A seminal text from me for both life and faith and certainly in relation to leadership are those words from Proverbs 4:23 Pay attention to your heart for everything you do flows from it. Walker’s books, drawing from biblical, historical, psychological, sociological and ecological insights, are the nearest thing that I can to find to helpfully addressing self-awareness in leadership.
The author encourages readers to be self-aware, to be aware of the background and context and impact of relationships. He deals with issues of the ego, control and defensiveness. His careful, considered arguments are challenging, they subvert so much of our Western culture’s enslavement to leadership images of ‘warriors’. His call for moral leadership is persuasive and so relevant, given the poverty of such leadership in the church and world today.
Conversant with the dynamics of human behaviour, he addresses the key issue of power and argues for a humbler expression of leadership that flows out of leaders who know their own hearts and who understand the power dynamics at work in any interaction between people. He hypothesises how different childhood environments impact different types of leadership: Shaper, Definer, Adapter and Defender, with each of these having a ‘front-stage’ or ‘back-stage’ tendency, similar but not entirely equivalent to introvert-extrovert personality types. Walker contends that leadership is essentially “about who you are, not what you know or what skills you have”.
A deep and insightful work that I have found incredibly useful in my own leadership and observation of others who lead, heightening the sense of responsibility and privilege, opportunities and challenges, pleasures and pitfalls of leading out of who we are, wherever we are. The trilogy has been well summarised by one publishers review: “In the first book he examines the formation of the leadership ego and shows how maintaining a front and backstage derails leaders. In the second book Simon looks at how power is used in leadership, based on eight case studies from history, and draws powerful guidelines for leaders today. In the final book he focuses on the leader’s vision and examines what has caused the current failure of leadership in the West. He points out the direction in which we need to move if life is to flourish in the coming decades”.