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

Remarkable or Ordinary?

Written by: on November 16, 2019

Simon P. Walker, author of the trilogy The Undefended Leader, in Leading Out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership, distinguishes certain leaders as those with moral authority “having been proved trustworthy, usually through trial and suffering.”[1] Walker describes the difference between these remarkable versus ordinary leaders as those with character which was forged through weathering life’s storms and rather than becoming cruel, manipulative or bitter, they become conduits of compassion.  Walker’s research revealed that remarkable leaders are formed through doing battle with themselves, in active wrestling and painful struggling as they wage war against their inner demons of anger and thirst for power and are able to become the victor over them. The Undefended Leader describes giants of leadership through suffering similar to Kets de Vries in The Rabbit Hole of Leadership. Both share the profound story of character shaped in suffering in Nelson Mandela. Kets de Vries says of these kinds of leaders, “Challenges defined them, strengthened them, and brought out the best in their character. Adversity boosted their effectiveness as leaders.”[2]

Walker is a head of research and co-founder of STEER with his wife Dr. Jo Walker. Together their research and writing focuses on steering cognition and has resulted in the development of curriculum for children in the U.K. as they see leadership being formed from childhood.

Dr. Simon Walker’s doctoral work produced “Becoming Undefended,” a training program to support self-awareness and help with steering biases. He uses the metaphor of the front and back stages to discuss a leader’s external and internal worlds. He argues that leaders must have a healthy movement between front and back through action and reflection. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”[3] Leaders of the remarkable kind understand this and do not allow the deceit or allure of control to manipulate their motives on the front stage.

The author describes a child’s parental experience as that which builds trust or not, and how the response to various parenting approaches shapes the ego and leadership of a person. This begins to be seen in how the adult addresses the freedoms of failing and giving. The Undefended Leader gives him/herself freedom to fail because us of a secure sense of identity not based on performance but on a source of unconditional approval. Freedom to risk comes from living in trust and not fear. “The idea of undefended leadership is that we are secured not by our skills and resources but by our attachment to another – one who is big enough not to be overwhelmed by our failures and weaknesses.”[4] Walker’s definition of an undefended leader has many of the same qualities Jim Collins describes as a Level 5 leader, one with “a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”[5]

The Undefended Leader is also free to give in service first before exercising leadership. Walker discusses the work of Robert K. Greenleaf, well-known author in the 1970’s on servant-leadership. Greenleaf’s premise is when one serves first it neutralizes the drive for power which leadership can incite. Servant-leadership is other centered in giving rather than self-serving.

Leadership defined as undefended has survived and been strengthened through struggle: physical, emotional and/or intellectual. These choose to forgive, to use pain for good and not vindication, and to cooperate in personal transformation and investing one’s gifts and talents for the sake of others. It is one who believes he/she has a personal responsibility to steward one’s life on purpose. These are remarkable, above the ordinary leaders, not because of extraordinary skill sets, but rather because of the outcome of their trials as Peter described, “Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away – and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”[6]


[1] Simon P. Walker, The Undefended Leader, Kindle Loc. 268.

[2] Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership: Leadership Pathology in Everyday Life (Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature Switzerland AG, 2019), Kindle Loc. 1330.

[3] Ibid., Kindle Loc. 278.

[4] Ibid., Kind Loc. 1733.

[5] Jim Collins, Good to Great (New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001), 20.

[6] I Peter 1:7 NET

About the Author

Tammy Dunahoo

Tammy is a lover of God, her husband, children and grandchildren. She is the V.P. of U.S. Operations/General Supervisor of The Foursquare Church.

2 responses to “Remarkable or Ordinary?”

  1. Mary Mims says:

    Tammy, thank you for your insight with this post. I am glad the author speaks of helping children, because of course, this is the foundation of trust. I know I have so much work to do on myself, resolving childhood issues of trust. Prayerfully, the tools we are getting in this course will help me/us become better leaders.

  2. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks so much for another thoughtful, insightful, well-crafted post. Thank you for pulling out insights from Walker (I wondered how the Walkers were related) and melding them with de Vries. Most of all, thanks for reminding us that included in all our wonderful sources, there are the Scriptures to remind us that refining trials are both normal and normative. Many thanks.

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