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Leading a work of fiction


Stop for a second and think. When someone say “good leader” what do you think of? More importantly, who do you think of?

I am a firm believer in the idea that fictional characters leave a bigger impact on the world than real people. I, for one, do not think of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. when I think of a good leader. I think of Buffy Summers, Rick Grimes, and Harry Potter.

Of course, I’m not saying that Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. were not good leaders or that they did not leave an impact on the world, because they did. I’m simply stating that they weren’t who came to mind and there is a reason for that.

I can connect with Buffy, Rick, and Harry. I can relate to their problems and respect their decisions because I might have made the same one. I can’t say the same for Abe or Martin.

Now, what about Buffy, Rick, and Harry that makes them great leaders? What can we learn from them and what do we have to do to model ourselves after them?

Courage and perseverance

No one wants to follow a leader who does not have the guts to take a stand and the whole point of being a leader is getting people to follow you, right? Not only does a leader have to show courage, they have to use that courage to inspire others.

Courtesy of MCT Campus
Courtesy of MCT Campus

Do you think Neville Longbottom would have found the strength to let his inner Gryffindor shine through and kill Nagini if he hadn’t been watching Harry show courage against Voldemort all those years?

The answer is: no.

Speaking of showing courage against Voldemort, Harry wasn’t thinking of being a leader or showing bravery – he was thinking about saving himself, and often times, someone else. However, as he got older, he began to realize that people looked to him for guidance, and he had to have something to show them.

Of course, Harry didn’t always succeed in saving others. The deaths of Cedric Diggory, Mad-Eye Moody, Dobby, and many others is sheer proof of that. Did Harry ever give up? Did he stop trying?

No, of course not.

He started ‘Dumbledore’s Army.’ He hunted Horcruxes. He willingly went to his death to save the world. There were plenty of times when it got hard and Harry wanted to quit, but he didn’t. He finished what had been started, fulfilled the prophecy, and did all of it with the people he cared about most in his heart.

Leader recognition and having a set goal

As a leader, it’s important that followers recognize them as their leader. This will avoid lots of confusion and make the followers much more willing to take orders.

Rick Grimes (from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” for those who don’t know) was recognized as the leader from the moment he stepped foot into his new camp. The leadership role shifted to him immediately and everyone knew it.

Courtesy of MCT Campus
Courtesy of MCT Campus

He had hard decisions to make and, as to be expected, not everyone in the group agreed with him. However, his status as leader and his groups’ status as followers allowed Rick to make decisions without much conflict and the group to respect his decisions, even if they didn’t necessarily like them.

Rick did what he thought was right for the group’s survival and that’s all there was to it. Nothing other than the safety of his group, especially his family, influenced what he did and why.

Why did Rick consider killing a young, questionably innocent boy in season two? Because he thought the boy could pose a threat to his group. Why did he kill his best friend only a few episodes later? Because he definitely posed a threat to his group.

In Rick’s mind, the group’s survival is all that matters.

Strength and concern for others

Not only does a leader have to be physically capable of protecting him or herself from outside threats, the leader also has to have mental and emotional strength and, be strong overall.

Buffy Summers (from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” again, for those who don’t know) is one of the strongest leaders the fictional universe has ever seen, and not just because of her Slayer-induced brute strength.

Buffy has been through a lot: her mother dying, dying herself, several apocalypses, and – do I really have to go on? I think you get it; Buffy is tough. That seems like a no brainer as a leader, but it is also a quality to be appreciated and admired.

Like I said above, leaders have to show good examples for their followers. How could Buffy inspire her friends to be strong when she couldn’t even be strong? You guessed it – she couldn’t.

Courtesy of MCT Campus
Courtesy of MCT Campus

One of the most admirable qualities Buffy has is her compassion for others. She refuses to believe that slayer is a synonym for killer. She willingly dies, twice-I might add, to save the world, and then to save her sister.

Everyone else’s safety is far more valuable to her than her own. She continues to sacrifice so that the people around her can live and be happy.

There you have it: a lesson on leadership from the world’s – okay, my favorite fictional characters.

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Rachel Brands, Author

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