for New Dimension Leadership]