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

Leadership in War and Peace

Written by: on September 13, 2023

In my career in ministry and in large scale commercial construction, I have been exposed to many types of leadership styles. Some of these lessons inspired me, some of these lessons cautioned me greatly. Leadership styles and a leader will vary in times of war and peace. At times of war, leaders rely heavily on System 1 thinking from Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow.[1] Kahneman points out that leadership can vary in system 2 thinking which I refer in times of peace. We can gather that both leadership styles are needed.

Foundation For My Post (Doctrine)

Throughout Simon Walker’s book, Leading with Nothing to Lose, he points out many different leaders who led through times of war and peace.[2] Combined with Taleb’s book Antifragile we can learn to examine what that leader faced and how they responded to it. This is where Taleb and Francis Fukuyama Identity The Demand For Dignity And The Politics of Resentment make an important point.[3] These three books parallel at times that different social pressures are going to bring out different responses in each leader and culture.

From the Bible

Most leadership from the Bible and pastoral leadership is focused on servant leadership (Mark 10:42-45) but the Bible also teaches that leaders have authority. This authority comes from God and it is for the benefit of the church and local community. Romans 13:1 says “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.


Churchill is a great example that brings significant weight to Walker’s findings in Leading with Nothing to Lose. Walker sees the value of Chamberlin’s leadership in a time of peace. However because of the threat of Hitler and war, Churchill was desperately needed.  We see the contrast of the leader in times of war and times of peace. Not only in Walker’s book, but also in Antifragile, and Identity. Churchill who was considered a brute, got the job done. In times of war, Churchill was a hero and the leader England needed. He was the leader God needed. However in times of peace, Churchill caused some problems to the status quo.


From Robert Friedman’s book Failure of Nerve we see the correlation between Friedman and Walker that it is critical that a leader have a sense of identity.[4] The result of a leader or person knowing their identity reduces anxiety and making poor non anxious decisions. After all, is that not what leaders do? They make the best decision for the people in their care.


I have found I am a little more like Churchill than Chamberlin in my leadership style. Since an early child I have always been the captain of the team. A carpenter foreman at a young age. The money was never important to me, but the challenge was everything. To overcome and have victory is everything to me. How to build a 60 story building as fast as possible, or work on a resort (Suncadia) on top of a mountain with high winds and many dangers. I thrive in System 1 thinking (war) and seem to fall apart in System 2 thinking (peace). How does an aging warrior find balance in peace? I believe this can only be attained through the practice of Sabbath.

More is Needed on This Subject

How do warriors live in peace? Simon Walker points out that often when leaders such as Churchill rise to meet the crises are often rejected after the crises. My wife and I went and saw the movie Oppenheimer. In this movie, we see the worlds response to fear of Nazi Germany. At the time it looked as Hitler could take over the world. Governments, military, scientists did everything possible to meet this threat and overcome. Unfortunately, we see after World War II ended, Oppenheimer faced great rejection and ridicule even from our own government.


Walkers book has helped many leaders become more aware of leadership styles and the impact of environment on leadership. I have found that I am struggling after the Covid Pandemic and recognizing personal struggles after crises. How do different leadership styles come together in unity, rather than have people choose sides and cause division.

I believe Dr. Clarks quote in Cape Town stands to be true, “A mature leader knows where they begin and end.” It is important as leaders to know your strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly to yield to other peoples strengths in areas we are weak in. The result will be harmony, instead of division. We can become Antifragile and be a light in a dark time.[5]

[1] Kahneman, Daniel, 1934- author. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York :Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

[2] Simon P. Walker, Leading with Nothing to Lose: Training in the Exercise of Power, Carlisle: Piquant Editions, 2007. [3]

[3] Fukuyama, Francis. Identity : Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for recognition. London: Profile Books, 2018.

[4] Edwin Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (10th Anniversary, Revised Edition) (Church Publishing, Inc. 2017).

[5] Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Antifragile. Penguin Books, 2013.









About the Author


Greg McMullen

Pastor Greg resides in Lake Stevens WA and pastors a small rural church in the Machias area . The Well Church has a large food ministry in which many different cultures come each week to gather food and counsel. The Church has a small school that is bearing good fruit. Pastor Greg has a large family of 10 children and enjoys fishing and hiking.

3 responses to “Leadership in War and Peace”

  1. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Greg,

    I found it interesting how you connected Taleb (Antifragility) and Kannehman’s work (System 1 and System 2) in this post. You mention you thrive under the “wartime” pressure. Sabbath is key to learning this. I find I don’t do well in high-pressure leadership situations. I tend to get overly anxious and want to shut down and hide. What advice do you have for growing in that?

  2. David,
    You are one of the most brilliant younger people I have ever met. If you would allow me. Coming back to the identity gifts from Romans 12 each of have one main identity gift. Jesus was all seven of these identity gifts, however we have only one of these identity gifts which makes having a mix on the leadership team so important.

    I was at conference years ago, I asked a question to a professor at Fuller Seminary and he did not know the answer. He was confident in responding to me and His ego was not bruised from not knowing the answer. He replied to back to me in front of large crowd with “I don’t know.”

    He calmly replied to me, he was not shaken or rattled. The next week we met each day and talked about my question and the Bible verse I quoted “if all Israel will be saved, do we need to worry about evangelizing the Jewish people?”

    Being a professor he thrived in System 2 thinking. He deeply meditated on this and involved some of his colleagues into a fast and seeking out God on
    this matter.

    He taught me a lesson that day, I will never forget that gave me great peace. The lesson was simple, that even the smartest leaders don’t have all the answers, but we can tap into the Holy Spirit who does.

    I would like to say this to you, David you have an incredible gift of intellect and keeping thoughts very organized and deliver them well. Be confident in how God has made you, you don’t have to make any excuses or apologies for that, it is a strength and gift you bring to the table.

    Let System 2 be your main arena like a boxing ring for a boxer. However dabble or spar in system 1 thinking until it becomes automatic for you.

    Be okay with not having the answer right away, be okay with resorting back to System 2 thinking and coming back to that high pressure situation. After some victories you will be confident in both arena’s and you will be a well diversified leader. Every boxer has a couple punches they rely on for a knock out or to get out of the corner.

    You already are a great leader, you will continue to grow into a great leader as I believe this is just the beginning for you.

    Sorry for the long response, I hopes this helps. God Bless.

  3. Alana Hayes says:

    “A mature leader knows where they begin and end.”

    Solid quote! I know from talking to you where you started, where are you headed next?

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