In the first book in The Undefended Leader trilogy, Simon Walker depicts the landscape of the undefended leader in a visual manner that offers the reader concrete and practical application at the end of each chapter. His concept of the undefended leader can boil down to their core identity – they know who they are outside of success, failure, loss, skills, or notoriety. Walker emphasizes that in the same way we were all created to individually reflect the Lord, we have a similar mandate as we lead. Our personality and our life experiences are intended to be used for us each to live in freedom that then has the capacity to lead others in healthy and authentic ways. Walker guides the reader to recognize themselves in one of four ego identities that were largely shaped through childhood and adolescence. Throughout the remainder of the book, he offers targeted and practical steps to take for each of those identities that lead towards a self-awareness and freedom. Walker summarizes that “enabling people to take responsibility is the primary task of leadership” with the primary goal being “for both the leader and the follower to be changed” (153).
A recurring thought as I was reading this week was of the root of the word ‘go’ within the great commission. Oftentimes, those few verses in Matthew 28 are utilized when the church refers to the sending of missionaries, outreach programs, or encouraging congregants towards acts of service. Digging a bit deeper, the term ‘go’ in that passage is actually expounded to ‘as you are going’ which then transforms the command into a daily action that is embedded in all aspects of our life. If we look at leadership in a similar context of being something that is done as we go about our lives – not taking place primarily in front- or back-stage – then Walker’s suggestion for a leader to use their power to empower, educate, and enable others feels less threatening for all involved (3). For me, it even offers a release of the appeal for power and control because ultimately I’m being asked to step fully into who I have been created to be by the Lord, to walk consistently in my calling, and steward only what he has given me in any given day.
In reflecting on the application towards my NPO, this reading has been a reminder that the core of what I’m focusing on is to empower and equip university students to utilize their own skills, education, and passions towards action and cross-cultural relationship. In doing so, the materials that I will produce for higher education institutions to replicate and scale for their given context will aid towards producing graduates who are undefended leaders. On the daily, I interact with students who fall into each of the four identities Walker describes, who have understanding of and desires for power and control across the whole spectrum, and now, am equipped with more targeted language and actionable steps to assist them towards freedom and health.
Lastly, as a new parent, Walker’s dive into the formation of the ego in early childhood and adolescence has reignited an intentionality that I want to foster in our home as I cultivate and steward these little lives. While I have found the journey of parenting to be the hardest blessing I’ve ever had, I am confident that as I pursue the Lord, living and leading in freedom, it will be the best gift I can give to my children.
Blue Letter Bible. “G4198 – Poreuō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (ESV).”