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


Written by: on March 10, 2021

The book The Undefended Leader was written by Simon P. Walker as a product of a course he developed and taught at Wycliffe Hall at Oxford University. He is an ordained Anglican Vicar, professor and an executive coach. His book is made up of three smaller books, Leading out of Who You Are, Leading with Nothing to Lose and Leading with Everything to Give. The author explores how our childhood ego’s impact us as leaders and how the only way to overcome them is to become undefended. According to Walker, leaders are molded throughout life. In this molding process a leader’s character is tested. The primary battle is an internal one. The external battles are opportunities to reinforce the wins and losses that have been fought internally. The goal and purpose of the internal battles is freedom. Freedom from a thirst for power, freedom from the need to control and freedom from the need to dominate. Walkers intent is to teach others how to be “free within themselves.”[1]

There is a story of a firehouse that was built with the latest technology and architecture. It was state of the art, made from the best materials. People went out of their way to see this marvel. A few short months after it was finished, to everyone’s surprise it began to show signs of trouble. At first it was just a few cracks in the walls. Then some of the doors began to stick. Soon after, windows became misaligned and portions of the roof began to sag. Finally the entire building was condemned. Eventually the authorities discovered that there was a crack of considerable length in the foundation that had not been noticed during the inspection. Looking further, they found deep below the surface an underground river that was slowly washing away the ground below the firehouse. Sadly, though the firehouse looked normal from the surface, the flaws and issues below the surface caused the building to crumble.[2] Foundations can be both physical and emotional.

The entire world has watched in astonishment as prominent leaders within Christendom, as well as those within the political world, have spiraled down in destruction. Many of these leaders were highly gifted and people of influence. Despite their talents and skills there was obviously something deep inside that put them at risk. According to Samuel Rima the author of Leading from the Inside Out “the primary culprit in virtually every case has been a flaw in the failed leader’s foundation.”[3] Whether it is in a leader or in a building, the foundation matters. A flaw in a leader’s foundation eventually leads to compromise if it goes undetected and unrepaired. Compromise over time leads to destruction. We have seen throughout history that character flaws can end in tragedy. The damage done is not only to the leader. The ripple effect can be devastating to those left in the wake.

I am reminded of a song based on Matthew 7:24-27 that I learned in Sunday School as a child.

“The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
And the rains came tumbling down

The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the rock stood firm

The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
And the rains came tumbling down

The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the sand went smash”[4]

I entered both leadership and ministry without giving much attention to my childhood wounds and character flaws. Like many others, I accepted this as the price of growing up. I knew the wounds and flaws existed but felt I could work around them. One of the hardest lessons I have learned is that charisma and talent may take you to the top, but it is character that will keep you there. Foundations matter; even the smallest crack can eventually over time cause havoc, not only to yourself but to those around you. The internal battles we fight – though not enjoyable – are the only way to get truly free. Free from ourselves and the damage we can cause.


[1] Simon P. Walker, The Undefended Leader, (Carisle, Piquant Editions, 2010), 13.

[2] Samuel D. Rima, Leading from the Inside Out: The Art of Self-Leadership, (Grand Rapids, Baker Book, 2000), 15.

[3] Samuel D. Rima, Leading from the Inside Out, 16

[4] https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/The_Wise_Man_and_the_Foolish_Man/


About the Author

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, husband, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

11 responses to “Foundations”

  1. Darcy Hansen says:

    Love the visuals you provide in this post, Greg. As you consider your leadership development, what foundational cracks have been the hardest to repair in your life? Do they require continuous maintenance or have they been fixed and then you move on? How has repairing those breaks brought more freedom in your life?

