“We do what we need to do, and then we get to live,” says character Rick Grimes on AMC’s The Walking Dead . When Rick said this, he was leading and lifting the morale of his group after yet another demoralizing situation of life and death.
Sure, The Walking Dead is 100% unrealistic. However, leadership challenges in an organization can bear some similarities to leadership challenges during a zombie apocalypse. Just like Rick Grimes, leaders in organizations face difficult team dynamics, strong personalities, competing priorities, daily threats, and major engagement issues.
Once you move past the zombies, there is a lot to learn about leadership from this program –accountable leadership. Rick Grimes has been evolving as a leader since Season 1. And he teaches some deep lessons about being a leader in a setting where there seems to be a no-win scenario.
Here are three leadership accountabilities Rick Grimes demonstrates:
1. Rick establishes and communicates goals, and then takes decisive action to achieve them.
He isn’t perfect. No leader is. But the bottom line is, whether you’re in the zombie apocalypse or overseeing your team in the office, things work better when everyone knows their responsibilities up front and is committed to the same goal. Rick is a master at refocusing his team on the goal. For Rick and his team, that goal is to stay alive. For you, that may be leading your team through an acquisition or hitting your numbers for the quarter. Regardless, accountable leaders communicate expectations and provide structure for their employees. For Rick, without this accountability, it could mean disastrous consequences for the team.
2. Rick engages, develops, and leverages diverse talent.
Great leaders know that they can’t do it alone. They need teams of individuals that possess different skill sets. Take Rick’s group: Rick is a sheriff with extensive law enforcement training, Darryl possesses the specialized skills of hunting and tracking, Carol can cook, clean, and shoot a gun, and good ‘ol Hershel , who we miss, had medical training to save lives and heal the sick. Rick owns the responsibility for attracting, developing, and retaining his diverse talent, as accountable leaders do.
3. Rick takes action to become an effective, resilient, and trusted leader.
Rick always has a plan. Always. The reality for Rick is that he’s facing zombies. He has no home. Food is scarce. He has no idea how many others have survived. He feels pressured to keep his team alive. He lives every day in a world of unknowns. Yet Rick understands that the only way to survive is to have a solid plan. He uses critical thinking to analyze complex situations, solve problems, and make important decisions. Every action leads back to the plan. Great leaders know where they are headed before they embark on their journey. They may make adjustments, but they know where they are trying to go – and they gain the trust of those that follow them.
Who knew that a hit zombie show could lend so many great leadership lessons? If Rick Grimes can lead through tumultuous times, being a leader in your organization may not be so bad. After all, your main goal isn’t fighting zombies.