The record setting, blockbuster movie “Black Panther” is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character and set in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda whose wealth is due to its supply of the precious metal vibranium. However, the fictional story has many correlations to real life for people of color and anyone interested in leadership. As a professor and industry award-winning talent development expert, I would be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to point out the great work depicted in the movie.
Leadership Is Learned, Not Inherited
Leadership is not just given because of tradition or lineage but it is learned and earned. Organizations that assign leadership roles because of any reason other than earning it create a culture of low expectations, conflict and disengagement. These type of challenges were depicted as the newly appointed king, T’Challa, assumed his position because of his royal lineage. Effective leadership is proven leadership. Regardless of how the leadership role was gained, you have to make an effort to be successful.
In the movie, T’Challa made a personal commitment to take action—acting intentionally to lead. We can take a few things from his role. Position yourself to be an individual that develops the behaviors, actions and results that demonstrate your ability. The culture and ways of operating in the world drive certain behaviors. You have to decide how you will respond. T’Challa received the role as king at the death of his father His position was not secure nor was he prepared for all that would happen. He even asked his father for advice. His response was that it is hard for a good man to be king.
There are two key lessons here. First, you can make the decision to not let your role negatively impact you. A leader can be a good person as well as an effective leader. Secondly, a leadership role requires your continual work and contributions to maintain the position. Whether you are a royal leader or corporate leader, your character and beliefs can be challenged. T’Challa’s rule as king was challenged by his nemesis Erik Killmonger who also was part of the royal lineage. However, much like T’Challa, you have to demonstrate your ability to maintain your position because it could be challenged and overthrown. There is always someone waiting to be your successor by force or by other means. There are certain competencies that can be mastered that have been proven to help increase your success as a leader. Here are six competencies that are recommended to be an effective leader.
Undervalued Traits of Women
In today’s workplace, more women are taking lead roles at every level, from managers to executives. There were three key characters in the movie that represent different behaviors of leadership that were once considered nontraditional for women—Okoye, a warrior general and leader of the Dora Milaje, the king’s all-woman personal security force; Nakia, an espionage expert; and Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister and a brilliant scientist who’s responsible for the country’s groundbreaking inventions. As female leaders, it is important to be able to channel certain traits to work for your good. Taking what are perceived to be negative behaviors and using situational leadership to apply them in the right situation. The following illustration provides a different perspective to view women’s leadership characteristics.
Loyalty and Leadership
No matter where you are in the organization, you have to determine your level of loyalty and commitment. This is directly related to the loyalty of leadership. Leaders are only as successful as the people that surround them.
That was evident in the Black Panther through the loyalty of those who surrounded T’Challa. Loyalty could be seen in most of the major characters as well as the struggles related to maintaining this level of commitment. The king, T’Challa, was challenged with balancing the loyalty to his father and the changing landscape of the world. His second in command, W’Kabi, was committed to him until another potential leader arrived that was in alignment with his beliefs.
There are seven behaviors that were displayed that drive leadership loyalty.
■ Shared values and ideals.
■ Being authentic.
■ Always ready to jump in and contribute.
■ Genuinely interested in the well-being of others.
■ Help others develop.
■ Trust your team members.
■ Serve others.
■ Be dedicated to the success of all.
The leadership lessons from the Black Panther can be beneficial to viewers of all ages, backgrounds and experience. We can take these lessons from the movie as another form of vibranium we all can use.
• Manage self by understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and create a plan to address the gaps.
• Self awareness of behaviors and styles.
• Strong level of professionalism.
• Being trustworthy.
• Consistently behaving in a way that is predictable.
• Good at sharing the big picture.
• Reliable: do what you say you will do.
Focus on Results
• Set stretch goals.
• Drive results.
• Take initiative.
• Foster accountability.
• Strong verbal and nonverbal communication skills.
• Learning agility.
• Substantial critical thinking skills.
• Being approachable and open to feedback.
• Engage and motivate others.
• Ability to build strong relationships, internally and externally.
• Delegation ability.
• Politically savvy.
• Communicate your vision at all levels.
• Align efforts of others.
• Build commitment at all levels.