Reading Simon Walker’s second book of the Undefended Leader Trilogy: Leading with Nothing to Lose, I was happy to see that Walker continues to focus on leadership characteristics that extend beyond what is reinforced in today’s popular culture:
…you’ll struggle to find a single class that suggests that learning to be weak may actually be part of being strong- and not just quite strong, but the strongest a person can be.
This idea of challenging the typical leadership model happily gels well with other readings from the past few weeks.
Let’s take a Walk
This summer, my book club decided to read Skye Jethani’s With: Reimagining the way you relate to God. True to form for my book club, we are divided on our opinions of his writing style, whether he achieves the appropriate amount of depth in the topic, and various other dimensions, which makes this group thoroughly enjoyable. Regardless of all those viewpoints, reading Jethani’s book has forced me to take a hard look at how performance driven I am, and if that focus is one that is pleasing to God. If I were to summarize one key takeaway from this book I would say that God is not concerned with how many mountains we have summetted in His name, but rather how many walks we have taken with Him.
This week, I also read a recent op ed from David Brooks where he attempts to trace the source of what he calls the decline of the American psyche. In this work, he makes some compelling statements about the need to move away from a self-soothing culture to one of “inner security.” He calls for society to move past a perpetual fixation on self-soothing and a more healthy, balanced maturity.
Maturity, now as ever, is understanding that you’re not the center of the universe. The world isn’t a giant story about me. In a nontherapeutic ethos, people…weave their stable selves out of their commitments to and attachments with others. Their identities are forged as they fulfill their responsibilities as friends, family members, employees, neighbors and citizens…Maturity in this alternative ethos is achieved by getting out of your own selfish point of view and developing the ability to absorb, understand and inhabit the views of others.
Brooks hints that healthy wellbeing is developed in concert with life’s challenges rather than despite them.
Advice from Walker
When I return to Leading with Nothing to Lose, I am now starting with these two data points in mind. In my movement to mature leadership I am now influenced by these two principles:
- Be focused on walking with God rather than performing
- Leverage life’s “commitments to and attachments with others” to “weave” an overall state of wellbeing
Walker introduces eight strategies for leadership and challenges us to learn them each individually and then master the concepts of learning how to use them in concert. That sounds great in theory, but I am skeptical of the do-ability of such an endeavor. I mean, do I really think in the next 6 months, I can place myself in situations where I can strategically determine if my back or front stage approach, should be used, and then identify if this is a situation where I should be dynamic, territorial, responsive, or attentive? And, then in response to that situation, pull out one of 8 approaches that exactly fits the needs of the situation? In full transparency to you, dear audience, no, that will not be happening in my current context.
So, with the two concepts I shared above rattling in my head, and the desire to look for practical opportunities to grow, I gravitate to chapter 14, where Walker introduces an idea of the Holy Grail of Leadership. Right away I noticed that the first four felt performance focused, so I put those to the side and looked at the last 4 which I have roughly paraphrased, here:
- Have an area in which you are not leading but are being led
- Be still and ‘attend to the moment’
- Lay down your power at major junctions of your life
- Wait quietly, learning to be content with what we have
All four pieces of advice seem to have underlying values of intention, patience, and humility. They lend themselves to an attitude of “bloom where you are planted” or perhaps a call to curate the collection of experiences you have been given.
These counter-cultural concepts infer a practice of walking with God towards maturity. They leverage the situations in which we find ourselves; using the people and commitments God places in our path for mutual growth.
 Simon P. Walker, Leading with Nothing to Lose: Training in the Exercise of Power (Kindle Edition).
 Walker, Kindle Edition, Location 78.
 Skye Jethani, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God (Thomas Nelson, 2011).
 David Brooks, “Opinion | Hey, America, Grow Up!,” The New York Times, August 10, 2023, sec. Opinion, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/10/opinion/trauma-mental-health-culture-war.html.
 Walker. Kindle edition, location 626.
 Walker. Kindle edition, location 2359.