I Need a Drink
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.
9 responses to “I Need a Drink”
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Amen to that Andrea. Thanks for sharing that quote. I too resonated deeply with his Christian worldview. Without outwardly acting like a kid in a candy store, I too enjoyed this book very much. I wish I had heard of him sooner. His writing, as you said, is full of grace, hope and it just has a ring of truth in it.
Now, when I feel discouraged in leadership situations at any given moment, I can remind myself of two important truths: (1) Who I am; and more importantly (2) Whose I am.
I am very happy that you found Walker very helpful in your leadership this week. You made me feel encouraged that the book was a great encouragement as I read the trilogy of the undefended leader. I equally connected with the trilogy of the undefended leader with my Quaker church. Thanks for looking at this book positively.
I also loved the way he unpacked the power of weakness. (And I too hilighted way too much in this book.) In this idea, I particularly appreciate the difference between strength and power—or the implied invitation to consider the difference. How might weakness in the contexts you are looking at be used powerfully? It seemed to also come up in another way as Walker unpacked the unsustainability of constant productivity. What is powerful about being unproductive? What becomes the priority if we lean into weakness and unproductive as both powerful? Bless you my friend. I wish we could unpack this along Addison’s walk.
Jenn – you should be a professional question asker. Seriously, you are so good and always help to take it a little deeper. What a gift to the world! What is powerful about unproductive? Oh that is hard for me to embrace but I do think there is power in it. At home, when I am “unproductive” in the typical sense, I am more present with the people in the same space as me. That is powerful. Love you – the reference to our walk at Addison warms my heart.
I think we’re all in agreement that this was one of the more powerful readings we’ve had! Like Jacob said, the only bummer is that we couldn’t visit with him while in Oxford! Next time! 🙂
Andrea, we are certainly all in this development process together. I appreciate the vulnerability several have written with this week. LGP9 is about each of us individually and collectively growing into flourishing followers of Jesus that lead others into the same. I find the term undefended very refreshing as a title for one who has matured in Christ becoming more like him daily.
Andrea, this was certainly one of the best books that we have read so far and I will revisit it for my dissertation.
Hi. I see that you and I both were aware of the apparent tension between Walker and Friedman. I said in a comment on Sean’s post that as our language expands so do does our capacity to reflect on our experiences of leadership more fully and clearly. Self-differentiation, and psychological steering weren’t part of my vocabulary a couple of years back. I’m interested to know how the expansion of leadership language has shifted your own reflections on your experiences.
Yes to everything you said. I wish I had more time to read, because there is much of these books that I want to ruminate on.