In his book Leading Out of Who You Are, Simon Walker addresses the undefended leader’s character. The leader’s character sets one apart for genuine and authentic leadership. He describes the undefended leader as one whose character is morally upright due to being birthed by severe trials. Although he doesn’t specifically mention crucibles of fire, his description of the types of loss, emptying, and self-sacrifice required to become an undefended leader is not for the faint of heart.
The trials or processes a person goes through and the choices made during a severe test will free the leader from the entanglements of this life, or one can become full of anger and bitterness. If freed, the leader is more likely to want to see others become all they can be, taking responsibility for their own lives and living authentically. On the other hand, if the leader makes unwise choices during the crucible of fire, they will usually follow the path of leading through manipulation and coercion.
On page 6, Walker writes that “people submit to poor leadership, leadership that is clearly wrong, to leadership that everyone can see leads us away from life and health… Yet, we still believe that a leader should have integrity as well as inspiration.” Although I agree with Walker’s assessment that people tend to follow poor leaders, it is pretty alarming that, as a country, we have been in this long, dizzying, downward spiral for quite some time. It raises questions such as Would we recognize an undefended leader today? Pastor Sipho Zondi stated that there is a bankruptcy in leadership. Now, I’m asking myself the question, is it bankruptcy, or is it our inability to not want to take responsibility for our lives? Are we trying to live vicariously through leaders who exemplify a distorted reality of hero worship?
In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke these words, which are still often misunderstood today. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Aside from the words “will not be judged by the color of their skin,” if we could have come to a consensus on how to judge people based on the content of their character, I surmise we would not be faced with a leadership deficit or at a minimum would be able to recognize a leader with moral authority. So why didn’t we do the work of building a consensus on judging character as a nation? How did we allow ourselves to become so distracted by arguing over the words “color of our skin?”
Lastly, Walker states that an undefended leader allows those following them to reap the consequences of their poor choices. And an undefended leader does not try to fix another person’s mess. He asks, “does love allow us to suffer?” He makes the case that protecting others from consequences prevents people from taking responsibility. It also sets them up for failure and an inability to recognize what is reality versus living in denial. At times, “the role of the leader may have to make the situation worse before it will get better.” On this point, mentally, I understand and agree. However, I’m not sure I am courageous enough to allow a situation to worsen, even knowing it is for the best – particularly regarding my family.
But I want to leave with a perfect example of a leader who did not offer a premature solution, who recognized that it was time for something to change, and who pushed the problem back under their noses so they couldn’t deny or bury it. Again drawing on the actions of MLK, Jr. In his Letter From Birmingham Jail, he wrote: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”
 Simon P. Walker, Leading Out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership, (Carlisle: Piquant Editions, 2007) 199.
 Ibid., 185.
 Ibid., 198.
 Ibid., 198 – 199.
 Letter From Birmingham Jail, https://billofrightsinstitute.org/primary-sources/letter-from-birmingham-jail