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

Leadership Endorphins

Written by: on November 5, 2022

Leading Out of Who You Are by Simon P. Walker is a must-read for leaders. As a clergyman himself, Walker’s advice is noticeably grounded in his faith, however, his insights are powerful and valuable for anyone in a leadership role. Dr. Walker brilliantly identifies characteristics of leadership from a variety of perspectives and personality types that unlocked a new state of “leadership-consciousness” for me.  Leading Out of Who You Are paints a picture of the ideal leader through enlightening and inspiring examples. He expands his argument through references and case studies, but more importantly, his words offer hope for change to the reader with a desire to improve. Overall, this book contains enormous value and wisdom that can immediately be put into practice.

Self-reflection is inevitable while reading leadership expositions of any kind. This was naturally the case in my journey through Walker’s book, and the timing was impeccable. I was dialed into my preparation for an important workshop I was hosting this past Thursday night. Walker’s book provided motivation and confidence for me as I led a group of leaders in a scholarly discussion. In the weeks leading up to this important event, I was excited and anxious. The workshop theme and ministry model I was presenting includes leadership principles, alternative perspectives, and a deep biblical philosophy that I believe many Christians miss in their walk of faith. I knew that my presentation must be engaging and delivered with confidence to receive beneficial feedback and “buy-in” from my stakeholders.

Walker’s explanation of “undefendedness” was a release for me and eliminated any fear looming in my psyche. He reminded me of the trust required to lead others to the unknown. How to model leadership through action, guidance, and influence. And how sacrifice is common when leading by example. I particularly enjoyed the recurring theme of the book, “leadership is about who you are, not what you know or what skills you have.” I have used a variation of this line in staff meetings for years, prior to reading this book. I can teach anyone how to use a computer or show them where the broom goes in the closet, but I can not make you a good person, a good communicator, or an inspiration to others unless you already have that in you. This book reiterated this fact I strongly believe in.  The apostle Paul provides his take on the leadership philosophy in Titus 1:7-9, “for an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” [1]

I invited leaders from the community and spiritual leaders from local congregations to my event and intentionally set the stage for a huge success or massive letdown. I tend to overprepare in these situations which can occasionally negatively impact my goal or the audience’s takeaways. I truly believe the Holy Spirit reminded me of this while leading the opening prayer. My call to Jesus helped me set the tone for the entire evening. I invited the Spirit to join us and open the eyes of our hearts. I also recall declaring His glory and power to move mightily through the workshop activities. I know it was confirmed in Jesus’ name, and that is where my story would end if I had not recapped the evening with my wife and mother after the event was complete. I did not finish that prayer in the same mental state as I started. I was speaking in the Spirit and can hardly remember the details, although I know it could not have flowed any better. God answered that prayer for me and was present in that room and in the hearts of those who attended. I never looked at a note and spoke for hours like I never had before. As Walker would define it, my “front stage” leadership and “personality power” was engaged and the “emotional state of the audience” was palpable.[2] I realized after the fact that I omitted approximately 40% of my slide deck. I feel very blessed to have been led to stay focused on the people and their feedback. I accomplished more than I anticipated with less of my agenda. “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” [3]

The endorphins from the event have not ceased despite the never-ending tasks that continue to haunt my daily schedule. Walker’s words inspired me to lead my stakeholders to the unknown with assurance. The experience was a success, but the art and style of the execution moved my soul.

[1] The Holy Bible, ESV. Titus 1:7-9

[2] Walker, Simon P. Leading out of Who You Are : Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership. Carlisle: Piquant, 2007.

[3] Maxwell, John C. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. 1998. Reprint, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007.



About the Author

Michael O'Neill

Director of Operations / Executive Pastor at Kinergy, Inc. Federal 501c3 Non-Profit Organization. An experienced entrepreneur, leader, father, wellness professional, and owner of a multi-location medical practice with my wife, Nicole O'Neill, MD.

15 responses to “Leadership Endorphins”

  1. mm Becca Hald says:

    Michael, I love how you related the book to what you are doing in a practical way. I love that quote by Walker as well. You can teach people skills, but personality can make or break a team or leader. Going forward, how do you think you will use this information in future meetings or leadership contexts? How will you respond if a meeting does not go as well and you do not have the same endorphins afterward?

  2. Michael O'Neill says:

    Thanks, Becca! A lesson and skill I continue to bring into practice, is asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit. Regardless of the scenario, I use this as my first line of defense. So far, He has come through for me; but not like a lucky rabbit’s foot. It is all about my heart and submission. I will also do my best to capture the audience and build their trust, especially if I need to gain their support in some way. They will not follow me if they can not trust me. Lastly, if things did not turn out how I had planned, I think it would be wise to reflect on the steps of execution. See what was missed. Examine my heart. Assess my motives. And reframe my strategy and mindset to align with His.

    Thank you for your questions. It really helped me prepare for short-comings in the future.

  3. Caleb Lu says:

    Michael, so glad this book was empowering for you! I think I can read these leadership books and always think of the ways which I’m not meeting the expectations or picture of what a leader looks like so I’m thankful for the reminder that these things can be reassuring as well.

    I am also reflecting as you say “…but I can not make you a good person, a good communicator, or an inspiration to others unless you already have that in you.”, that there are times when perhaps I simply don’t recognize that someone has that “something” in them. I’m hoping that as we live out what Walker calls an “undefended leader” that we can draw out qualities in people that we never knew, or that they never knew were there.

