5 Leadership Lessons From The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes


Have you noticed how, thanks to the recent rise in the popularity of the anti-hero formula in major movies and tv shows, the classic hero concept is slowly dying?

More and more protagonists are being robbed of their stoplight and placed into the background to serve as nothing more than a counterweight to the true leads – the villains.

The bad guys are getting all the attention and thanks to that, we have more weak protagonists who are defined by nothing more than the fact that they’re The Lead. That’s it. There’s no real flavor or debt to them.

The Dark Knight, Gangs of New York, Misery, The Silence of The Lambs, Halloween, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, The Wire – these are just some of the films and tv shows where the villains are in the driver’s seat.

Although I love every single one of the above mentioned titles, when you look closely at, The Dark Knight or Silence of The Lambs, for example, you can see that the “supporting characters” are more memorable and interesting than the so-called protagonist of the show.

Thanks to that, I cannot help but wonder: “Where have all the real heroes gone?

Everywhere I turn, every tv show I watch, I see these leading men who are basically not much of anything. They’re kinda bleak, so to speak. Their sole purpose is to seem familiar and relatable to the audience. They’re like a platform that’s open to other more complex side characters to come and play.

Call me old-fashioned, but I really love a strong protagonist. I love a real hero, in every sense of that phrase. He can be troubled, flawed and he can be grim, as long as he’s pulling his own story.

When I think about leads like that in today’s active tv culture, the first name that pops into my head is none other than The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes.

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Although The Walking Dead is now far along in its sixth season and it has a lot of characters who get some serious screen time there, I think that everyone who has watched more than a few episodes of TWD knows that Rick Grimes is the only real protagonist of the story.

That’s not just my opinion. That’s a fact. His face is the first one we see when the world goes to Hell and the zombies start overflowing the streets, and I’m guessing his mug will also be the last one we encounter when the series comes to a close.

For those who are not familiar with the whole story, Rick Grimes is a survivor of the outbreak in AMC’s show The Walking Dead. He is the former police officer of the King County Sheriff’s Department, who was shot in the line of duty and fell into a coma, only to wake up and find himself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.  

Since the very first episode, we have been led by this man and his family (at least what is left of it) in search of a secure place where the zombie virus hasn’t spread yet, and where Rick can rest at ease knowing that he and the group of people he had met along the way will be forever out of reach of these brainless flesh-eating monsters.

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Over the course of six seasons, Rick has seen his fair share of ups and downs. He has been forced to do unspeakable things and deal with such terrible tragedies that would drive any normal man insane. And yet, somehow, he’s still here. Somehow he still keeps pushing forward.

From a regular cop and a broken and lost man, Rick evolved into a real wartime leader who is currently (in the tv show) teaching a whole new group of people what it takes to survive in a world where everything and everyone is out to get you.

As a person who has so far seen every episode of this show, I came to recognize Rick as someone who is, above all, a monument to great leadership. Apropos to that, I have decided to dedicate a whole post on this blog to his greatness. Here are just a few things that we can take away from Rick’s experiences:

1. Always Protect Your Investment

When we first met Rick, he was a quite different guy – he only used violence when he had no other options. Back then, he was a man who did everything that he could to establish a normal society for him and his company to live in. First, there was Hershel’s farm, then the prison. Although he did all he could to implement some order and stability into the lives of his group, something always came to bite him on the ass.

First there was Shane, then there was The Governor, and now – well, now we wait for Negan to show his mug. Although Rick tried to reason with both of them, they continued to expose his friends and family to risk. He had no choice but to put them both down. He might look like a monster to some viewers, but Rick on daily and weekly basis does everything that is necessary to keep his friends and family safe. It’s his no.1 priority. 

2. When Others Choke, A True Leader Has To Step Up and Do Even The Most Awful Job

Rick and his crew have been in some really horrible situations over the years. Personally one of the worst moments for me was when Rick opened up Hershel’s barn in Season 2, and found the reanimated corpse of Carol’s daughter, Sophia. Naturally, she had to be put out of her misery, but no one had the guts or the strength to step up and do the dirty deed. No one except Rick, of course.

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3. Trust, It’s All About Trust

In Season 4, Rick figures out  that Carol was responsible for Karen and David’s death. In an attempt to stop the infection that was spreading through the prison, she killed them and burned their bodies.

Before he decided to do anything about it, Rick asked Carol to accompany him on a trip to the suburbs in search of some much-needed medicine.

As they advanced on their journey, Rick kept testing her all along the way, in order to determine if she was still the same Carol who was safe to keep close to his group. Ultimately, he decides that she has changed, so, as they prepared to head back to the prison, Rick locked her out of the car and told her that he will be returning alone.

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He used these specific words: “They might have lived,” he says. “Karen and David, they might have lived, and now they’re dead. When Tyreese finds out, he’ll kill you…When the others find out, they don’t want you there. And if they don’t make it back, if everybody dies of this thing and it’s just the two of us, with Judith and Carl—with my children—I won’t have you there.”

Although banishing Carol was not an easy thing to do, and her skills and knowledge could’ve really helped the group in their day to day activities, after she lied to them, Rick saw Carol as a liability. Letting her (at that time, in that mental state) stay would only put more people’s lives at risk. He had to cut her from the pack.

4. It Ain’t Over Until The Fat Lady Sings –  Leaders Don’t Accept Defeat


Rick is a person who never, I’ll bold this, 
NEVER accepts defeat. During the course of six seasons, our protagonist has been in all sorts of jams where he had to face even the most ridiculous odds to win. I remember in the very first episode of Season 3 when a walker bit Hershel’s leg. All Hell instantly broke loose, everyone started to lose their minds, but Rick quickly weight in his options, took the old man to safety, grabed the hatched and instantly chopped off Hershel’s calf, so he could stop the infection from spreading through his entire body.

Even though it seemed like the old man was out of options, Rick refused to accept defeat or the loss of any of his group members. If you watched the show, you know that this sort of leadership has been displayed more than once by the former police officer from the King County Sheriff’s Department.
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5. Never Give Up On Your Dream – If You Have To, Try Over and Over Again!

As I already wrote above, Rick’s ultimate goal here is to find a safe place for him and his group to live in.  All he wants is a normal life where he doesn’t have to fear everything and everyone around him. Although things keep getting worse, Rick will never give up on his dream. It doesn’t matter how many times he has to cut his losses and try again from scratch, Rick is gonna do it.

The great example of that we can see in Season 4, Episode 2, when Farmer Rick figures out that the piglets are the reason why more and more people around him are getting turned into zombies. Although he really bonded with these little piggies, our protagonist once again finds himself in a situation where he has to do the dirty deed. Naturally, this highly symbolic gesture took a toll on poor old Rick, but he never stopped chasing his dream and demonstrating the will to do it all over again.

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Thank you so much for reading this blog post. If there are any The Walking Dead fans among you, I would really enjoy if you could contribute to this article by sharing some of your personal insights in the comments section below about Rick and his leadership skills.

That’s it for now,
See you soon again,
Goran @ AltusHost

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