3 fresh leadership strategies for a zombie apocalypse—and for 2020

A fictional dramatization….Zombies in Hot Pursuit
Jimmy and Maricarmen ran erratically through the dark streets of Serenity City doing their best to keep quiet. Their formal attire from the prom made it difficult to run quietly. Even breathing quietly was difficult as their lungs were heaving with fatigue and fear. But after seeing their dear friends devoured by zombies in the school gym, they did what they had to.

As 200 over-dressed kids scattered screaming through the parking lot, they realized that their cell phones weren’t working and their cars wouldn’t start.

Jimmy and Maricarmen ran and ran, never looking back. Without speaking, they’d agreed to get as far away from the school as they could. Eventually, they tried knocking on the front doors and windows of several houses, but no one answered.

In desperation, these two rule-following kids threw a patio chair through the window of a house and helped each other crawl inside. Using the lights from their phones, they frantically searched in the dark to find things to protect themselves against a foe they didn’t understand. They gathered a frying pan, a hammer, a hoe, two baseballs, and a spray can of ant-killer.


Important note: These are serious times for every human on the planet. Please understand this post is NOT trying to make light of our current situation. It IS using an un-real metaphor to reveal what happens when some of the basic elements of our real-world are destroyed or forced to change. There’s a bit of Jimmy and Maricarmen in all of us, right now.

Choose Your World-Changing Metaphor
You may prefer a different metaphor than a zombie apocalypse, but almost everyone agrees 2020 feels unreal on multiple levels.

Three Leadership strategies for unreal times.
Essentially, in the zombie apocalypse, many foundational assumptions and approaches prove useless or wrong. Sound familiar?

With zombies in hot pursuit, changes that happen over decades or centuries must happen instantly. That makes the before-after contrast more stark, which makes it easier for us to see similarities in our current world.

Here are three real-world opportunities that this zombie story reveals. If you’re someone who longs to contribute more and have a greater impact, this is for you. Imagine specific ways you can apply these reality changes in your community and at work.

Zombies may not be real, but these new opportunities are.
When the world turns upside down:

  1. Power transforms in at least two ways, creating a greater need for your contributions.

    A. The power of a “title” or status is diminished (or destroyed).
    B. In chaos, power quickly redefines and redistributes itself.

    The power and authority of some characters that we once looked to for leadership (like the school principal or the parents) become less relevant. Or, they take themselves out with their own fear. Titles mean nothing to screaming students unless the title means you can help them.

    What matters is: Who can lead us right now? Who’s clear-minded and thoughtful in this situation?

    Anxious people turn to anyone who is able to make good things happen and show them a clearer path. The lack of title or official credentials that used to limit a person becomes unimportant. What’s important is: are they showing us the way forward?

    Can’t you just feel it that Jimmy and/or Maricarmen, formerly considered two love-struck teens, are bound to step into a bigger role in this story? Someone needs to step up, so why not them? And why not you?

    What authority figures are you relying on less than before? What people became irrelevant because of their fear? What people gained more respect? Regardless of your title, where can you offer clear insight and guidance, right now?

  1. Old rules and structures need rapid rewrites.

    In a post-apocalyptic world, frightened people drop down on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs toward survival. The unwritten rules or norms everyone used to live by (willingly or unwillingly) prove useless, wrong, and/or out-of-date. Old structures and processes falter or collapse.

    Maricarmen and Jimmy broke into a stranger’s house without a second thought. Of course they did! The old rules don’t apply here.

    What old, now-irrelevant rules or norms is it time for you to let go of? How does your world need you to act now that would’ve been frowned upon before?

  1. Accepted answers fail, so start testing new ones.

    Old solutions that once seemed the obvious choice fail us so badly that we’re forced to invent new ones or repurpose others.

    Jimmy and Maricarmen couldn’t call their friends or parents. They had to find a way to protect themselves, so they imagined improvising with what they could find. Maybe a can of ant-killer or a baseball exposes a zombie’s Achilles heel?

    The world is more open to test and learn new solutions and listen to different people to find what works. What alternatives are you offering up?

How have these three changes already played out in your world?
Are you leveraging these new opportunities. Or are you unconsciously waiting for things to return to the old world order?

The world needs all of the best of you, right now.
It’s easy to underestimate yourself by using pre-2020 filters like your title and experience. The ability to solve critical problems now overrides authority. If you can contribute, don’t wait for permission.

This crisis alone doesn’t make everyone a leader.
You need to be able to speak to the hopes and fears of the people who need leadership. And look at #1 above. EVERYONE needs leadership right now.

The zombie’s sneak attack at the prom created one set of problems to solve.
But once people addressed that immediate threat, each passing day revealed more problems to solve.

The first phases of change in 2020 needed people who had solutions to those issues. Months into the changes, new surprises need new solutions.

It doesn’t get any more real than this.
The scene is set for you to contribute beyond what you’d have imagined in 2019.

Quiet on the set!!! And….Lights! Camera!….ACTION! All eyes are on you to share your new contributions.

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