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Is the leadership value proposition a both… and?

Written by: on March 10, 2020

This book is part of Walker’s Undefended Leader trilogy. It includes concepts that on many levels help leaders become more self-aware so that they can become a more comprehensive leader. Walker is not only an author about leadership, but he is also a clergyman, who finds in Jesus Christ the most remarkable example that “power is not located only in might”[1] but also in vulnerability and self-emptying.

This text seems to encourage leaders to become aware that their power can encourage an unconditional leading, serving spirit for mutual benefit in one’s context. Mutual benefit is a key theme in his work. Walker contends that, rather than situations or even behaviors being the impetus for leading, “leadership is fundamentally about who you are, not what you know or what skills you have.””[2]

It has often been my experience, especially in business and the Church that leaders typically try to preserve their power and influence, especially by controlling what they allow others to see of themselves. Their defensiveness is entrenched through their followers; their own idealistic visions and their unmet emotional needs. For Walker, truer leadership must be undefended by not grasping for power or seeking approval of their colleagues. Instead, freedom to lead comes from “our attachment to another” offering “unconditional regard.”[3] God also spoke to his people about possibly changing his route as Leader (not his overall plan), so that we can have a deep relationship with him. I have heard this resituated as becoming more fully human. Exodus 32:14, “And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.”

It is not uncommon for Christians in my spheres to say that they want to lead like Jesus Christ, yet this is an idealist almost dream-like viewpoint because it has not been considered, fully the full surrender condition in most of my Church circles. If we actually do seek to keep attaining a Christ-like value, we ought to work towards a more commune with the Holy Spirit. Paul shared with us in Romans 7:18, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” He then shares what seems contradictory statement in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

In Walker’s dissertation, he wrote, “Self-leadership, as conceptualised by Personal Ecology, incorporates a fault line in the human condition which all leaders need to recognise within themselves. It is a fault line of fear.”[4] The idea of leaders being vulnerable and self-emptying is refreshing and motivating to become this for the people we serve. There was probably a no better example of these qualities than in the life of Jesus Christ serving the Father for the sake of others at the deepest levels; and that particularly in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).

 

I don’t know if Walker’s theological bent inhibits him from considering that God seeks to change us to becoming more loving unconditionally. Most of the Christians I engage with do not believe that they can live without sin for example. His work, in my opinion, indirectly leads one to that think that only God offers unconditional love. In the absolute sense, this is absolutely true. Yet, we are commanded in Matthew 5:48 to, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This perfection is defined as unconditional piety and obedience expressed by love and forgiveness.[5]

Walker text directs us to some favorite Western and Eastern cultural leaders besides Jesus Christ: Churchill, Gandhi, Mandela, and Gorbachev, whether or not they had traditional leadership views and behaviors. “Walker makes an interesting aside that Western culture has been too in thrall to ‘warrior’ memes or images of leadership.”[6]

One of my all-time favorite books was written by Robert Greenleaf. In Walker’s dissertation, he often cites the work of Robert Greenleaf. In particular, he cites Greenleaf’s words from and analysis of Servant Leadership. He wrote, “Robert Greenleaf’s language of the leader as a servant has also been recruited within Christian and evangelical traditions (Greenleaf, 1977). In itself, this does not necessarily infer a role for vulnerability…”[7] It seems his view is that Greenleaf’s model derives from possibly an invulnerable position.

In conclusion, Walker’s developed views don’t actually coincide with much of the leadership materials I have been presented within university or seminaries since I have been interested in this topic. Most, if not all, have talked about being a fearless leader, the conquering leader, a giving leader, or courageous leader and giving models from authors like Bill Hybels. But my readings do not derive from a mutual vulnerable position. Therefore, from my cursory reading, I think the mistake that Walker makes is that there is not enough appreciation for these views while presenting us with his valuable research and simulation analysis.

            [1] Scott P. Walker, The Undefended Leader, Carlisle: Piquant, 2007, 3.

            [2] Ibid., 5.

            [3] Ibid., 105.

            [4] Scott P. Walker, “Becoming Undefended Developing leaders who are freed from fear,” 2014,

ttps://steeringcognition.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Simon-Walker-DProf-Context-Statement-2.55.8-corrected-1.pdf. 34.

            [5] Ned. 32a; Tanḥ. B §23 (40a) = Str-B 1.386 (Abraham’s perfection by circumcision as a plus beyond the fulfillment of the command); further Gen 6:9*; Sir 44:17* (Noah; parallel δίκαιος).[5]

            [6] Scott P. Walker, The Undefended Leader, Carlisle: Piquant, 2007, 20.

            [7] Scott P. Walker, “Becoming Undefended Developing leaders who are freed from fear,” 2014,

ttps://steeringcognition.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Simon-Walker-DProf-Context-Statement-2.55.8-corrected-1.pdf. 25.

About the Author

mm

Steve Wingate

9 responses to “Is the leadership value proposition a both… and?”

  1. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    RE: Hybels, did you see Jason’s new podcast this week on the subject of fallen leaders. It was personally helpful. You might also be interested in Walker’s dissertation that talks more about the simulation and training with the material: https://steeringcognition.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Simon-Walker-DProf-Context-Statement-2.55.8-corrected-1.pdf

  2. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Steve,
    What challenges do you face in your leadership methods? I imagine being a dominant culture individual, surrounded by primarily dominant culture thoughts on leadership, a tension existed between using fleshly power and spiritual power. What does it look like for you “to work towards a more commune with the Holy Spirit”?

  3. mm Joe Castillo says:

    Leadership has become the cornerstone of organizations, and more and more people want to know how to be a good leader without spending so much time attending workshops or taking courses in public speaking, group management and other key characteristics to lead a work team.
    In general, a good leader can be distinguished from the rest by his confident attitude, his unprecedented charisma and the demeanor of a boss that he usually conveys.
    However, leadership goes beyond just leading a team; but to make each member feel part of the group regardless of their role.

  4. mm Greg Reich says:

    Steve,
    I have spent the last 35 years reading and studying different aspects of leadership from multiple perspectives. I have always found it interesting how most messages conveyed are oriented around the bolder dynamics of leadership but few take into consideration the value of authenticity, vulnerability and humility. Have you found this to be the case?

  5. mm Dylan Branson says:

    Steve, in your experience, how would you describe your leadership style from when you first began pastoring versus what your leadership style is now? How have you navigated the tension between what the world values as leadership versus how Christ institutes leadership among His disciples?

  6. mm John McLarty says:

    I once heard someone say that most pastors aspire to lead like Jesus until someone tries to nail them to a cross. I appreciate the questions you’ve raised, especially the complications of western culture and our concepts of leadership. For the covocational pastor who might happen to lead his/her own secular business or company, does their leadership style bleed over into their church work or are they more likely to adjust their leadership in their pastoral role?

  7. mm Jer Swigart says:

    Hey Steve. I wonder if you could say more about the concept of “mutual benefit” that you mention in your post. I’m intrigued by it and found, in my conversation with Walker and Nouwen, that the mutual reciprocity between the leader and those led is a sign of health…perhaps even an indicator of self-emptying leadership. Is “mutual benefit” a shaper of your personal leadership style?

  8. mm Chris Pollock says:

    So, love. Would you see Jesus as a servant-leader? How would you classify his leadership?

    I sense that you look for someone who is humble in an undefended leader.

    Leading like Jesus, wouldn’t that exhibit as utter freedom and an expression of love that washes feet?

    What about quietness and the tendency to remain in the background as opposed to the spotlight, in a lobby space or a meeting or a conversation?

    Thank you, Steve! So appreciate your thought-provoking insights.

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