For four seasons, fans of AMC's The Walking Dead have watched Rick, Daryl, Carol, and their not-so-merry band of survivors fight for their lives in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. While the show's first season was about finding a safe haven, and ideally a cure for the infection that has transformed so many of the group's loved ones into flesh-eating beings, the current season sees them settling into the Kübler-Ross model's final stage of grief: acceptance. Take away all the zombies and what you've got with The Walking Dead is a story of survival. If you stop to analyze some of the key tactics the group has employed over the past 45 episodes, you might just learn a thing or two on the off chance you need to survive in the woods (or the even further off chance you come face-to-face with a reanimated corpse). Which is why we asked the Boulder Outdoor Survival School's program director Steve Dessinger and director of program development Laurel Holding to weigh in on the lessons we've learned – and the likelihood of enduring – on The Walking Dead.
Everyone needs a leader
We're not really sure who made Rick boss, but he has played the role of head honcho since the series' inception. That is, until he decided he preferred being a farmer to making all of the big decisions, turning the group of survivors into a rudderless ship in season four. So far, it hasn't worked out well for them. "Leadership is incredibly important and traditional societies have always had leaders," says Holding. "In a small group leaders hold a certain amount of executive power, but are also very much beholden to group members in a natural sort of checks and balances system. Actions on the part of a leader that demonstrate integrity and worthiness – and improve the group's circumstances – build up a reservoir of trust and willingness to follow among group members. A leader can draw upon this account in exigencies when he or she needs to make swift, consequential, and possibly controversial decisions. In such cases [like when Carol transgressed and Rick felt he had to exile her], a so-called ‘benevolent dictatorship' is the most efficient form of government. A leader must be aware of overdraft, however! He or she must consider input from the group, while group members must also be prepared to follow a sensible leader."
Credit: Gene Page / AMC