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5 Things ‘The Walking Dead’ Teaches Us About Leadership
“The Walking Dead” has entertained millions over the six seasons of television on AMC. Most of the selections from the zombie genre are easily forgotten splatter fests, but some stand the test of time as deeper comments on society, such as “Night of the Living Dead” or “Dawn of the Dead.” “The Walking Dead” joins this tradition. As society collapses under the weight of zombie hoards, we get to see what happens, both on a group and individual level.
Here are 5 lessons on leadership we take away from “The Walking Dead.”
Don’t let desperation be your counsel.
Under stress, people seek leadership. They seek hierarchy and order. There are few things more stressful than facing zombies, or “walkers,” in a society where all institutions have collapsed. Bad situations often lead to bad choices in leaders. “The Walking Dead” has shown numerous examples of this happening, from the governor in season three to Negan in season six. It takes an exceptional leader to not take advantage of that desperation.
In normal life, how often does a new commander make changes just for the sake of being different, rather than because what he or she is doing actually makes sense on its own? Change isn’t always a good thing, even when things are bad. Make sure you’re doing right, not just doing something.
You don’t have to be perfect to lead.
Better than the rest is still good enough.
Luckily for the group of wanderers who make up the protagonists in “The Walking Dead,” they have found one of the few leaders in that world who wields power responsibly: Rick Grimes, a former sheriff’s deputy. Initially skeptical of his leadership, Grimes quickly demonstrated his capabilities. Tactically sound, with command presence and decisiveness, Grimes was far better equipped than most to lead a group against zombie hordes.
Being a good leader doesn’t require one to be perfect, and Grimes isn’t. He falls short on occasion. When the group finds itself in a safe haven in Alexandria, disregards the rules of the community and nearly loses his own group in the process. It took getting cold-cocked by Michonne to set him straight. Being wrong isn’t the kiss of death for leaders. Being unwilling to correct oneself when appropriate is.
Don’t lose your moral compass.
The group’s survival can be at odds with its humanity. As the group’s ordeal has dragged on to a seventh season, Grime’s tolerance for moral compromise has increased, but he still manages to bridge the gap between pragmatism and principles. Like a Marine on a land navigation course, he keeps his azimuth pointed in the direction of his moral code, even if some obstacles force him slightly off the righteous path.
The counterpoint to Grimes during the show’s first two seasons is Shane Walsh. Walsh was in the sheriff’s department with Grimes, and was similarly well equipped to battle zombies. However, while Grimes’ goal was to survive with humanity, Walsh’s goal was merely to survive. As in anything done for expediency, it works for awhile. For example, Walsh successfully brings back medicine essential to save Grimes’ son by shooting another man, his partner on the mission, in the leg to distract the walkers chasing them. Anytime the ends continually justify the means, one ends up in bad places. Walsh’s disregard for others nearly ripped the group apart and ended up being his personal undoing as well.
Cultivate your subordinates.
Everyone has a breaking point, and even the best leaders are no different. For much of the beginning of the series, Grimes took far too much responsibility on himself and failed to delegate. When he came across a problem he couldn’t handle, the group suffered for it. For example, after his wife died, he disintegrated for a time, leaving the survivors aimless. Earlier in the series, Grimes had asserted his sole command of the group after the disaster at the farmhouse, creating what fans called the “Ricktatorship.” While a rudder steer was definitely necessary, his move squashed initiative by his subordinates. Only when his emotional collapse forced some of them to step up did they inadvertently reach their potentials.
This is a key leadership point: The measure of a truly great leader is not whether a leader has made himself essential, but whether he has built a group that can be successful even after he leaves. A leader is always in danger of leaving, be that by transfer, battlefield casualty, or being eaten by zombies. The group needs to be able to keep going without him.
Look for the best in people.
One of Grimes’ subordinates, Daryl Dixon, is a rough-hewn, Harley-riding, crossbow-slinging badass. As the beginning of the story, though, he’s just a maladjusted loner living under the shadow of his older brother Merle. He’s a capable hunter, both of animals and zombies, and an accomplished outdoorsman. He’s initially content to only provide those services to the group, living with the group, but not part of the group for the longest time. Often, he’s almost a hindrance through his passive-aggressiveness. Eventually, the group offers him the sense of belonging that he never found as a delinquent, and Dixon ends up being a capable second-in-command, and often the voice of reason for the group.
