10 Reasons Rick Is Actually A Terrible Leader On The Walking Dead

There aren’t too many characters on The Walking Dead who have been around from the beginning, and one of the few constants over the six seasons of the series so far has been Rick Grimes, who has taken charge as the leader of the survivors. Rick as the leader is the status quo, so it’s usually best to not really question whether or not he’s the right person for the job. Rick is a great guy to have in a bad situation and he’s a compelling character on the show, but he’s not necessarily the greatest guy to have in charge. So, in honor of Rick being put to the test once more on The Walking Dead, here are ten reasons why he’s actually a pretty terrible leader.

Rick impulsive

He’s Way Too Impulsive

Any zombie apocalypse leader is going to need to be willing to take action, and Rick does always does a good job of keeping his eye on the prize. The problem is that keeping his eye on the prize tends to stop him from seeing major deadly obstacles in his path. Considering the amount of loyalty that he inspires among the survivors, Rick’s impulsiveness is incredibly dangerous. He risks their lives as well as his own whenever he decides to chase down a lead, and we can only hope that his cavalier attitude toward Negan won’t result in a bloodbath.

Grimes family

He Can’t Prioritize

Rick Grimes apparently never saw Wrath of Khan before the fall of civilization, because "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" never seems to make a difference when he happens to be fond of the few. His inability to prioritize the greater good does sometimes work out for the better, as with his refusal to leave Woodbury without Daryl in Season 3, but Rick will always and forever choose to protect his children over fulfilling his duty as leader. Good on him for loving his kids, but bad on him for risking everybody else’s lives for a personal prerogative.

Rick and Deanna

He Has Bad People Skills

Good manners and people skills aren’t exactly necessary for survival in the zombie apocalypse, but they are necessary for rebuilding a civilization. Rick wasn’t very good at playing nice with others even back in Season 2 when he first arrived at the Greene family farm, and he’s gotten exponentially worse in the years since. He can behave himself and socialize when convenient, but he’s more likely to try to overwhelm others by sheer force of will rather than try to cooperate. There’s a reason why Rick responded to the welcome at Alexandria by almost immediately plotting a coup d’etat.

Rick with Glenn and Maggie

He Has An Ego

Anybody who has survived the zombie apocalypse for as long as Rick has deserves to have an ego, but anybody whose ego dictates his actions should not be in charge. He seems to have forgotten that he only ascended to leader in the first place because he was less unhinged than Shane, and his Ricktatorship tendencies arise from his belief that his instincts should be trusted above all others. He does make occasional exceptions for characters like Michonne and even Daryl to a certain extent, but Rick’s ego has too much control for him to be a truly effective leader.

Rick needs chaos

He Needs Chaos

Rick has the natural presence as an alpha male to attract followers, but there can be no doubt that some of those followers will always stray from him when they remember that it takes more than charisma and courage to grow a community. He thrives in times of chaos when others will turn to him to make tough calls, but he doesn’t contribute a whole lot whenever there’s a lull in the action. The prison in Season 4 was getting along just fine with Rick as a farmer and a council in charge, and Alexandria didn’t need Rick to govern prior to the martial law setup.

Rick in Alexandria

He’s A Small Thinker

Rick isn’t an unintelligent man; he just doesn’t have the sort of intelligence needed for a settlement like Alexandria to flourish. He knows how to handle individual missions and lead small groups of fighters, but isn’t built to be in charge of a large body of people. He thinks on a smaller, more immediate scale than is required for an effective leader of a large body of people during desperate times. He’s extremely valuable as a survivor, but he’s not necessarily the person who should be at the very top of the food chain.

Rick looking around

He’s A Control Freak

Good leaders need to know how to delegate tasks so as to not spread themselves too thin. Rick always takes an extremely hands-on approach to every mission that requires somebody to be in the thick of the action. The person in charge is really too valuable to risk on regular supply runs, and Rick's penchant for racing off on an adventure whenever his feet get itchy makes him a liability as a leader. He just has to handle and control as much as physically possible, and disaster tends to strike whenever he discovers that he’s gotten himself in too deep.

Rick covered with blood

He Escalates Problems

Rick definitely isn’t the source of every fiasco on The Walking Dead, but he does have the nasty habit of encountering a small problem and escalating it into a huge issue that eventually culminates in him getting covered in blood and then yelling at a bunch of other survivors. He’s a wild card when faced with opposition, and he can usually be counted on to spiral a status quo out of control for good or bad. Honestly, Rick is lucky that he happened to be right about threats advancing on Alexandria at the end of Season 5. Otherwise, it would have been hard not to side with the Alexandrians in wanting to exile him.

Rick, Michonne, and Carl

He Doesn’t Watch Carl

For as much as Rick will always prioritize the safety of his children over the safety of the group at large, he doesn’t spend much time being concerned about what Carl gets up to during the day. Frankly, it’s astonishing that Rick doesn’t keep a tighter leash on his son, considering everything that’s happened to the kid. Carl has always been a risk on runs for plenty of reasons, ranging from his uncanny ability to get himself into trouble to being too short to do much fighting until relatively recently to still going through some teenage rebelliousness despite the zombie apocalypse. Rick isn’t wrong in teaching Carl how to protect himself, but Carl has needed more parenting. Thank goodness for Michonne.

Rick and zombies

The Bad Guys Always Win

The show is called The Walking Dead (and regularly features humanity at its worst), so of course the survivors are never going to get happily-ever-afters at the end of each major story arc. Still, there’s no denying the fact that every safe haven has been destroyed once Rick and Co. arrived. It’s a miracle that Alexandria is still standing at all. Rick’s leadership has guided the band of survivors on a path of destruction from Georgia to Washington D.C. Maybe it’s time to let somebody else get a chance to lead. It might equal fewer disasters. It would be nice if this were a lesson that Rick could learn before Negan shows up in the flesh, but we’re almost certainly not in for anything approaching a happily-ever-after at the end of Season 6.

To see if Rick ever becomes less of a terrible leader, be sure to check out The Walking Dead on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).