Most boys love to shoot things. From rubber bands, to water hoses, to our own urine streams, we can't get enough of the satisfaction of being able to aim at a target and hit it. That's why any show where people get to shoot slow moving zombies in the head is an instant hit with us boys.
Luckily The Walking Dead has a lot more depth than just mindless shooting. It's really a great show all around, even when it sometimes gets sidetracked (The Shane and Lori drama was quite painful to watch).
After spending 13 years as a fireman, I can appreciate Rick's role in the show. He's burdened with the responsibility of a group of people who've come to depend on him. He also has to make very fast decisions, often with little information. Whether It's a right or wrong decision, you have to live with it and move on because you'll have to make another one very soon. That's a lot of pressure, especially when lives are at stake.
Below are 5 leadership qualities I've seen from Rick, and others during the series, that I think any leader should embody. I'm sure there are a lot more, maybe I'll create a part two to this post at the end of the season.
At the end of episode 7 in season 2 of the Walking Dead, Sophia (now a walker) emerges from the barn on Hershel's farm, to the disbelief of everyone. The group had given up trying to find her and were in utter shock when she stumbled out of the barn, after the group had just went on a walker shooting frenzy. Shane started the incident when he broke open the barn lock, an act of open defiance to Rick's leadership abilities. As the group stands there frozen, Rick slowly walks up to Sophia, shooting her in the head and ending her suffering. A powerful moment in the series that showed why Rick is the leader despite the second guessing by others in the group.
As a leader, sometimes you have to make difficult choices. Some of these choices not only affect you and the company, but everyone that works there. It's a lot of responsibility. Sometimes as a leader you'd love to pass the responsibilities onto someone else, but real leaders know that they have the ultimate responsibility (or burden) of making the difficult decisions.
You Don't Have To Be At The Top To Be A Leader
Darryl, one of the show's favorite characters, is a true 360 degree leader. In the early episodes of the series, he was shown as an authority hating red-neck, who cared little for anyone else in the group. Oh how we were wrong! Darryl has grown to become Rick's trusted right hand man. He works with Rick, unlike Shane, who was always trying to undermine him. The rest of the group, especially Carol, have grown quite fond of him because he's proven through his actions that he cares for them and will risk his life in a heartbeat for any one of them.
Many people feel like they can't be a leader unless they are in charge. Wrong. You can be a leader from any position and in any company. Leadership is something you earn, regardless of your position or authority. Darryl is a great example of someone who isn't trying to be in the limelight, doesn't want to be seen as a leader, but is seen in that light because of his actions. In his begrudgingly way, people know he cares, not because of what he says, but by what he does.
Great Leaders Don't Abuse Their Position
During season 2, when the group happens on the Green family farm, it seems like the safe haven they've been searching for. Hershel is uneasy with some members of the group and wants them to leave. Rick pleads with Hershel and begins the process of trying to win him over. Rick and his group could have easily taken the farm by force if they wanted to, but Rick chose diplomacy and in the end, gained valuable and loyal members to the group.
As Ben Parker stated to a his nephew Peter Parker (before he became SpiderMan), “With great power comes great responsibility”. Just because you have the power to do something, doesn't mean you use it to get your way. Great leaders understand the power and responsibility they wield and do not take it lightly. They only show their full power when they absolutely have to.
Always Stand By Your People
When Glenn and Maggie are taken hostage by the Governor, Glenn tells his captors that his group is coming to get him as they speak. He meant it. He knows his man Rick doesn't leave his people behind, ever. Despite differences of opinion between the group members and sometimes questioning Rick's decision making, It's crystal clear to everyone that Rick has their back no matter what. Countless times throughout the series he's risked his life for the members of the group.
Employees who know that their boss will never throw them under the bus and will have their back when the chips are down will always have their respect and loyalty. When I was with the fire department, we used to have a captain who didn't always get along with some of the firemen. Many had differences in opinion on how he should run the firehouse. But we were fiercely loyal to him. Why? He always had our back. On numerous occasions when one of us messed up (sometimes in a big way), the deputy chief would come down looking to take his wrath out on the wrongdoer. What would happen? Every single time, no matter what, our captain would take full responsibility and all of the blame (and yelling) for us. We would get an earful from him later on, but he always protected his guys from the higher ups, even when we deserved to it. You'll do anything for a leader like that.
Great Leaders Lead By Example
Throughout the series, whenever a difficult mission came up, Rick was always the first one in. He never asks anyone to take a risk that he isn't prepared to take first. From the rescue mission to get the handcuffed Merle off the roof in season one to leading a group of convicts to clean out the prison cell blocks in season three, he's always taking on the bulk of the risks.
As Benjamin Franklin stated, “Well done is better than well said”. People will follow leaders who lead from the front of the pack, who are willing to take the same risks as the the ones they ask their people to take.
We hear stories everyday of the corporate CEO who slashes thousands of jobs to save the company money, while still receiving a generous bonus for himself. Giving yourself a paycut may not make a dent in the bottom line, but it'll tell your people that you're ready to make the same sacrifices you're asking them to take.
What leadership lessons have you learned from The Walking Dead?
In a world full of flesh eating dead people, leaders have to make hard and fast decisions….and live with the consequences of their decisions. Fortunately for most of us, poor leadership rarely leads to anyone getting eaten alive, though we may feel like that sometimes. I see Rick as a great leader who didn't ask for the position or the responsibility, but does the best with what he has.
What leadership tips have you gleaned from watching The Walking Dead? Leave them in the comments below!
images courtesy of AMC
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