Good group dynamics are key to bringing out the best in people. Too often, groups cast out individuals with outstanding potential, just because they seem to be too much trouble. That happens in the military all the time — a promising young service member has some minor disciplinary problems and is cast aside quickly without even finding out what the root problems are. Once Dixon emerged from his brother Merle’s shadow, he was free to become the zombie-killing badass he was born to be. Similarly, if we spend time with some of our subordinates, more of them can become the people they were meant to be when they joined.
Of course, “The Walking Dead” is just a fun TV show, and we have to be careful about drawing too many parallels to it. Still, art imitates life. Good works of art, be those books, plays, movies, or television, give us a chance to stand in others’ shoes and think about how we might act in similar situations. I just hope I can do as good a job in my daily life as Grimes does in the zombie apocalypse. His leadership class is still in session for at least another season though. I hope he makes it.
The U.S. military is sending an unspecified number of troops to Saudi Arabia following an attack on Saudi oil refineries that the U.S. government has blamed on Iran, top defense officials announced on Friday.
Saudi Arabia had requested international help to help protect the country's infrastructure following the Sept. 14 attacks by Iranian drones and cruise missiles, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a Pentagon news briefing. The United Arab Emirates has also required help.
"In response to the kingdom's request, the president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces, which will be defensive in nature, and primarily focused on air and missile defense," Esper said. "We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves."
13 Marines at Camp Pendleton charged with crimes related to smuggling of undocumented immigrants from Mexico
Thirteen Marines have been formally charged for their alleged roles in a human smuggling ring, according to a press release from 1st Marine Division released on Friday.
The Marines face military court proceedings on various charges, from "alleged transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants" to larceny, perjury, distribution of drugs, and failure to obey an order. "They remain innocent until proven guilty," said spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz.
The recruiting commercials for the Army Reserve proclaim "one weekend each month," but the real-life Army Reserve might as well say "hold my beer."
That's because the weekend "recruiting hook" — as it's called in a leaked document compiled by Army personnel for the new chief of staff — reveal that it's, well, kinda bullshit.
When they're not activated or deployed, most reservists and guardsmen spend one weekend a month on duty and two weeks a year training, according to the Army recruiting website. But that claim doesn't seem to square with reality.
"The Army Reserve is cashing in on uncompensated sacrifices of its Soldiers on a scale that must be in the tens of millions of dollars, and that is a violation of trust, stewardship, and the Army Values," one Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, who also complained that his battalion commander "demanded" that he be available at all times, told members of an Army Transition Team earlier this year.
According to an internal Army document, soldiers feel that the service's overwhelming focus on readiness is wearing down the force, and leading some unit leaders to fudge the truth on their unit's readiness.
"Soldiers in all three Army Components assess themselves and their unit as less ready to perform their wartime mission, despite an increased focus on readiness," reads the document, which was put together by the Army Transition Team for new Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and obtained by Task & Purpose. "The drive to attain the highest levels of readiness has led some unit leaders to inaccurately report readiness."
Lt. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, who served as the director of the transition team, said in the document's opening that though the surveys conducted are not scientific, the feedback "is honest and emblematic of the force as a whole taken from seven installations and over 400 respondents."
Those surveyed were asked to weigh in on four questions — one of which being what the Army isn't doing right. One of the themes that emerged from the answers is that "[r]eadiness demands are breaking the force."
The Army thinks China will surpass Russia by 2028. Here is how the service is planning to take them on.
If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention in the last few years, you know that the Pentagon has been zeroing in on the threat that China and Russia pose, and the future battles it anticipates.
The Army has followed suit, pushing to modernize its force to be ready for whatever comes its way. As part of its modernization, the Army adopted the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept, which serves as the Army's main war-fighting doctrine and lays the groundwork for how the force will fight near-peer threats like Russia and China across land, air, sea, cyber, and space.
But in an internal document obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army Transition Team for the new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, argues that China poses a more immediate threat than Russia, so the Army needs make the Asia-Pacific region its priority while deploying "minimal current conventional forces" in Europe to deter Russia.