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

Leading with Style

Written by: on October 2, 2023

Type A Personality. Enneagram 7. Myers-Briggs ESFJ. The temptation when reading a book like Simon Walker’s Leading with Nothing to Lose is to understand it almost like a personality test. Where do I see myself in his descriptions? What’s my natural style? Is there an online quiz I can take to determine my leadership type?

While this is probably not a bad starting point, Walker’s main idea is that what matters as a leader is “being able to use the right kind of power at the right time on the right occasion.” [1] This goes beyond simply identifying one’s preferred style. The reader might expect Walker to suggest we maximize the strengths and grow in the weaknesses of our preferred style, but he goes a step farther. He is actually arguing that a competent leader should be able to use all the styles, fluidly switching between front and backstage, strong and weak force, even expanding and consolidating power according to the situation.

I appreciated the way Walker objectively explained each style, highlighting the positives and negatives of each approach. He also drew on well-known examples from history as well as giving everyday examples like teachers in a classroom or parents. As I read through the eight descriptions of leadership styles, I was thinking of a leader whom I admire.

Father Bill Richardson was the founding rector of Church of the Savior in Wheaton, Illinois which was our home church before we were sent to the mission field. He describes himself as “the reluctant church planter.” At the age of 60 or so, after a full career in campus and pastoral ministry, God called him and his wife to launch an evangelical Anglican church. Logically, this was not the “right” time in life to begin such a project. He has also hinted at his feelings that he was not the “right” person for the job; being rather soft-spoken and gentle, he feared he lacked the necessary charisma for such a calling. In the end, the church grew to a modest 80-100 people before he retired 15-ish years later. Even more importantly than numerical growth was the ethos of this little church; I have never experienced a faith community that is more grace-filled and authentic place.

According to Walker’s descriptions, at first, I thought Father Bill would most closely resemble the Affiliative Strategy (PWX). But on a second read-through I realized that was more likely to use a backstage approach, leaning into authenticity and integrity, as Walker describes Jimmy Carter doing. [2] As a Serving (RWX) leader, Father Bill was not afraid to appear vulnerable and ask for help. His strength is compassionate listening and deep care for those around him. Despite his initial reluctance, God knew that he was the “right kind of power at the right time on the right occasion.” [3]

Mobility as a leader
As much as I admire Father Bill, and always will, Walker’s emphasis on mobility as a leader is not to be underestimated. A great leader who is great only in certain circumstances will eventually run into trouble. Walker’s eight tips on how to develop greater mobility as a leader were especially helpful. The one that jumped out to me was the second: “Practice using different strategies. If there are some you know you have not developed, consciously create opportunities to try them out.” [4]

Is anyone else having flashbacks to Eve Poole’s idea of templating? Throughout this spring and summer, I’ve been intentionally templating and slowly growing in a couple of weak areas, but reading through Walker’s leadership strategies has just highlighted about a dozen more areas where I could grow.

As a final reassurance, Walker shares three facets of freedom, without which we cannot become undefended leaders. These speak to me deeply. Firstly, find freedom from the need to be great. Secondly, find the freedom to be fully available. Finally, find the freedom to lead with nothing to lose. Whatever your preferred style, whatever your weakest style, all of us can “take responsibility for shaping the overall character of this [leadership] space and bring out the best in other people by making them feel welcome and at home.” [5]



[1] Simon Walker, Leading with Nothing to Lose: Training in the Exercise of Power (Carlisle, UK: Piquant Editions Ltd., 2007) Kindle location 944.

[1] Ibid., Kindle location 1247.

[1] Ibid., Kindle location 944.

[1] Ibid., Kindle location 2357.

[1] Ibid., Kindle location 2522.

About the Author


Kim Sanford

One response to “Leading with Style”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Kim,

    Thanks for sharing, “Whatever your preferred style, whatever your weakest style, all of us can “take responsibility for shaping the overall character of this [leadership] space and bring out the best in other people by making them feel welcome and at home.

    I was taken with the idea of “hospitality” in Walker’s book. Also laying foundations of values, goals, etc…

    As we peer into establishing GoodSports Ukraine, I am taking these Walker tips to heart. Relationships are growing with Ukrainian pastors (I meet with one next Sunday – he is visiting Colorado), and I want to be open to God’s leading. (Prayers welcome).

    Hope you are all well…


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