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

Nothing to Lose, So Much to Gain

Written by: on September 13, 2023

Leadership is often associated with power, control, and authority. However, what if true leadership emerged not from holding onto power, but from letting go of it? What if true leadership looked more like putting others first, turning the other cheek, washing the feet of the individuals on the team, being last, or laying down one’s life for the team?  Upside-down kingdom. . . Upside-down leadership?  In Simon Walker’s book, “Leading with Nothing to Lose: Training in the Exercise of Power,” the author delves into undefended leadership, challenging traditional notions of power and influence. 

The book invites readers to explore the combination of forces accessing the leader’s front and backstage in the world of undefended leadership. Walker notes eight different strategies, represented by eight significant historical leaders.[1]   In the previous book, “Leading Out of Who You Are:  Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership”, Walker argues that genuine leadership arises when we release our fear, ego, and the need for approval, leading with vulnerability, authenticity, and purpose instead.  In reference to Jesus, Walker acknowledges that “He had not chosen to use power to achieve his greatest and most far-reaching victory.  He had used weakness.  His death on the cross stood as a rebuke to all attempts by the Church to establish God’s kingdom through the use of power, whether physical, economic, political, or military.” [2]

Throughout the book, Walker highlights the significance of letting go of ego-driven desires for control and recognition. Instead, he advocates for leaders to embrace their vulnerability, recognizing that it is through authenticity and a willingness to risk their own status and security that they can make a lasting impact on their organizations and communities. “Leading with Nothing to Lose” challenges readers to rethink their understanding of leadership and power, bringing to mind several passages from Scripture that resonate with the book’s core message: 

  1. Matthew 23:12 (NIV): “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Walker’s call to embrace vulnerability and let go of ego strongly aligns with this biblical teaching. In the book, I am reminded that leaders who humble themselves, rather than seeking to exalt their own status, often make the most profound impact.
  2. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV): “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  Walker’s emphasis on authenticity and vulnerability echoes the idea that our true strength emerges when we acknowledge our weaknesses. By embracing our vulnerabilities, we allow God to work through us, which is a central concept of the Christian faith. . . when we are weak He is strong.
  3. Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV): “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  The book encourages leaders to shift their focus from self-preservation and ambition to the well-being of others. This aligns with the biblical teaching that leadership should be marked by humility and a genuine concern for the welfare of those being led.

“Leading with Nothing to Lose” challenges the conventional wisdom that leadership is about holding onto power at all costs. Instead, it offers a deeply spiritual and philosophical perspective on leadership that draws parallels with the teachings of Scripture. It reminds us that true leadership is not about self-promotion but about serving others, and that embracing vulnerability and authenticity can be a source of great strength.  While reading chapter 13 “Jesus and the Self-Emptying Strategy (RWC)”, I found myself incredibly grateful for the leadership example Jesus lived.  Walker states, “Not only did he ‘volunteer’ to die, but he also taught from early on in his ministry that his dying would be an act that, in itself, would release power – God’s power – and would transform the social and spiritual order”.[3]  I am so thankful for the power of God that redeems death, bringing new life.  Jesus’ leadership leaves space for others to act.  

Near the end of the book, Walker asserts that each of the eight leadership strategies achieves a particular effect therefore the leader must understand the kind of power she is using and whether that kind of power is suited for that particular situation. In conclusion, “Leading with Nothing to Lose” by Simon Walker challenges readers to view leadership through a different lens—one that is rooted in vulnerability, authenticity, and humility. Its alignment with biblical teachings on humility, selflessness, and strength through weakness adds a spiritual dimension to the book’s message.  As I reflect on my leadership, there is nothing to lose and so much to gain when I embrace my vulnerability, and recognize that through authenticity and courage to risk my own status and security, I make a lasting impact on those I lead.

[1]  Walker, Simon, Leading With Nothing to Lose:  Training in the Exercise of Power,  (Carlisle, CA3 9GR, UK:  Piquant Editions Ltd., 2007), 6.

[2] Walker, Simon, Leading Out of Who You Are:  Discovering the Secrets of Undefended Leadership, (Carlisle, CA3 9GR, UK:  Piquant Editions Ltd., 2007), 2.

[3] Ibid, 120.

About the Author

Cathy Glei

Cathy Glei brings more than 25 years of experience in teaching, leading and coaching. She currently is an Instructional Coach and loves to support individuals in discovering who God has made them to be, both professionally and personally. She has led a variety of professional development opportunities, trainings and workshops both in the fields of education and ministry. Cathy desires to support individuals in discovering the Creator's design and image within. Cathy and her husband, Steve, live in Michigan with their seven year old Springer, Otis. They have three adult daughters and two son-in-laws. Together, they enjoy the company of friends (both old and new) in their home, as well as cycling, camping, backpacking and hiking. They can be found hiking and enjoying the outdoors with Otis right alongside them.

4 responses to “Nothing to Lose, So Much to Gain”

  1. Adam Harris says:

    I’m with you Cathy, I couldn’t help honing in on Jesus’ model and teaching while reading through this book. You mentioned the “upside kingdom” and that phrase stayed in my head through the chapters, especially chapter 13. Leading this way is definitely the long game which his why it’s so doggone difficult at times. The way of Christ is not an easy path, but an effective one to transform hearts. Great posts!

  2. mm Russell Chun says:

    Thanks for the scriptural references!

    I am a gardener, and there is a LARGE oak on the south side that hinders the son (oops sun) from hitting my raised flower beds. Out of the shadow of the tree, my other raised beds have gone crazy in a blaze of color and shapes. Same soil, water and fertilization.

    This summer I pruned back the tree. In the process, I was struck by my current circumstances. I have come to accept that God was pruning me this summer, and while I found it uncomfortable, this garden picture put some things into context for me.

    We are but one thread in His master tapestry. He has other threads ready to complete the picture He has envisioned.

    My shadow had stunted the growth of those around me. Without me blocking the way, they will grow
    and expand His kingdom.

    This reminds me of the RWS – Emptying Strategy. I just wish I had read the book earlier this year. Time for me to move on.


  3. Kally Elliott says:

    Reading your post made me wonder what might happen if we marketed the New Testament as a leadership book.

    That said, it also makes me wonder how Christian nationalists can claim to be following in the way of Jesus. Jesus was the epitome of power in weakness – not power in power.

    You write in your last paragraph, “As I reflect on my leadership, there is nothing to lose and so much to gain when I embrace my vulnerability, and recognize that through authenticity and courage to risk my own status and security, I make a lasting impact on those I lead.” While I tend to be a pretty open book in my leadership I too find myself asking this question. One piece of good advice I’ve heard and try to listen to is “Preach from your scars not your open gaping wounds.” That’s been helpful to me in gauging how authentic to be! I do think it is really important though to let those you are leading into your life – maybe not all the way in but give them at least a glimpse.

  4. Jenny Dooley says:

    Hi Cathy,
    Thank you for your post and bringing to the discussion even greater biblical support for Dr. Walker’s perspective on leadership. I had the same verses going through my head with the addition of one of my favorites Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” I don’t know that I would attempt leadership without that foundational truth. I am not in control and the outcome of any endeavor I take on is truly in His hands.

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