Small Applications Toward Undefended Leading and Living
Simon Walker’s book, Leading Out of Who You Are, Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership, presents a nontraditional approach to leadership and calls people to a transformational journey of self-reflection and discovery. He believes that most leaders operate out of “defendedness,” an attempt to hang onto power by controlling how much of themselves they allow others to see. Walker believes, similarly to family therapist Edwin Friedman, that the success of a leader lies not in performance, but in a leader’s assuredness of their own self-worth, saying it is “about who you are, not what you know or what skills you have.” For Walker, assuredness comes through meaningful relationships with people or with God. He challenges leaders to undefended, open and free forms of leadership that provide life and the opportunity for growth for leaders and followers, alike.
Defendedness, in Walker’s opinion, starts in childhood and is determined by our level of trust with caregivers and our developmental experiences in the world. He identifies four leadership types, based on responses to trust and control: the Shaping, Defining, Adapting, and Defending leadership egos. At first glance, I think I resonate with the ‘Backstage Adapters,” who hide emotion so as not to risk losing relationships; assume more responsibility than is healthy; and show high trust in others and low trust in themselves. Backstage adapters need to learn that relationships are not as fragile as they think, they can say no to the many requests made of them, and they can trust themselves.
I was specifically interested in Walker’s suggestions regarding how “Backstage Adapters” can maintain an undefended leadership posture through viewing life as a gift. He offers the following four recommendations. To test these recommendations, I have developed some simple, yet practical applications to try in my own life.
- Switch off your phones and be unavailable at times you have set aside to play, or pray, or be with family.
At the moment, I am overly connected to texting and email. I think this reflects my current struggle to find a healthy rhythm in which to incorporate my job, doctoral study, time with family, and time to myself. I feel a bit discombobulated and checking and responding to my phone regularly creates the illusion of productivity. In truth, it disrupts my daily flow and hinders concentrated thinking, specifically my slow thinking processes. This week, I commit to creating large blocks or time to focus on the above activities, without my phone.
- Resist the urge to plough into emails at the start of the day without first stilling yourselves and handing over all your fears and hopes to your source of safety.
I love to start the day early with a cup of tea, my journal, my Bible, and a conversation with God. Lately, during these conversations with God, I have felt overly worried and burdened by my daily to-do list. This week, I commit to focusing on joy and seeing life as a gift.
- Hand over to someone else a role you have become possessive about.
This is an interesting challenge. Sometimes I wonder what it would look like to hand over the directorship of the Second Home program which I lead. I was on the ground floor of launching the program twelve years ago and am invested in the continued growth and service of our team. I have institutional knowledge that no one on the current team possesses. Could I hand this program over to someone else? I hope to move to a new position someday and realize this will be challenging. I commit to envisioning what a healthy transition to new leadership might look like for the Second Home team.
- Ask for help when you need it, rather than taking on all the responsibility yourself.
As a leader, I often feel I am responsible to take on extra tasks that arise in our program, however, I am getting better at delegating without feeling guilty. This week, as one of my colleagues transitions to another job, I commit to not assuming the responsibilities associated with her position. When she leaves, there will be a gap, but instead of volunteering to fill the gap, I will ask the team how we together can cover the need.
In Leading Out of Who You Are, I recognize in myself defended and undefended behaviors. Walker’s presentation has given me tangible challenges to consider for improved leadership, as well as an improved daily living routine. I am committed to making some immediate changes to strengthen my work environment and, as well, positively contribute to my home environment.
 Simon Walker, Leading Out of Who You Are, Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership (Carlisle, UK: Piquant Editions Ltd, 2007), x.
 Chris, Duckler, https://emj.redcliffe.ac.uk/reviews/leading-out-of-who-you-are-book-review/.
 Walker, 5; Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (New York, NY: Church Publishing, 2017), 18.
 Andrew Hartman, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5df3bc9a62ff3e45ae9d2b06/t/5e384525947a5125262f7a7c/1580746028131/Leading+Out+of+Who+You+Are.Walker.EBS.pdf.
 Walker, 53-54.
 Walker, 61, 69, 79, 89.
 Walker, 79-86.
 Hartman, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5df3bc9a62ff3e45ae9d2b06/t/5e384525947a5125262f7a7c/1580746028131/Leading+Out+of+Who+You+Are.Walker.EBS.pdf.
 Walker, 123.
 Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011).
 Philippians 4:4-8.
17 responses to “Small Applications Toward Undefended Leading and Living”
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I enjoyed reading how you want to apply some daily habits into your life in attempt to see life as a gift!
Please feel free to not respond to my texts! 🙂 I know texting and emailing can become a distraction for me too.
It sounds like you have a great plan for the up and coming gap that will be in your team: “I will ask the team how we together can cover the need.”
I am curious, do you anticipate the team members readily taking on some of the duties from the person leaving? How will these duties/responsibilities be shared? How will this go if the team does not share this in an equitable way? How will this be for you personally?
Great blog! I pray you are able to put the personal application into practice. Great suggestions!!!
Thanks for your comments, Kristy! I appreciate your thoughts and questions. Regarding the gap that my colleague will leave when she moves to another job at the end of this week, I envision that we will spread out some of her responsibilities among my teammates. Three of them actually volunteered to split the trainings this person did for some of our home providers. Also, we interviewed a strong candidate for this position last week and we may be able to bring her up to speed quickly, so as to lessen the load for the rest of the team. I will take on some of this workload, but thankfully, it looks like it will be shared. There may also be some things that go undone for a short while, as well.
