September 01, 2020
On August 28, Chadwick Boseman, known for bringing the Black Panther to life on screen, died at age 43 due to colon cancer. His life and legacy brought inspiration to many not just through his roles but most especially through his life off the screen.
I could still remember my reaction after watching Black Panther in 2018.
“I have a new favorite Marvel superhero.”
Black Panther, or T’Challa, is the leader of Wakanda (a fictional country in Africa). He is known to be both king and warrior who leads his people with his strength, noble principles, and advanced technology.
Though Black Panther is a fictional character, his words reveal one of the world’s greatest needs: a noble leader with strong moral values.
When King T’Challa came face-to-face with the man who murdered his father, he uttered these powerful words:
“Vengeance has consumed you. It’s consuming them. I’m done letting it consume me. Justice will come soon enough.”
He knew the dangers of vengeance and how it can destroy his life and leadership. Though it was tempting to take matters into his own hands, he chose not to. He knew that something was far more important than vengeance.
Someone once said, “One of the greatest gifts of leadership is self-awareness.” I would like to add that along with that gift is the ability to do something with it.
One of the overlooked leadership lessons is that leadership begins with leading yourself. The more we grow in leading ourselves—in not letting our personal agenda consume us, for example—the more we grow in leading others. We have the ability to be aware of our flaws and tendencies, but more importantly, we can set these aside and not be consumed by them for the good of others.
In the movie, the world didn’t know how rich and advanced the nation of Wakanda was. World leaders thought that Wakanda was an impoverished nation. But in King T’Challa’s speech to the United Nations, he made a decision that they could no longer sit comfortably in the shadows. It was time for them, as a nation, to offer their resources to the world.
In spite of their nation’s abundant resources, King T’Challa pointed out that their greatest contribution to the world would not be money or technology but noble conduct—how to treat each other.
We all benefit from leaders who make things happen, give an inspirational message, execute projects, and implement programs. But no one will benefit from a leader who undermines the value and dignity of others.
Regardless of the size of our influence or the amount of our resources, we must strive to become leaders who love people over process; leaders who value character over skills.
In the same speech, King T’Challa said something that all of us can relate to in the midst of the crisis we are facing.
Notice that he didn’t say that crisis makes a person wise or foolish. Rather, crisis reveals what kind of a person we are. In crisis leadership, what you build shows what kind of a leader you are.
If you “build barriers” to keep others out and preserve yourself, you are a fool. If you “build bridges” to help and serve others, you are wise.
In a war against Thanos, King T’Challa was chanting this particular word from Xhosa, a South African language, which means to “hold the line,” to “hold fast,” or to “hold strong.”
In real life, whether in crisis or in calmness, leadership is about holding the line. We have the responsibility to hold the line for our families, friends, and classmates. The truth is, we don’t have to be a king or to have any leadership title in order to serve and look after others.
As a member of your family, taking on additional responsibilities at home or putting the needs of your siblings first before yours are a simple but noble act of serving your family.
As a student, reaching out to a friend who is finding it difficult to adjust in today’s online class can be a powerful example of how to treat others in times of crisis.
May we become leaders who build bridges in order to serve and uplift instead of putting up barriers to pull down others and preserve ourselves.
The Black Panther may be fictional but his kingly leadership revealed the kind of leadership that we are all looking for—inspirational, sacrificial, and transformational.
The good news is that this kind of leadership exists and is real.
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus is the one true King and His style of leadership is far from what we can see in the world (and sometimes even in ourselves). While earthly leaders build walls from their people by “lording it over” and “exercising authority,” Jesus did not just build bridges but became the bridge by being a servant and slave of all.
The style of Jesus’ leadership is not just sacrificial and transformational, it is also inspirational. Not just because He lifts up our spirit, but also because He inspired us that we can lead like Him.
He did not only show the kind of leadership we all need, but He also showed the kind of leader we can be. And as we follow the true King’s leadership every day, we can become the kind of leader that this world is looking for.
Chadwick Boseman’s life and leadership are a reflection of the King that he followed and served—Jesus Christ. Chadwick’s career had inspired countless individuals across the planet, but his death has magnified his life’s message: living a life of purpose and knowing your worth as God’s wonderful creation.
He may have succumbed to his disease, but his death is not a defeat. It is his triumphal entry into a world that’s more astounding than Wakanda.
King T’Challa may have died, but Chadwick Boseman will live forever.
Rest in power, King T’Challa. Wakanda forever.
(Photo source: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/chadwick-boseman-obituary
Credit: Marvel Studio)