Researcher Simon P. Walker, working with his colleague Jo Walker, discovered consistent patterns through repetitive cognitive tests conducted between 2000 and 2015, in studies with over 15,000 individuals. From his research, he coined the term “steering cognition.” Walker proposed that steering cognition crucially aided individuals to self-regulate their mental wellbeing and social competencies. Out of his research, Walker developed his Undefended Leader trilogy, which fits neatly within the tenets of so-called ”self-aware leadership.” Self-aware leaders are deeply aware of themselves, their background, and their relationships with others. Radically, Walker proposes that leaders should use their power for the good of others. He then sets about to develop his ‘undefended’ rather than ‘defended’ leadership model. Leaders are ‘defended’ in the sense that they try to preserve their power and influence, especially by controlling what they allow others to see of themselves.
Since Walker is both a leadership author and a clergyman, his most obvious example is Jesus whose power focus was not might but rather vulnerability. As a Christian, Walker refreshingly argues from fundamental principles and then offers real-life examples. His examples include the often-cited Churchill, Gandhi, Mandela, and Gorbachev, leaders with historically verified moral authority who embody an alternative to traditional models. Walker tends to exhibit a universalizing tendency since all leaders are ‘defended’ and employ strategies to protect themselves (selective presentation, power, control); all are ‘defended’ because of their ego. It does not seem problematic for Walker that each of the four ego typologies he identifies results in the same human condition of defensiveness.
In general, I found myself disappointed with this source. Per Walker’s definition, I have a passion for aiding the development of undefended pastoral leadership through coaching networks. My disappointment is Walker seemed to develop a construct from his research and then tried to reinforce the application of his construct through a set of repetitious stories throughout his Undefended Leader trilogy. However, I did appreciate and connect with certain observations and nuggets that Walker raised.
First and foremost, Walker recognizes that leadership is far more about who you are rather than what you do. When will we ever really learn this in the church? Character always trumps competence. Walker contends that trust and power are two essential threads that tend to define who the leader is. Refreshingly, Walker contends the moral authority can only be formed out of the experience of personal sacrifice, which includes struggle and loss. Therefore, the most unprecedented historical, global leaders demonstrated their legacy of leadership in the later years of their lives (e.g., Churchill at 65 and Moses at 80). Wow, there might be hope for me yet!
Another concept that Walker highlighted was the interconnection between the “front stage and the backstage.” These private/public or outside/inside couplets are intrinsically linked in the leader’s life. Walker contends they display a reciprocal or inverse relationship so that (sometimes eventually) what happens on one stage drives what happens on the other. The leader moves from defended to undefended leadership when both stages are embraced and allow others to see.
I especially appreciated Walker calling out the weaknesses of “servant leadership.” It has become idolized within the church without recognizing its inherent liabilities. These include volunteers being unable to give up their roles, those who require eternal affirmation or approval, the inability to receive, and the eventual resentment for what has been given. I especially connected with the inability to receive. For myself and many other leaders, we have great difficulty in being served by (and asking help from!) others and receiving their life-giving affirmation and appreciation. Our false sense of modesty and calling cuts us off from the intervention of the Spirit through others. Without receiving, we inevitably fall into resentment and bitterness.
Walker also wisely points out the reality that no single one of his constructed eight leadership strategies is sufficient in itself. That is one size; one model does not fit all contexts. What made Churchill effective from 1940-45, proved to be ineffective following the war. What made Jimmy Carter ineffective during his White House term, proved to make him a globally recognized moral authority since then. Therefore, Walker contends that a leader can and should learn to adopt different strategies as appropriate and use power to achieve different effects, that is, developing the skills that enable mobility in leadership.
In my work with pastors, I welcome Walker’s contention for developing skills that enable mobility of leadership. Perhaps, this would fall within Ron Heifetz’s definition of adaptive leadership skills. However, this is extremely difficult to learn and practice. In conclusion, Walker proposes three facets of freedom as keys to leadership mobility: freedom from the need to be great, freedom to be fully available, and freedom to lead with nothing to lose. Perhaps, at this stage of my life and ministry, I can now approach these three facets of freedom. I am most thankful Walker has provided us this jewel of freedom for our consideration and practice.
 Chris Ducker, Leading Out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership, Redcliff College, Encounters Mission Journal, Issue 39, Book Review 3.
 Simon P. Walker, The Undefended Leader (Carlisle, UK: Piquant Editions Ltd.), 9-13.
 Walker, The Undefended Leader, 32-37.
 Walker, The Undefended Leader, 113-114.
Walker, The Undefended Leader, 289-291.
 Walker, The Undefended Leader, 303-304.