What Zombies Tell Us About Entrepreneurial Leadership

Here’s a great interview with Max Brooks, author of a two bestsellers on zombies. Brooks’ books have captured the imagination of huge numbers of teenage boys (and those that sometimes think like them).

As researchers of entrepreneurial leadership, we’ve been noticing how Brooks is increasingly developing new lucrative business ventures (such as TV shows and live lecture progams). But a key point is that all this innovation is based on his peculiar area of expertise and passion. He creates value from what he knows and who he is. Below is an excerpt from the interview:

How did you come up with such a curious niche as zombie expert?

I didn’t really set out to come up with a niche. I just was a zombie fan and wanted to answer my own questions. I used to wonder how I would survive a zombie attack and went looking for a book on how to do it. Nobody had written it, so I thought I’d just write it for myself, and it sat on the shelf for years before it ever got published. That was Zombie Survival Guide. When it came time to write another book, I wasn’t done with zombies. Every zombie story up until that point was a micro-story about an individual or group of humans and their little war. But to me, that isn’t enough, because zombies are macro-horror. They’re big. They’re global. No one was answering my questions about what a global zombie pandemic would look like, so that’s when I wrote World War Z.

Did you ever expect a zombie career would blow up like this?

God, no! Zombie books were going to be my passion projects, but certainly not pay the bills. I thought I was going to have to get a real job on a sitcom or something, and have my zombie books to remind myself I was still a writer at heart. I never thought I could actually pay my bills and write what I wanted.