Simon P. Walker takes his readers on a journey of “undefendeness” and is a great sequel to his first book of this trilogy, Leading Out of Who You Are. Walker draws copiously from psychology and other ego patterns mentioned previously in his writings such as “shaping, defining, adapting, and defending.” He interweaves secular and sacred to get to the core of authentic, ego-less leadership by using famous figures and stories that rely on empathy, vulnerability, and authenticity.
Simon P. Walker’s profound exploration, Leading with Nothing to Lose, investigates the concept of “undefended leadership” through both secular and Christian lenses. Walker’s theory and spiritual wisdom illuminates uncharted territories of leadership thought and practice. Its focus on humility, selflessness, and serving others deeply resonates with biblical principles and Christ’s own leadership model and introduces a style of leadership that I have a preference for. Walker drives the point home that “weakness is a source of power” and to ignore it or belittle it, would be foolish and restricting.
Leadership has traditionally been associated with strength, confidence, and unwavering resolve. Walker helps leaders grow and reach new heights in leadership by opening the door to a new source of power and assisting leaders to change their perspectives and behaviors in regard to weakness. Walker cites several examples of questioning “powerful” CEOs and leaders during conferences about presenting weakness to a staff or team and was consistently met with predictable resistance. This is a hard concept for many leaders to grasp and moves against the typical strategy of numerous leadership books and theories.
Walker continues to use references from Leading Out of Who You Are and expands on the consequences of leading too much on the “Front Stage” or “Back Stage.” He states on page 285, “Leaders who lead only on their front stages burn themselves out, while their followers wither from lack of nourishment, or feel oppressed, or are simply unable to keep up.” This can also be detrimental in regard to leading solely in the “backstage” environment. “Less common is the backstage leader who is unwilling or unable to come onto his front stage. He is less common for one main reason: someone like this will tend not to succeed as a leader.”
This paradox of front and backstage leadership is something that resonates with me. I am personally an introverted-extrovert. I realize how contradictory this sounds, and is, but it is the truth. I have been in sales and leadership roles for years and have the ability to “turn it on” when needed, however, my comfort is in the backstage, and prefer to be the visionary and strategic reinforcement over the individual who is center stage and perhaps takes the glory. I rarely go on social media, I don’t like to share my life, and people are always telling me how great something would be if I would just open up more. Walker shares a rare source of power through weakness that I can connect with although I do not feel weak necessarily. I’m just not your typical leader or pastor. I understand this philosophy inherently however, I fear his warnings that it will limit me in many ways if not used correctly.
Walker helps build confidence in leaders on many levels and has helped me significantly. On page 320 he writes, “When you accept the role in leadership, you accept a public life in which your behavior is identified with the institution you represent.” This section reminded me of Moses not wanting to accept the leadership role in the Israelites’ exodus and even asking for a replacement or substitute (Aaron) so he may be more comfortable in a backstage role. “But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
The undefended leadership concept resonates deeply with my understanding of Christian leadership principles. Walker’s account of the public front stage and the private backstage mirrors my own experiences as a Christian leader. Much as Jesus navigated the public scrutiny and private moments of prayer and solitude, I have found myself juggling responsibilities; publicly serving my community while contemplating which is the right path in ministry. I have experienced moments of growth and periods of struggle. I can confirm this dual lifestyle reality, akin to juggling two separate lives, one public and one private. Walker’s concept embodies this thought process and provides a new perspective to it that has been extremely helpful.
This dichotomy also brings to mind Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he comments on his struggles, saying “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This verse encapsulates the power of acknowledging our backstage, our weaknesses, and our vulnerabilities, just as Paul did. Walker’s analysis of power relationships and the importance of trust reflects the Christian call to love and trust God’s wisdom above all.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
 Walker, Simon P. Leading with Nothing to Lose: Training in the Exercise of Power (The Undefended Leader Trilogy Book 2). Piquant Editions. Kindle Edition. 5555
 Ibid, 157
 Ibid, 285
 Ibid, 286
 Ibid, 320
 Exodus 4:10, ESV
 2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV
 Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV