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

Surprised by Leadership

Written by: on September 14, 2023

For years I dreamed of pursuing a doctorate. I considered social work, psychology, ministry, missiology, and even Southeast Asian studies. I secretly hoped to become a docent at the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore. Needless to say, I am surprised by my choice and surprised by leadership.

In Leading with Nothing to Lose: Training in the Exercise of Power, Simon Walker identifies eight strategies for leadership: Foundational, Commanding, Affiliative, Serving, Pacesetting, Visionary, Consensual, and Self-emptying. He suggests leaders become familiar with all eight strategies, understand the weakness and strengthen of each, and learn to use them appropriately.[1] None of these strategies are sufficient alone. The leader is responsible to understand the strategy they use and its appropriateness for the given circumstances.[2] Walker conceptualizes an ecology of power which identifies the use of front or backstage, strong or weak, and expanding or consolidating forces; encouraging leaders to use these strategies and forces in concert with one another.[3]

As someone who leans toward backstage, weak, and consolidating forces it is imperative I broaden my understanding. All leadership strategies are necessary and useful. All can be used for good or evil. Ultimately, the exercise of power to influence change is social and emotional.[4] Walker’s eight strategies present a social-emotional skill set which allows leaders to become effective hosts to others.[5] While I learn and practice new leadership tools, I am most surprised by strategies which focus on the personal character and relationship-building qualities of the leader.

Surprised by Weakness

“Weakness is often more powerful than strength.”[6] 

Weakness is threatening, counterintuitive, and vulnerable. Weakness just might be the best tool to accomplish lasting change. [7] It requires skill to read a situation and give space for others to express thoughts and feelings safely. It takes courage for leaders to admit they don’t know what to do, to risk asking for fresh ideas or help. Creating space for dialogue opens leaders to criticism and judgment which often produces shame and defensiveness. For an undefended leader the appropriate use of weakness is a valuable tool. One that helps me focus less on myself and more on the people I am serving. Getting comfortable with weakness requires me to fully embrace the next leadership surprise, love.

Surprised by Love

“The undefended leader is the one whose needs are met through an unconditional attachment to an Other, in which she finds identity, belonging, and affection.”[8]

Unconditional attachment means being loved, accepted, and fully known. It makes acknowledging weakness easier. In Mining for Gold, Tom Camacho underscored the same important point, “Our identity forms, grows, and expands as we mature in our understanding of the love God has for us.”[9] Abiding in God’s love is foundational for leadership. If I can’t comprehend and experience God’s deep love for me, I am not free to lead with courage, make mistakes, or become undefended. Camacho continues, “Our hearts need continuous fresh revelation about how much we are loved.” [10] This leads me to the next leadership surprise, stillness. If I am to feel secure in God’s love for me, I must be still enough to receive it.

Surprised by Stillness

“You can only find stillness if your own needs have first been met.”[11]

I wonder how many leaders embrace and value stillness, or consider it an agent for change? Simon Walker notes, “Before change comes stillness.”[12] Becoming an undefended leader requires creating space in my day to be still, to listen to God, myself, and to the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of those I lead. Julian Treasure stated, “…it’s hard to be a great, powerful speaker if you don’t listen, or to be a great listener if you can’t articulate your own thoughts.”[13] I believe this is also true of great and powerful leaders. Before we can listen we must be silent. Before we can lead we must be still. In this fast paced world stillness might be mistaken for laziness. As a leader it is a discipline I must practice daily. Being assured weakness is a viable leadership tool, knowing I am unconditionally loved by God, and the practice of stillness is not a waste of time moves me to an unexpected source of freedom, self-emptying.

Surprised by Self-Emptying

“Anyone who is attached to success and results, for example, may be unable to practice the reserved, weak strategies of leadership, Self-Emptying and Serving.”[14]

Self-emptying is the foundation for all the eight leadership styles resulting in greater freedoms for the leader. Freedom from the need to be great, freedom to be fully available to others, and ultimately the freedom to lead with nothing to lose.[15] Self-emptying makes space for incarnational leadership in any sphere of influence. Walker writes, “[Self-emptying]…it is power that allows others to flourish, not power to aggrandize us.”[16] In other words, it’s not about me! Self-emptying makes genuine hospitality possible. The leader as host came as my final surprise.

Surprised by Hospitality

“…at its heart, leadership is most a matter of being a host.”[17]

Hospitality is key to becoming an undefended leader and is the backbone of my NPO in which I seek to create platforms for safe connection among ministry leaders. I have adapted Walker’s tasks for hosting to reflect the nature of my project.[18]

  • Creating a safe place to be accepted, known, and loved.
  • Facilitating encounters between people in which genuine listening, the expression of emotion, thought, and life experiences are safely shared.
  • Giving the occasion meaning, structure and a sense of significance through creating time and space for frequent connection, rest, and retreat together.

These five surprises inspire my leadership journey.


