Image: Gene Page/AMC

The Rick Grimes Guide to Leadership and Team Building

By Kim Honjo

With the Walking Dead back on TV, our favorite machete-wielding sheriff is back with his leadership hat on. He may not always be the most level-headed, thoughtful, or even sanest leader, but really, the zombie apocalypse has left us with less choices in general. However, there’s no doubt that Rick Grimes comes through for his people time and again and has managed to turn his ragtag group of housewives, farmers, and pizza delivery boys into efficient zombie-killing survivalists. Here’s how Rick Grimes has built himself up to be one of TV’s top leaders and cultivated an awesome team.

**mild, vague spoilers ahead**

1. Lead by example

“In the end, he was talking about losing our humanity. He said this group was broken. The best way to honor him is to unbreak it. Set aside our differences and pull together, stop feeling sorry for ourselves and take control of our lives. Our safety our future. We’re not broken. We’re gonna prove him wrong.” — S2, Better Angels

Rick Grimes is a natural-born leader. His advantage of being a former police officer coupled with his instinct to take charge has really served his group well. But one of the best reasons Rick makes a great leader: he walks the talk. He’s gained the trust and confidence of his team, and sets an example for all of them to live by in sharing what he values and by setting clear expectations of how they can work together as a team. He works to resolve interpersonal problems quickly, and takes responsibility for his mistakes.

2. Take charge of the situation

“If you’re staying, this isn’t a democracy anymore.” — S2 Beside the Dying Fire

With those words, the Ricktatorship was born. Across the six seasons of the show, Rick has gone through different levels of leadership, but when he uttered those words in Season 2, Rick made it explicit that he was the leader of their group. While this pronouncement transitioned him to much darker place, he knows that he’s the best equipped and qualified to keep the group safe while they’re in survival mode.

3. Be assertive

“I AM doing something! I’m keeping this group together, alive. I’ve been doing that all along, no matter what. I didn’t ask for this.” — S2 Beside the Dying Fire

Rick was never the mild-mannered, Andy Taylor type of TV policeman, but wasn’t exactly John McClane either. However time and his new lifestyle has transformed Rick into a more hardened man. (He’s been through some stuff.) Along the way, he’s learned to become more assertive and to take risks in order to protect his group and to achieve his goals, almost to the point where he appears reckless. Luckily, Rick has surrounded himself with people who can offer different or more level-headed views and opinions to temper his assertive qualities.

4. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty

“The ones out there, the living and the dead, they’ll try to get in here. ’Cause we’re in here. They’ll hunt us, they’ll find us, they’ll try to use us, they’ll kill us. But we’ll kill them. We’ll survive. I’ll show you how.” — S5 Conquer

There are many qualities that make a good leader great: confidence, the ability to inspire, creativity, a positive attitude and so on. And when the going gets tough, a good leader will pitch in to offer help, or even take one for team and do an unpleasant task that needs doing. Rick is a perfect general for his small group. He’s often leading the way when fighting walker hordes, negotiating with opponents or dealing with sick/injured members of the group (Remember Herschel’s leg? Terminus?) These acts inspire intense loyalty in his group and they know they can depend on him when things take a turn for the worst.

5. Evolve your strategy

“You still don’t get it. None of you do! We know what needs to be done and we do it. We’re the ones who live. … Your way of doing things is gone! Things don’t get better because you want them to. Starting right now, we have to live in the real world.” — S5, Try

Remember way back in Season 1 and 2 when Rick was a classic good guy? He was the voice of reason and refused to kill anyone living. But he soon realized that his number one priority was to keep his group safe. It also really sunk in that he was no longer living in a world that operated with the same moral codes he had always known. Rick changed and became more assertive and aggressive in order to cope and survive in his new reality. At this point in the show, Rick and his group have tried multiple tactics to survive, including building their own community ecosystem, to assimilating into existing ones. One of their keys to survival has been remaining flexible to opportunities and staying agile.

6. Allow all voices to be heard

“How you live…how you die. It isn’t up to me. I’m not your governor. We choose to go. We choose to stay. We choose to stay. We stick together. We vote. We can stay and we can fight or we can go.” S3 This Sorrowful Life

Despite often being stubborn, Rick does listen to his group and takes advice from those he trusts, particularly Michonne, Glenn, Daryl, Carol and Hershel. He listens to everyone when they have complaints and questions, and even sets up votes for big decisions. Rick values what others think and how they view situations, helping him to make the final decisions in the end. He knows that he doesn’t have all the answers and that he doesn’t want to be an authoritarian, manipulative leader like The Governor.

7. Empower your people

“We’re gonna tell them who we are. The kind of people that we are.” S4 A

Rick is deeply committed to keeping his people safe, and that means giving them the training and support to survive in this post-apocalyptic world. From teaching people how to kill walkers, to organizing target practice, to assigning people on teams and tasks that play to their strengths. He encourages his group to find ways of contributing for the greater good of the team, but also to step up and become leaders themselves. By supporting and empowering his people, Rick fosters a tight-knit community, where they can all rely on each other.

8. Know when to step back

“It’s not up to me. There’s a council now. They run this place.” S4 Too Far Gone

Part of empowering people is knowing when to step back and listen to others. They could be subject matter experts or people whose judgement you trust. For instance, when they found some temporary peace in the prison, Rick steps back as leader and is content to let the newly formed council take over decision-making. Unfortunately, the peace didn’t last and Rick assumed leadership again. Similarly, Rick respects Alexandria’s established order and way of life, even though he doesn’t agree with it. Rick knows when people need his guidance and when to let his team get the job done.

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