The eighth and final strategy of leadership Simon Walker examines in “The Undefended Leader” is called “Self-Emptying.” He lifts up Jesus Christ as the model example of this style. A self-emptying strategy is back stage and attentive, one in which a person is willing to give up power as a deliberate act, trusting that the work will continue through followers who continue to believe in and support the mission. It is important to recognize that self-emptying is not an abdication of leadership where one simply checks out. It is instead a means of demonstrating one’s antifragility and skin the game as Nassim Taleb might talk about by willingly and humbly laying down power so as to empower others. The self-emptying strategy is a means of letting go so that others can grow.
When my oldest son was graduating from high school, I remembering thinking about all of the times in his childhood where I had been practicing how to let go. When he was a toddler, I let go of his hands so he could walk on his own. When he learned to ride a bicycle, I let go of the seat so he could ride without me running next to him. When he started school, I let go of the idea that most of his time would be spent in our home. When he got a driver’s license, I let go of the certainly of knowing where he was. I watched him take jobs so he could earn his own money. I watched him go on dates so he could learn his own style of social interaction. I watched him go off to college so he could be his own man. All of these were exercises in letting go. I released my power and authority as his parent so that he could become the person God had created him to be.
Jesus did his for his disciples and for the people of the early Church. His death and resurrection sparked a global movement that grew far beyond where Jesus himself had walked during his ministry. Jesus prepared “his followers for his final withdrawal, after which he would no longer be present with them. The time had come for him to ‘let them go’- and for them to let him go….Of course, his physical withdrawal made possible the greater release of his spiritual power, the gift of the Holy Spirit, who Christians believe empowers the church for a self-sacrificial life of witness and worship.”
While not trying to imply comparisons between Jesus and US American presidents, a similar example might be seen in President George Washington’s decision not to seek a third term of office in 1796. With his health failing, Washington was concerned that dying while in office might create the precedent that a president could serve indefinitely. He also knew that a truly contested election would have to be one in which he was not a candidate. Washington had many other reasons for choosing not to run for a third term, but it also proved to be an opportunity to allow the United States to move forward from his leadership and into its next chapter in history. For Washington, and for the nation, this act of letting go was a sign of great confidence and strength, even though it meant uncertainty and change.
Letting go is often the most difficult part of leadership. A truly undefended, self-differentiated leader can see an organization functioning without them. Self-sacrifice is not all about mere martyrdom, it is about creating space for others to thrive as the ultimately expression of love and respect for those whom one leads.
 Simon Walker, “The Undefended Leader,” (Carlisle, UK: Piquant, 2010,) 283.
 Ibid, 282.