So it all comes down to loyalty then. Who is the better leader? Who can inspire more loyalty in their followers?
Negan demands absolutely loyalty from the Saviors. And they seem to be loyal to him. But are they? Negan’s speeches are inspirational. He provides well for the people of Sanctuary. He tells them that the Saviors have a mission to bring civilization back to the world. All of those things are great for inspiring loyalty.
But his punishments are brutal. And his selfishness and cruelty are qualities that don’t inspire loyalty. He considers all of the Saviors expendable. When he had Rick and the group on their knees in front of the camper he told Rick that Rick killed more of his men than he was comfortable with.
That implies that he’s completely comfortable losing some of his Saviors if the situation calls for it. He doesn’t care if a few of them die here or there. He considers it just the cost of survival. He isn’t loyal to his Saviors.
Rick’s followers are totally loyal to him. They are willing to die for him because they know he would die for them. They endure hardships and make sacrifices because Rick is enduring them too. Negan takes the best of everything for himself and leaves his people to scrounge among his leftovers.
The Atlanta group has survived together for so long because they are a family. They are intensely loyal to each other. The Saviors are loyal to Negan out of fear and a grudging respect. But just like Negan would turn on them, they will turn on him.
Rick wins hands down when it comes to loyalty.