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The Walking Dead: Leadership Lessons for Rick Grimes

It’s hard to be a leader in the zombie apocalypse, just ask Rick Grimes.

In early seasons, Rick shirked the mantle of leadership, and to make matters worse, since then we’ve seen him flash the weaknesses that plagued many of the other leaders we’ve seen in the series.

  • Rick has never slipped into the full demented of Gareth, but Rick has certainly slipped into Gareth’s kill or be killed mindset.
  • While he’s never displayed the outright duplicitousness of the Governor, we’ve certainly seen Rick be willing to manipulate people and situations.
  • And although Rick has never shown the full-on controlling paranoia of Dawn, we have certainly seen Rick walk that path at times.

3413557-vsThe strength of The Walking Dead is in the slow erasing of that thin line which separates an increasingly desperate humankind from the remorseless zombie hordes. Now that he’s at the Alexandria Safe Zone, Rick decides if he simply usurps the audacious (some would say naive) optimism of Deanna, or if they can work together, with Rick and company simply toughening up the sloppiness of current Alexandria residents.

It’s hard to be a leader in the zombie apocalypse, so let’s phone a friend, in the hopes that we can give Rick Grimes some leadership advice. Below are thoughts from some of the world’s leadership gurus offering leadership lessons for Rick Grimes.

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Tim Ferris is well known for the best-selling book, The 4-Hour Workweek. Ferris is famously an efficiency freak. Once he noticed that a small percentage of his customers were responsible for generating a disproportionate amount of the customer service complaints, Ferris simply fired them as customers, telling them to take their business elsewhere, knowing he’d make up the revenue through decreased customer service costs.

Ferris would be thrilled that Rick understands when to efficiently put a problem out of its misery. You don’t let a guy like Pete simply add to customer service complaints, Ferris would argue, you eliminate the problem, then watch overall productivity go up.

There is other good news for Rick. Sheryl Sandberg is a rising star among leadership gurus and is best known for Lean In. Whereas Sheryl Sandberg would be most pleased at the development of Carol as a character, Sheryl would also be pleased that Rick maintains a diverse workforce.

the-walking-dead-0161Every group needs top-performers who are highly trained. Rick is a sheriff with extensive law enforcement training. Darryl possess the specialized skills of hunting and tracking. Hershel had medical training. Abraham has a military background. And on and on it goes. Rick recognizing the diversity of skillets among his plucky band of survivors is good leadership.

Marcus Buckingham would be equally pleased with Rick. Buckingham is best known for insisting that you identify your team member’s individual strengths, then let them work within their strengths. Rick has encouraged each and everyone to find a role to play, a job to do. To a person, our gang of survivors have done well by playing to their strengths.

But it’s not all good news for Rick. Jim Collins may be the best known leadership guru of them all, writing the monumental Good to Great. But Collins also wrote the book How the Mighty Fall. Collins could rightly posit that Rick’s hubris may lead to his downfall, and perhaps the downfall of others as well. After all, Rick is so convinced in his ideology that he is executing people. Rick’s mighty, all right, but does that mean he’s headed for a fall?

Related, Andy Stanley has famously said, “Never sacrifice a You for a View.” What Stanley means by this, of course, is that you should never sacrifice your individual integrity for the sake of upward mobility, even if it means a corner office with a view. Has Rick sacrificed too much of himself? Sure, he has obtained a high level of leadership, but at what cost to his person.

Finally, we come to Simon Sinek, best known for Start with the Why. Sinek also had a TED talk entitled Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe. Surely, Rick would say that the reason is is doing what he is doing is to ensure the survivors safety from not just zombies, but from other survivors as well. Sink would argue that a feeling of safety comes from a feeling of trust. Can Rick honestly say he’s building up trust at this point?

There you have it, leadership lessons for Rick Grimes, straight from some of the world’s top leadership gurus. But how about you? Do you think Rick Grimes is a good leader, or simply someone who has spiraled out of control?