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Anti-Leader Leadership Lessons from Captain Zapp Brannigan


Captain Zapp Brannigan embodies almost everything that could possibly be wrong with someone in a position of power: he is incompetent, arrogant, sexist, demeaning, cowardly, vain, and worst of all, deluded — he thinks he is a leader.Leadership means different things to different people, but since Zapp doesn’t have anyone’s trust or confidence, we believe this would automatically disqualify him from being described as a “leader.” He has rank, but not respect. In business, it’s not uncommon for managers to confuse the two.

Research released today from the University of Melbourne has found that 26% of Australians said there is no one in their workplace they could look up to as a good leader. Three quarters (75%) said that Australian workplaces need better management and leadership.

Zapp is not a leader. He is, however, hilariously stupid.

For any Futurama fans out there, we’ve compiled a list of some of best anti-leadership lessons in the career of Zapp Brannigan.


On Strategy

  • [Zapp is briefing Fry, Leela, Bender and his crew on his plan to destroy an alien mothership]
  • Zapp: If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes should fall like a house of cards. Checkmate
  • [Kif groans]
  • Zapp: Now, like all great plans, my strategy is so simple an idiot could have devised it. On my command all ships will line up and fly directly into the alien death cannons, clogging them with wreckage.
  • [crew looks at each other]

On Negotiation

  • Zapp: Then let the negotiations begin. I propose we go out on ten dates.
  • Leela: How about zero?
  • Zapp: Nine!
  • Leela: Zero.
  • Zapp: Seven!
  • Leela: Zero.
  • Zapp: Eight?
  • Leela: Zero.

Zapp: Five, and that's my final offer… Four?

On Positive Reinforcement

[Kif sobs]

Zapp: Kif, I'm headed to the men's room and I'll be needing an attendant, so-- Oh, I'm sorry. You're crying, like a woman. It's alright. I've always thought of myself as a father figure to some of my more pathetic men. Kif, old friend, let's rap.

[Zapp sits on Kif's bed. Kif sighs.]

Kif: Well, I'm in love with this girl--Zapp: HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA. Ah. That's rich! … Go on.

Kif: Actually, sir, I'm-I'm a little nervous about meeting her family.

Zapp: Well that's natural. After all, you're meek and uninteresting. Until now you've gotten by on my left-over charisma, scrounging off it like a tiny charisma parasite.

Kif: I just hope they like me.

Zapp: And why wouldn't they? Yes, yes, I know. Tiny, meek, uninteresting. Spare me your tedious life story, Kif. And above all, have fun!

On Discipline

Zapp: The key to victory is discipline, and that means a well-made bed. You will practice until you can make your bed in your sleep.

Fry: You mean while I'm sleeping on it?

Zapp: You won't have time for sleeping, soldier, not with all the bed making you'll be doing.

On Perspective

Zapp: One day, a man has everything. Then the next day, he blows up a billion dollar space station. And then the next day, he has nothing. Makes you think, huh, Kif?

Kif: No, it doesn't.

Have you ever felt like you were Kif, working for a boss that made your life agonising?

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."

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