Thanks for your questions! I appreciate the opportunity to think more deeply on this.
This sounds great, Jenny!
You have put thought into this transition. I pray things will go as you hope. It sounds like you have a collaborative team. I pray your team will communicate well with the bumps and adjustments. 🙂
Jenny, this was incredibly insightful and practical. Thank you for these four commitments you have laid out that were inspired by Walker’s four recommendations. It hit me when you wrote about your incessant need to check email in order to provide yourself with the “illusion of productivity.” Ouch. This is a growth area for me as well.
Thanks for your comments, David! Hoping we can both make some progress in containing our connection to email. Glad for the chance to always be growing.
Outstanding post, Jenny. I am placing a vote for this post to be examined during our Monday Zoom calls. You captured the book, personal reflection, and challenged the reader at the same time. Well done!
I share a lot of the struggles you brought up. I think many of us can relate to not having enough time, distractions, delegation needs. We are overcommited and the stress that comes with that is slowly taking away from our passion and walk with God. I am a firm believer in a game plan and I am inspired by your plan to make progress in your designated areas.
Thank you for your Godly example.
Thanks so much, Michael! I appreciate your comments.
While your practical applications were written for yourself and they poke right into the areas where I (and it sounds like many others) can grow as well. I think #3 and #4 are especially difficult. My wife and I have talked about how difficult it can feel when the game of even being allowed into positions of leadership requires you to convince others you’re uniquely indispensable. I’m curious if you’ve felt or experienced a similar tension.
Hi Caleb, Thanks for your comments. This is such an interesting tension, isn’t it? I have felt the pressure to prove myself worthy of being the leader or show that I have a particular skill or needed knowledge base that no one else possesses. When I’m feeling secure and confident and relaxed, I can better sit back and lead from a place of observation and humility. I guess this is undefended leading! However, when I feel insecure for a particular reason, it’s then that I start to feel that anxiety of “maybe people think I’m not good at this and I’d better prove to them that I belong here.” That’s definitely defended.
I do hope to move on to another job within the next twelve months. I think my eagerness to try something new will help me to let go of my current commitment, but as I get more serious about this decision, I am seeing that it will be a challenge to let go of a program in which I have invested much of myself and with which many people in our community associate me.
Thanks for questions! I appreciate the opportunity to think more deeply on this.
Jenny, what a great personal application to Walker’s book. I love each of the action steps you have set for yourself. I find that I do better when I have accountability and a way to measure success in my goals. Do you have a means of measuring your success or a form of accountability to follow through set up?
When you mentioned handing over a role, it reminds me of what our pastor years ago taught us – you should always be working yourself out of your job. He also taught us that each year we need to let go of 10% of what we are doing to make room for the new. We only have 100% of our time and attention and if we do not let go of things, we leave no room for the new that God wants to do.
Hi Becca, Thanks for your comments and questions. As far as accountability, I gave myself a week to see how these goals would work and then I can reassess. I am specifically trying to find a block schedule that will work for me. I think one of the keys to scheduling will be to allow myself to put down the activities that are “never done” when I’ve moved on to another part of the day. For example, if I give myself a couple hours to work on my workshop preparation tomorrow, I want to be able to stop at the end of the two hours and enjoy some time with my family, even though the workshop prep isn’t done.
I like that idea of letting go of 10 percent of your work each year to allow God to do something new! What a great way to grow and learn.
How practical! Your post cuts right to the heart of the matter. I too spend way too much time connected to my phone or computer. I should take time away from them. Or contemplate stepping away from leadership positions… Is that scary for you? How do you think the rest of the team will respond? That’s what concerns me. Sometimes I think it might not keep going if I step away from it. I need to train up people to replace me better.
Your posts are wonderful! Thank you!
Thanks, Tonette, for your comments and questions. That is such a good question regarding what it will be like to step away from my leadership position. In one sense it will be freeing and in one sense it will be scary. One worry I have is that my philosophy for working with the youth of our program will be exchanged for someone else’s philosophy. I think I’m going to have to make a case for why I think my approach is sustainable and valuable and then trust that, when I walk away, others will do a great job, even if they take the organization in a new direction.
That will be hard, but necessary.
Thank you so much for asking this good question and challenging me to think deeper.
I second, third and fourth every comment here regarding your post. It is so obvious this book resonated with you.
Personally, I’m trying to block schedule and I find myself much more mindful about the phone distraction. But somehow I start scheduling my day without the quiet time with my journal. Not good.
Prayerfully, we will all get there.
Hi Audrey, Thanks so much for your comments. I am so glad to hear the block scheduling is going well for you. I need to get much better at that! I have a hard time not letting multiple activities creep into the space allotted for one particular area of focus.
Yes, praying that we will all continue making good progress and improve on some of these simple, as well as more challenging, issues of our lives.
I love how you used the book and related it to what many of us are feeling. You are making progress already because you recognize where you are at and you are seeking growth.
You have such big things coming! What is one thing that you look forward to when you make this transition?
Hi Alana, Thank you for your comments and question! If I’m honest, I guess one thing I am looking forward to when I make this transition out of my current work someday, is some down time to think and pray and let my self settle a bit. I would love a small sabbatical, if possible, in between my current and next positions. That seems a bit lazy and selfish, so I’m hesitant to say it, but there it is!