The Walking Dead & Leadership Styles: When Two Worlds Collide


In the spirit of the Walking Dead’s season finale this Sunday, I’d like to take a stab at applying common leadership styles to the characters that claim leadership roles in the show. For those of you who don’t know what The Walking Dead is about, it centers on a post-apocalyptic world where almost the entire human population has been wiped out by a deadly virus that turns humans into “walkers” or zombies. The show follows a group of vagabonds desperately trying to survive while still retaining any shreds of humanity they have left.

The leadership styles mentioned were taken from the Center for Association Leadership and just as an FYI, this post contains some series spoilers.

Rick GrimesRick Grimes

Often labeled by fans as running a “Ricktatorship”, Rick’s leadership style has evolved over the past five seasons. In earlier seasons he was seen as more of a Democratic leader where everyone would have a say on what the next steps should be in order to survive. This was also evident by the creation of the Council in season four where individuals who played more of a leadership role met to discuss pertinent issues. However, present day Rick uses more of a Situational leadership style which links behavior with a group’s readiness. Whatever the circumstances are, Rick adjusts the group’s MO to ensure safety and survival.

However, setbacks to this leadership style can be confusing if behavior changes unpredictably and too often. This might have been exhibited at the end of last week’s episode when Rick was surrounded in the middle of the street by his fellow neighbors while manically waving a firearm and telling everyone how things should be done in the community.

The GovernorThe Governor

If the name doesn’t indicate this character’s leadership style as Authoritarian, then I don’t know what does. In seasons 3 and 4, the Governor literally has an eye for an eye agenda where he practices strict, tight control over his followers by keeping close regulation of his directives. He exhibited Authoritarian leadership traits by setting goals individually, controlling discussions with his followers and leaving no room for dissent. This was made quite evident at the end of season three when his followers questioned his authority resulting in the Governor thinning his herd down to a skeleton staff.


The newest leader introduced in the show, Deanna, can easily be identified as a Laissez-Faire leader due to her hands off approach. This is shown by her chomping at the bits to welcome Rick and his team of outside experts into the Alexandria community without having sufficient background information on their trustworthiness or full previous post-apocalyptic history.

Deanna’s leadership style also dips into the Charismatic leadership style by displaying an energetic passion for motivating others and raising team morale within the community.   This probably has to do with her previous role as Congresswomen pre-apocalyptic crisis. However, we’ll see this Sunday if her blood sweat and tears devoted to this effort were dead on or not.


Ringleader of the Terminus group, Gareth demonstrated a Transformational leadership style in seasons four and five by expecting his followers and newcomers to transform into Cannibals. Typically a Transformational leader encourages the group to pursue innovative and creative ideas and actions. However, In the end Gareth bit off a little more than he could chew by not being able to have everyone buy in to the whole dog eat dog world mentality…literally. Hope you’re not eating spaghetti while you’re reading this because…yeah.


Introduced this past season was police chief Dawn, the head in charge of Grady Memorial Hospital, who displayed a Command and Control leadership style. This leadership style expects followers to abide by the rules and demands immediate compliance. However, this management style only really prevails when it isn’t used too much. Over usage results in followers feeling restricted and limited in their ability to develop. In the end, the Command and Control leadership style didn’t serve Dawn well as she ended up losing her head…again literally.

Please share any comments about what you think about these exhibited leadership styles or if you’re as big of a drop dead fan as I am of The Walking Dead.

Ryan Rosado is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Avatar photo Ryan Rosado

Thanks Margaret for the nice comment; it’s always fun trying to gamify concepts we interact with on a daily basis.

adelina sowell

Love it! Yes…I”m a fan of the show and you did a great job tying the characters to the different leadership styles we all see in are work life. Great and fun article to read!

Avatar photo Ryan Rosado

Appreciate it Adelina! If I had more space to write I was going to include bits on Shane and Carol too :-P. Carol is my favorite natural born leader.


Really well done, I liked how you used each character and created a verbal picture of these different leadership styles.

Avatar photo Ryan Rosado

Than you kindly Necworld; was happy for an opportunity to apply my work life to one of my favorite stories :).

Avatar photo Ryan Rosado

Glad you liked the article Zombie Patrol! I think Carol, Shane and Hershel would have been fun to write about too. But alas, the 700 word conundrum.

Avatar photo Ryan Rosado

Why not? I have a long list of them Lachelle haha (i.e. having your mind blown away, dead on, my brain is fried, etc lol). Glad you liked my post too!


Ryan – love your blog posts (and The Walking Dead). I especially entertained and disturbed at the idea of Gareth as a Transformational Leader…

Avatar photo Ryan Rosado

Thank you kindly Anita/boss 🙂 ! I’m sure Gareth would have love to have been evaluated on what kind of leader he was before his role made its way to the chopping block.