Simon P. Walker’s work and writing is changing my life. There are an incredible number of ways into this book trilogy for me this week. How could there not be when it comes to the leadership journey as the letting go of all the normal defenses we surround ourselves with? I am reading it too slowly and highlighting a ridiculous amount of material. It is not efficient but that is ok.
I wonder why the Undefended Leader is this impactful for me. I think his time and positions at Oxford are a factor, as it is a place I highly esteem. His commitment to the Church also helps, as he was ordained with the Anglican church in 1997. Obviously it also helps when someone writes about things that you have experienced, have secretly ruminated on, and are currently living through. Specifically, he has spent much of his career developing the “psychological ideas of an ecology of personhood”. You can tell. His subject matter is pertinent and goes down like a good counselor – offering reality and hope at the same time. He is compassionate and firm.
The gift of self-reflection, be it on my front versus back stage or ego strategies, was needed. My mind is weary from mini crises with both of our kids and a more than usual number of teaching opportunities. He reminded me of the power of weakness and that I am perfectly loved. It is actually a celebration for me that I can sense God’s pleasure even though my product is not the greatest ever. I have not taught perfectly and I have definitely not parented perfectly. What I do matters but I am more than what I do.
It is challenging to wrestle with the tension of Friedman’s call to self-differentiation and Walker’s insistence that change means being dependent on others – specifically Another. I connect with his Christian worldview deeply and agree that it is nothing short of life-changing to find you have been known and loved so thoroughly by God. It changes everything, including the way we serve and act in the world. This quote is longer than usual but I cannot improve upon it:
This is like discovering a spring of fresh water that can begin to well up within you. Instead of having to make the effort every day to fetch water from various wells around about, a spring is available inside you which can pour out a stream of life-giving water. Indeed, this water can not only quench your thirst but can also flow out of you and be available to other people. Instead of leading out of our emptiness, there is the possibility that we can lead out of fullness. Instead of a deficit within us, that we make up through our success or power or influence, there is a fullness that meets all our needs, which we can offer to others as a gift. If this is the case, then it is possible that our leadership can change from being something that always in some way takes from others—as may happen to the servant leader—to being something that gives to others freely, in undefended generosity.
Reading this book has made me grateful again for taking the risk to say yes to the LGP program. I had moments this week that were really important for my maturation and development. Being able to say it imperfectly here deepens the work. I imagined myself reflecting on the concept of “undefended” years after this program is over. Thinking of the deep well and repository I have access to because of the people I am journeying with is a satisfying thought indeed.
 Simon P. Walker, Leading Out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership (The Undefended Leader Trilogy Book 1), Loc. 1999.