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Leadership Lessons from the Black Panther

February 21, 2018 No Comments

Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther

Chadwick Boseman has brought an incredibly powerful and entertaining hero to the forefront. We would all do well to learn some leadership lessons from the Black Panther.

If you haven’t seen the Black Panther yet, go. Now. Read this blog post later. There are probably spoilers in it.

I loved the Black Panther. The storyline was fantastic. The acting was amazing. The visuals were mind-blowing. It is deservedly receiving wonderful critical acclaim and achieving outstanding financial success.

So let’s explore what we can learn from Chadwick Boseman, T’Challa, and the Black Panther.

No. I haven’t fallen and hit my head. I know Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa who is actually the Black Panther. But we can learn leadership lessons from all three people.

Chadwick Boseman

This man epitomizes class and humility. It’s been so much fun watching him during all the interviews. He has completely eschewed the Hollywood “I am awesome! Look at me!” dynamic in favor of talking about his cast-mates, the crew, the fans, and the opportunity he’s been presented with. The most powerful interview I’ve seen with him involved him telling the story of two young boys who were terminally ill. Boseman visited them and stayed in touch with them throughout filming. He was brought to tears when he explained how the boys said they were holding on as long as they could so they could see the movie released. Unfortunately they both passed away before the release. While they may not have seen the movie, I’m sure Boseman’s friendship and support meant a great deal to them.

My takeaway from Boseman’s professionalism, genuine concern for others, and humility is that this man is a wonderful human being. He deserves all the success that comes his way and it’s clear that his success will never change who he is as a person. He cares for others, credits everyone else around him for their great work, and focuses on being a positive force in others’ lives.

Do you embody these traits? When is the last time you made sure someone else got credit for great work? When have you gone out of your way to help someone else who is dealing with personal or professional challenges? Have you acted like Chadwick Boseman lately? If not, find an opportunity to do so and make the world around you a better place.

T’Challa

The newly-crowned king of Wakanda is T’Challa. He unflinchingly accepts challenges to his reign and overcomes his enemies in mortal combat. While that’s admirable, the more powerful leadership traits he demonstrates relate to how he governs.

Wakanda has always been secretive and isolated. The people of his kingdom have always feared outside influences and the threats they pose to Wakandan society. At first, T’Challa echoes these sentiments and his policies reinforce this isolationist stance.

As the story plays out, T’Challa realizes he has an obligation to build relationships and help other societies achieve peace and prosperity. Doing so requires opening Wakanda’s veil of secrecy and sharing its technological riches with the world. This is not something T’Challa undertakes lightly. By the end of the movie, you can see how far he’s come in implementing his policy of outreach.

When have you seen a policy or strategy in need of change? Whether it’s something as small as a departmental policy or as big as a corporate strategy, have you done anything to change it. Have you summoned the courage to say “the world has changed and the way we’re doing things needs to change too” or have you simply avoided the effort required to make the change? Are there ways you can get your organization to improve the lives of your constituents (customers, communities where you operate, families of your associates, etc.)?

Black Panther

Let’s get this out of the way first – the Black Panther is a total badass superhero who combines magic, technology, smarts, and fighting prowess into one powerful, kickass package. One of his most admirable traits is his willingness to charge headlong into dangerous situations against incredible odds and do it with a smile on his face. He knows no fear and is willing to sacrifice his life for the ideals he believes in and the people he cares about. It’s his courage backed up by action that makes him such a powerful hero worth emulating.

Are there “fights” you’ve shied away from because you’re afraid of the possible outcomes? Have you refrained from taking on a challenge because you’re uncertain of the outcome? Are there ways you can step up to those challenges and fight for what you believe in? Ask yourself what’s holding you back and see if you have the courage to tackle that challenge like the Black Panther tackled his.

All three personas that make up the Black Panther can teach us a few things about leadership. Boseman’s humility, empathy, and generosity;  T’Challa’s willingness to challenge old ways of doing things in order to make the world a better place;  the Black Panther’s fearless confrontation of challenging odds to fight for what he believes in. These are traits every leader should aspire to have. I know the movie got me thinking about these things and how I can employ these approaches. I hope this blog post and the movie get you doing the same thing.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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Photo: File:Chadwick Boseman (28017833504).jpg by Gage Skidmore

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