Leadership Lessons from Black Panther

Black Panther

It was a pretty spontaneous decision. The boys were out of school for the week of winter break, and we hadn’t done much together as a family yet. So Wednesday night, we opted for buckets of popcorn and too-many-ounces of soda for dinner and settled in to watch Black Panther on the big screen.

 

Not every movie produces this response, but sometimes all I can see throughout the unfolding plot are the leadership lessons within it. (Leadership Lessons from Hacksaw Ridge happens to be one of my most widely-read posts!) Black Panther has many messages woven throughout, but here are the ones that impacted me the most.

(Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I’m about to give some key elements away….)

 

The leader was accessible.

Twice during the movie the scene focused on king T’Challa as he walked through Wakanda. He didn’t have a huge entourage. He wasn’t surrounded by guards, keeping the people at arm’s length. He simply walked among his people. (Kind of reminds me of Jesus….) The king was accessible while still obviously revered by those he led.

 

Every change of leadership required facing challenges.

In the most literal sense, T’Challa had to face challenges – in the form of two challengers from within the Wakandan community who believed they would be a better choice of leader. Both times, T’Challa simply states, “I accept your challenge.”

How often, as leaders, do we run from challenges instead of stepping into them? With every change of leadership – whether it is a new leadership position, or a new leadership responsibility – we have the opportunity to either accept the challenges that come with the change, or run from them.

 

Insecurity results in leading by position instead of leading by influence.

As soon as Erik (or “Killmonger”) ingests the heart-shaped herb to become the Black Panther and assume the reign as king, his first order is to destroy the rest of the heart-shaped herbs, ensuring that no one would ever be able to strip him of either his power or his title. His insecurity resulted in a reign of fear and demonstrations of power. In contrast, T’Challa was secure in his identity, allowing him to lead through influence and strength of character.

 

The greatest gift to a leader is when others can use their gifts.

In addition to the overarching message at the end of the movie that sharing resources leads to greater influence than destroying those who are different than us, we see a glimpse of T’Challa’s greatest moment. When he reveals that his sister Shuri and his lover Nakia will be able to use their gifts in the new alliance with the rest of the world, you may have missed the greatness of his smile as you focused on the reactions of the two women. Allowing them to influence others with their talents and skills will result in a far greater influence than T’Challa could have accomplished on his own. Don’t be threatened by the gifts of others – instead, see them as the conduit for greater influence.

 

If you haven’t already seen the movie, go watch it. If you have, take a few moments to reflect on how the leadership of King T’Challa may teach you about your own.

 

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