    • Greg Reich says:

      The hardest crack for me to repair is the desire to be in control. Some of this is due to my personality as a type A person, but much of it stems from childhood insecurities and wounds. This definitely requires continuous maintenance and vigilance. Though I have done the deep work I daily choose to stay in a place of health. I have a 21 inch scar on my left side from major surgery due to an accident. Even after 15 plus years that scar gets tender when I lay on my left side or rub against it. It is fully healed but still remains sensitive. So it is with some of my flaws and wounds. God has brought me a long way. Many of my past cracks have been dealt with and many no longer cause issues. But there are a couple personal demons (cracks) that continue to come to the surface. I think the challenge is to continue to deal with past cracks (killing personal demons) while preventing new cracks from arising.

  2. Dylan Branson says:

    The issue of foundations has been something that’s come up in a lot of conversations recently within my small group. I mentioned Peter Scazzero’s “Emotional Healthy Spirituality” in someone’s post already, but one of his chapters focuses on looking back to go forward. By this he means taking a reflective look on our childhood and other events in our lives that have had a major impact on our development (both positive and negative). I think you’re right: Without a firm foundation upon which we can build our lives and our identities, ultimately it’ll crumble and be washed away.

    • Greg Reich says:

      I think if people truly understood just how vital healthy emotions are and how unhealthy emotions effect us they would take them more seriously. We have created a frailty in our culture that avoids feelings and facing our emotional demons.

  3. Jer Swigart says:

    Like you, I would argue that cracks exist in the foundations of every human being. Generational sin (the underground river), the trauma experienced in our youth, or the habits formed and reinforced throughout time are among the culprits of the cracks. What I find fascinating is how long it takes us to acknowledge the cracks and, once noticing them, how few of us seem willing to do the hard work of stabilizing our foundations. What do you think causes many to ignore the cracks until its too late?

    • Greg Reich says:

      I am not sure why we fail to do the hard deep emotional work. For me is was dealing with the guilt and shame associated with my cracks. For some it may be pride or self-sufficiency. Yet for others it could be bitterness and anger. As society grows more fragile and people refuse to deal with discomfort the deep work appears to be more difficult. When you add in an attitude of relativism and world that hates absolutes why would anyone want to look deep inside?

  4. John McLarty says:

    It is interesting how long and far some can go before the cracks in the foundation start to do big damage. And conversely, how being intentional about the foundational work early on can actually slow one’s assent or cause others to dismiss their potential.

    • Greg Reich says:

      So true. We live in a culture that has disconnected a leaders personal life from their ability to lead. We saw it with Clinton. I am amazed at how society doesn’t seem to care about a leaders personal life as long as they produce what they say they will produce. The minute they don’t the garbage of their personal life becomes an issue. I am not sure why personal lives don’t matter until things hit the fan, Why people all of a sudden are shocked at what they find out when the signs of deeper issues are often so obvious. Trump would be a good example.

      • John McLarty says:

        Our collective hypocrisy is really sad when it comes to what we’re willing to overlook when the outcome is favorable. We’ve lost the art of true self-examination and the humility to acknowledge our weakness. We’ll try to maintain the facade as long as we can, all the while knowing that the future destruction will be more and more costly to repair. (Which is probably another reason we conceal the cracks.) I wish I had the secret formula for how to fix it.

  5. Chris Pollock says:

    Thanks Greg, thankful for your focus in this post. What goes on behind the scenes, or beneath the surface, plays into true undefended leadership.

    Yet, it seems that many, seeming dynamic leaders, somehow keep an incredible following, sustain a strong follower ship, despite living inauthentically.

    How do we get played by those leaders whose foundations are shaky and faltering? What is it about them, or their approach, that fools their die-hard followers?

    What are the signs that you look for in those leaders who convey a tone that seems untouchable, one of perfection, unfading confidence, yet are living certainly off-centre and at-risk of ‘losing everything’?

  6. Shawn Cramer says:

    I appreciate your heart, especially as I seek to be a life-long learner and life-long “grower” like you. You’ve mentioned this a few times over the past 2 years, but mostly in the abstract. What is something you are currently working on in the area of character and leadership?

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