  1. Simon Walker, Leading with Nothing to Lose: Training in the Exercise of Power.(Carlisle, UK: Piquant Editions Ltd, 2007), 6.
  2. Walker, Leading with Nothing to Lose, 132.
  3. Ibid., 29-30.
  4. Ibid., 6.
  5. Ibid., 152.
  6. Ibid., 3.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., 144.
  9. Tom Camacho, Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders through Coaching. (London, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 2019), 111.
  10. Tom Camacho, Mining for Gold, 111.
  11. Walker, Leading with Nothing to Lose, 145.
  12. Walker, 145.
  13. Julian Treasure, How to be Heard: Secrets for Powerful Speaking and Listening. (Coral Gables, FL: Mango Publishing Group, 2017), 10.
  14. Walker, 144.
  15. Ibid. 147-148.
  16. Ibid., 147.
  17. Ibid., 152.
  18. Ibid.

About the Author

Jenny Dooley

Jenny served as a missionary in Southeast Asia for 28 years. She currently resides in Gig Harbor, Washington, where she works as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Spiritual Director in private practice with her husband, Eric. Jenny loves to listen and behold the image of God in others. She enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family which include 5 amazing adult children, 3 awesome sons-in-law, a beautiful daughter-in-law, and 8 delightful grandchildren.

8 responses to “Surprised by Leadership”

  1. Esther Edwards says:

    Hello, Jenny,
    You quoted “…at its heart, leadership is most a matter of being a host.” This too, surprises me. I have known the power of hospitality, but had not seen how important it was to being an undefended leader. In reflection, I realize the leaders I can see as being undefended all have a way of welcoming others into their sphere of influence. There is no sense of competition or superiority, just a welcoming sense of “we are in this together.”
    Jenny – I can see why God has placed you here, in this program, with this NPO. Whatever you design will be of great use to the Kingdom. Looking forward to hearing more about what is unfolding.

    • Jenny Dooley says:

      Hi Esther,
      I have been surprised by how many “weak” skills are actually very impactful leadership tools. Hospitality, listening, empathy, stillness, etc..are all skills we should be learning and practicing regularly. I loved teaching these types of social-emotional skills as a elementary school counselor. I was shocked to discover how easily the time and budget to maintain offering students opportunities to learn these skills is cut. The world would be a kinder place and leaders more effective if we placed a higher priority on these skill sets.

  2. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


    I love your post. You wrote,
    “Creating space for dialogue opens leaders to criticism and judgment which often produces shame and defensiveness. For an undefended leader the appropriate use of weakness is a valuable tool. One that helps me focus less on myself and more on the people I am serving. Getting comfortable with weakness requires me to fully embrace the next leadership surprise, love.”

    This is so true. For years, I tried to appear less vulnerable and more authoritative. It was never a comfortable space for me, but I did it because I felt fearful of showing my true vulnerability. In recent years (probably the last two years) I decided to be completely authentic in all spaces that I occupy. I can no longer hide and have committed to bringing my whole self without hiding or covering. I am better able to give, serve and grow when I enter just as I am.

    • Jenny Dooley says:

      Jonita, Thank you for your kind words and for being your authentic self. Both are characteristics of true leader! What changed in the last two years that made it easier to be vulnerable? I know for me I just wanted to quit hiding, if that makes sense. I wanted the inside to match the outside more authentically which meant using my voice, naming my needs, sharing my feelings, and admitting my vulnerabilities. It’s been a long journey for me though!

  3. “You can only find stillness if your own needs have first been met.” I must have missed that quote but it definitely resonates with me. That quote is deep because I’m thinking about what needs? Emotionally? Mentally? Spiritual? Familial? If my needs are not being met, does that cause anxiety, which makes it more challenging to be still. And once my needs are being met, what is true stillness? Thanks for mentioning that quote.
    Finally, why were you thinking about a doctorate in psychology? We can talk about this in Oxford.

    • Jenny Dooley says:

      Hi Todd, I just saw this. Thank you for your response. I do think anxiety about needs, safety, and of course facing our shadow side all impact our ability to be still…probably many more factors than just these. I think we all live with an existential anxiety to some degree. I have to ask myself frequently, What’s driving the busyness in my life? What am I avoiding? When was the last time I was still? I do find even brief pauses help. A moment of stillness and wonder does my soul and attitude good.

  4. mm Russell Chun says:

    Wow, this was so well said. I loved the Stillness part. Standing with my computer at the Denver International Airport, I am not speaking with anyone. I won’t speak to anyone until the stewardess asks me “chicken or other.”

    I sort of like this aspect of travel. I put my phone aside and read the posting of my erudite peers. f

    I hope to listen to walker on my reading machine while flying….I do want to learn more about the “other types of leadership tools.”

    Rather than residing in a “bullish/Churchill” style the menu of leadership has opened up under Walker’s tutelage. Oops do I sense “growth?”


    • Jenny Dooley says:

      Russell, I love how you practiced being still even in a busy airport! I find a moment of stillness resets me quite well. Looking for more of that here at Oxford!

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