  4. Michael O'Neill says:

    Thank you, Caleb. I also do not always see the “something” in people. I try to, but I admittedly have made many bad decisions in management because of this. I assume they are great because they usually start out with enthusiasm. I think I can work with it or I have over-confidence in my own abilities to lead them. The problem is, I find out quick that there is more to them than I perceived in an interview and I’ve had to cut my losses on a number of occasions. I am not sure how to solve this except to either have better training, or perhaps ask better questions in interviews that will identify more of their character instead of the rehearsed answers that are anticipated. I believe I have failed the new staff on a number of occasions. I like to give staff authority and freedom in some ways but this has backfired on me because they didn’t have that “something” in them. They possibly could have become something great but I did not give them enough attention or provide what they needed. Overall, I think I have enormous room for improvement in a lot of areas but the thing that sticks out to me most is to examine their personality on a deeper level and listen more.

    Thank you, again.

  5. Tonette Kellett says:


    It sounds like your workshop was a phenomenal success! I’m pleased for you. I too thought this book on leadership was a terrific one and helpful in so many ways. Praying for you as you continue with your project.

  6. Audrey Robinson says:

    I’m so glad your workshop went so much better than you had hoped. I got chills reading your description of how the Holy Spirit answered your prayer and carried you through the workshop without relying on your notes.

    I thought a lot about you when reading the book because Walker wrote quite a bit about trials. And as I recall, going through a trial was something you preferred not to have to go through. Has the book changed your perspectives at all regarding trials?

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      You are wise and connected to the Spirit, Audrey. Thank you for your comments and years of support. You are accurate that I do fear the trials sometimes. I have that syndrome in me where everything must be perfect and a few issues in my life crippled me. However, I have a feeling it won’t be the case anymore, or at least not as bad. I realized this week that I have overcome a lot and I am not the same man I was years ago and I really need to let any of those thoughts go. They can’t help me, they can hurt me, so there is no need. And we’re instructed to.

      The Spirit and this experience taught me to be prepared but then let go. To rely on Him and have unconditional faith. Not convenient faith.

      Thank you so much for your words. I’m glad my story inspired you. It was really an awesome moment. I’m starting to cry right now typing to you because it was that kind of experience for me. I feel so blessed to have witnessed the Spirit in this way.

      • Kristy Newport says:

        Thank you for sharing about your tears. This is a rare thing for a man to do (this may be over generalized). I believe TEARS ARE STRENGTH. You are an undefended leader who is willing to share what is going on “back stage.”
        Sister Kristy

      • Alana Hayes says:

        It’s so fun to see God move!

        How has your research changed after your successful workshop? Do you feel more connected to the spirit to pull it all together?

  7. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Michael, Thank you so much for your post! It is interesting, isn’t it, how Walker’s book can immediately be put into practice. I wonder why this is and if there is wisdom here that we can share with the people we lead? How can we make insights immediately relevant and applicable?

    I loved hearing about your work shop experience. Will this most recent experience affect how you prepare for a presentation in the future?

    Thanks, Michael! I really enjoyed your post.

  8. Michael O'Neill says:

    Thank you, Jenny. This experience has changed a lot about my future, but definitely the presentation style and preparation. I know I need to lean on him with all of my heart. I need to be prepared but it was the first time (perhaps in my life) that I completely let go. God taught me a lesson that I have needed for a long time. Thank you, again!

  9. Michael – What an inspiring example of taking what we’re learning and applying it in real life. I’m curious if surrendering the presentation to the Lord was a completely new experience for you? It’s difficult to let go of ego and allow the Spirit to take control. How might that experience (and Walker’s book) change how you prepare in the future?

  10. Kristy Newport says:

    Oh wow! This is awesome!!

    “I realized after the fact that I omitted approximately 40% of my slide deck. I feel very blessed to have been led to stay focused on the people and their feedback. I accomplished more than I anticipated with less of my agenda. “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” [3]”

    Had you prepared a power point presentation? Sound like you “took a step aside” and let the Holy Spirit move. It sounds like you listened to the people and the input they were giving! That’s great!
    My prayer for you now…..
    Jesus, Just like the workshop-orchestrate how you would like Michael to put his thoughts together from this time. May the words flow out on to the screen as he types! May he find an easy way to organize his notes and articulate all the findings from the workshop. May what transpired in the workshop be evident in his writing. Bless my bro in this process. amen

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thank you, Kristy. Your prayer made my day. I needed it today too. I struggle a lot of Sundays because something seriously is missing with my home church congregation. I am not inspired and often have a bad day every Sunday because I’m so frustrated with the “performance” of the leadership. We simply do not have it. I zip my lips each week hoping it will change but we are going in the wrong direction. I complain to my wife and parents sometimes but I think it’s time I had a serious sit down with them about some of my concerns. Your prayer tonight helped me remember to love and stay focused on Jesus. Your prayer for me tonight really helped me put my thoughts into perspective as I write an outline and call a difficult meeting soon.

      Yes I had a powerpoint. Some Interactive gamestorming, catered food, multiple screens, and a pretty extensive workshop. I really like the details of this type of event and wanted to show my professionalism to this strategic group I invited. It went so great! It was one of the most spiritual experiences I’ve ever felt. I give Him all the glory!

      Thank you, again!

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