Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Content of Their Character

Written by: on November 4, 2022

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.[1] He asks, “does love allow us to suffer?”[2] 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.”[3] 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.[4] 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.”[5]

[1] Simon P. Walker, Leading Out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership, (Carlisle: Piquant Editions, 2007) 199.

[2] Ibid., 185.

[3] Ibid., 198.

[4] Ibid., 198 – 199.

[5] Letter From Birmingham Jail, https://billofrightsinstitute.org/primary-sources/letter-from-birmingham-jail

About the Author

Audrey Robinson

9 responses to “Content of Their Character”

  1. mm Becca Hald says:

    HI Audrey,
    Thank you for sharing a great discussion of how trials shape a leader. It is never easy to walk through the fire, but I always remember someone telling me about how silver is refined. They said that the silversmith would put the silver into the fire and watch it as the dross is pulled out. The silversmith never takes their eyes off the silver and knows that it is ready when they can see their reflection in the silver. God will allow us to go through the fire, but He never takes His eyes off of us for a second. I love the image of being done when we can reflect His image, as Paul tells us to do in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (ESV)

    What ways has this book impacted the way you respond to the trials you face, such as what you mentioned with your family, or other trials?

  2. Audrey Robinson says:

    Your description of the silver being refined captured the essence of what I envisioned while reading the book.

    To answer your question, the book hasn’t impacted me per se in terms of how I respond to trials with family. However, it did confirm that I am moving in the right direction by allowing trials in family members’ lives to work themselves out (most of the time). There was a time I was Ms. Fix-it – all the time. In the past five years, I’ve realized that I had fewer gray hairs when I allowed the Holy Spirit to work things out. My goal has been to keep my eyes on the Lord and purpose to enter into His rest.

  3. Michael O'Neill says:

    Thank you for this great post. I was that poor leader about a decade ago, shortly after an ugly divorce. I was mad. I didn’t understand my call, and I chose the easy way out. I may have been justified in some of it but it means nothing because I could have led people in the wrong direction. I see now it was selfish and so is a lot of bad leadership. I’m fortunate that I didn’t go public with anything or try to draw anyone into my anger but I know that I am a leader and have people in business that needed me and I am assuming I let them down whether they realize it or not. I feel so blessed to have dedicated myself to Christ. Leadership makes sense to me now and I wish more people would understand that we’re not even battling flesh. It’s the dark forces and evil that makes people corrupt. Your examples are awesome but they also make me sad because I know how true it is. I wish this country and world would wake up sometimes. I can’t believe people are willing to hate another human for what? More power or money or is it that they are following a bad leader?

  4. mm Daron George says:


    Two things!

    First, I love the way you weaved in MLK and the fact that you brought out that often misunderstood quote, “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.” this quote has been used so many times over the years that it has lost it’s original and poignant meaning of causing us to reflect on how we judge character and sadly more often than not it’s still based on skin.

    Secondly, In your post you said “is it bankruptcy, or is it our inability to not want to take responsibility for our lives?” I think it’s the inability to not want to take responsibility. My question from this post is this, do you have hope that we can move from the inability to want to take responsibility (which is one of the reason I believe we judge based on skin color) to a place where we judged on the content of someones character? If so, how?

  5. Audrey Robinson says:

    I agree that one of the reasons we continue to judge based on color is because we do not want to take responsibility for our lives.

    I absolutely have hope, not because of man’s ability to get it right but because of the compassion of our God. I’m reminded of Jonah, Nineveh’s repentance, and God’s great compassion. However, I do believe that as more believer’s discover how to take responsibility for their lives, begin to live authentically Christ-like, and begin to judge on the content of character, there can be a greater impact on culture.

    Secondly, at some point, believer’s will have to move outside of the church to establish relationships with ‘others’. Bryan Stevenson, from the Equal Justice Initiative, speaks about the compassion that is built when you learn about others up close. You begin to see that there is no difference between you and someone else because of their skin.

    Lastly, I think that God is continuing to do a new thing as initially described in Isaiah 43:18-19. To me this Scripture has a prophetic reminder of how God works. So hopeful – very.

  6. Audrey,
    Thanks for your post. MLK Jr.’s sacrificial work is so significant to the global community.
    Perhaps we will see more people move from hoping and dreaming to Action. I agree with you on the need for relationship-building for better outcomes.

    Do you think communities of faith will do it? People seem to be so divided instead of creating solid relationships.

  7. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Audrey, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and challenging us to think further on several issues touched upon by Walker. I am interested in your answers to the great questions from our peers above. Also, this sentence struck me: “It raises questions such as ‘Would we recognize an undefended leader today?'” This is such am amazing question! It’s simple, but powerful, because it reflects an incredible problem in our society today. Do we have the character, ourselves, and determination to recognize good leadership? What do we think good leadership is today? Do we want to take the time to learn about good leadership and choose good leaders… and be good leaders! or, do we want to follow others, refuse to think carefully and slowly, and and take the easier path for the short and long-term?

    I am encouraged that you have hope that God will continue doing a new thing in our world, as mentioned in your response to Daron. Thank you for that encouragement. I think so, too!

  8. Alana Hayes says:

    Thank you so much for this great conversation. Ive been thinking about this for a couple weeks but your quote by Martin Luther King Jr brought it back up…

    What do think that MLK jr would tell to Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in the 90’s, as well as present day if they were all alive? Gosh! Can you imagine how bright the room would shine with all of them in it!?

    As always, thank you for pushing us to think deeper!

    • Audrey Robinson says:


      Great question. I think they would say to each other that the work is not done and, let’s be sure to train up the next generation to carry the torch.

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