Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Wakanda Spirit: Black Panther and the Meaning of Leadership

Actor Chadwick Boseman’s death from colon cancer in 2020 left a huge hole in the world of films; significantly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Every appearance of Boseman’s in the MCU as King T’Challa of Wakanda, a.k.a. Black Panther, was regarded as a cultural milestone. So, the idea that the moviegoers would be deprived of his presence was devastating. 

Yet here we are in 2022 with a new film – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Naturally, Boseman’s not the star this time around. And the title of “Black Panther” now goes to another (no spoilers here, don’t worry!). Nevertheless, his influence and impact are inescapable, as are T’Challa’s lessons on leading with love, firmness and justice.

In conjunction with the release of the film and in honour of Boseman’s amazing turn in the role, we look back on five leadership lessons from Black Panther’s appearances in the MCU over the years; one of which also celebrates the filmmakers’ bold decision to soldier on after the death of the movie’s star.

Everyone fails, even kings

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We all make mistakes. And entrepreneurs, like everyone else, can and will slip up. Yet success in both business and life is not defined by our mistakes. Rather, it’s determined by a leader’s resolve to right wrongs, put the past behind them and support their teams. 

As Nakia, T’Challa’s partner, tells him in the first film, failure isn’t the end, but instead, an opportunity for leaders to learn, grow and spur everyone to greater heights.

Be brave and bold

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There are a great number of leaders who prefer to play it safe and please everyone. However, business leadership is not and should never be a popularity contest. It’s doing right by your enterprise and your team and making decisions without fear or favour.

Indeed, that’s what T’Challa realised once when faced with a tough call.

Yes, there’s always the possibility of crashing and burning. But true leaders step out of their comfort zones, take ownership of their decisions and lead where others won’t.

Partnerships are crucial

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Granted, trust is a two-way street, and you must listen actively and be responsive constantly. But it is possible to secure unbreakable bonds — as T’Challa did with Okoye, his sister Shuri, Captain America and yes, the Avengers — by building bridges and resolving to deal with conflict compassionately, efficiently and effectively.

To lead is to empower

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While bold and quick-thinking leaders are an asset to any organisation, what also speaks to one’s leadership qualities are the people you lead.

Have you supported and encouraged your team members’ personal and professional growth? Have they been presented with opportunities to take charge? Are they ready to step up and take over in your stead?

A true leader paves the way for those below to reach their potential, and sometimes, all it takes is for you to move aside, like old King T’Chaka did many times, and allow the new Black Panther to take charge.

Seize every opportunity, even when it hurts

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No one wants or hopes for tragedy. But it is in the most challenging moments that some leaders come into their own.

Like personal failure, disasters can deflate you and your team. Nevertheless, they can also present you with an opportunity to pivot tragedy into growth by being adaptable.

In the movie, T’chala, for instance, didn’t hope for his father to be killed. By that same token, neither did Black Panther: Wakanda Forever writer-director Ryan Coogler want star Chadwick Boseman to succumb to his illness.

Coogler said he considered walking away from films completely.

Still, those events resulted in outside-the-box thinking and saw leaders, in film and real life, changing course and guiding their teams through heartbreak to victory.

So as you settle in your seat with a large box of popcorn in hand to enjoy the movie of the year, take in also the overarching lessons on leadership. Yes, it is challenging. But with the right mindset, it can lead to triumph and reward.

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