Leadership Skills in the Movie, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever!

One of the most iconic scenes of the movie, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is where Queen Ramona decided to fire (sack) the chief of the army of the Kingdom of Wakanda, Okoye. Okoye had, contrary to the Queen’s instructions, taken Shuri, the princess, on a battle mission and now Shuri was lost.

From what Queen Ramona and everyone could see, there was only one person left in the immediate Royal family, and that was Queen Ramona. Her husband and son were already dead – the latter died in line of battle for Wakanda.

Okoye was stunned by her dismissal from the army because she had given so much to fight for Wakanda. She had chosen Wakanda over her husband. She had, according to her, “given everything,” to Wakanda.  In response to Okoye’s protest, Queen Ramona bellows :  “I am queen of the most powerful nation in the world! And my entire family is gone! Have I not given everything?”  

This simple dialogue teaches us very important lessons on leadership as follows: 

A. Sacrifice is a Key Part of Leadership

A true leader is someone who has sacrificed something they hold dear, for an even greater good. We learn too that the leader will often bear the loss internally – most people will not see or understand the extent of their sacrifice (only God). A sacrificial leader will rarely speak about the sacrifice unless they absolutely need to, and when they do, it is also to serve the greater good. Here, Queen Ramona announced sacrifices she had made for the greater good of showing Okoye that she – the Queen – had also done her part and more for Wakanda. In other words, she is not asking for what she herself had not already given up.

B. Degree of Sacrifice Varies – but all are Good

The sacrifice each leader makes is different – objectively and subjectively. For instance, Queen Ramona appears to have lost three people to Wakanda’s preservation whereas Okoye had lost one.  Objectively, Queen Ramona has lost everything – and far more than Okoye. That said, if we assume that Okoye’s husband was all Okoye had, the loss of her marriage was truly the loss of everything as well. 

 The truth is we do not know the subjective degree of loss that each person has to bear. We can only assume based on our own experiences or how we would feel in the same position. Even though the objective or observable aspect of loss tends to bear more weight in our minds, we should avoid comparing sacrifices to declare who won the Olympics of suffering. Rather, we can appreciate each person and the unique suffering they have been through – in terms of what we see as well as the depth of what we cannot see but can imagine.

C. Leaders are Aware of a Hierarchy of Goods and Choose Accordingly

There is almost no doubt that it hurt Queen Ramona to fire her long-serving Chief of the army but between goods, a greater good must be chosen. 

For Queen Ramona, this meant that she had to punish Okoye publicly through a public firing or sacking. This way, the entire nation of Wakanda could remember that there are repercussions for disobeying her legitimate authority as Queen. Moreover, all needed to see that even Okoye was not above the law.  These goods trumped the alternative good of showing mercy to Okoye as an individual servant.

In choosing one good over another, a leader has to have a principle for weighing different goods and deciding a hierarchy among them for any given situation. Nowadays, it is common to always declare equality in all values. However, the reality is that this is not always practical or good. For example, parents would put their child through a painful medical procedure because it would save the child’s life. The sorting principle in this scenario is that life is a more valuable good than pain; and that health is a more valuable good than ill health. A leader must ensure that their overarching sorting principle is good in itself otherwise they will fail in leadership.

Here are some practical tips to grow in Leadership Because Leadership Can Be Learned

There is a big debate whether leaders are born or trained. The answer is probably somewhere in-between. Some are and some are not. In any case, one can learn to improve their leadership skills. Here are some quick tips on leadership development which we gathered from various sources:

  1. Ask Why

Ask frequently why we do what we are doing and whether this drives our good and legitimate objectives . The leader asks this question at the right time and as often as needed. Asking why appropriately distinguishes leaders from managers. Managers govern processes and develop structures to ensure that processes are followed. Leaders oversee processes but often come up for air from the process to check that each process is serving the overall mission. Unlike the manager, the leader knows that following the process is not the end goal but is a means to the end goal which is the overall mission or vision of the work at hand. 

2. Develop Foresight

This is the ability to foresee scenarios and to mitigate foreseeable risk while maximizing foreseeable gains with the most minimal cost possible. Foresight helps a leader to convert big dreams into reality. The leader interfaces the vision or dream into the real world, making the necessary adjustments to make the dream fit into practice. This process is developed with a healthy balance of established standards but also creative and innovative approaches.

3. Practice Virtue

It is important to be or keep trying to be an all-rounder in virtue. The goal of virtuousness is wisdom. Wisdom is knowing what virtue to apply in every situation, and to what measure. It is similar to cooking which requires knowing what ingredient to use, and at what point in the process and in what quantity. This calls for a delicate balance of all the virtues. Too much of one good thing can ruin the dish. Enough courage is needed to take on a new task whereas courage when there is strong evidence that the task will fail is no longer courage but foolhardiness. 

4. Lead by Example

Often, it is not enough to know how to do something, we have to be good people ourselves. If you can do a task successfully but you have a habit of lateness, being a no-show, tearing others down etc., it would be difficult to establish leadership in the long term. Leadership in this context also means doing your work well even when no one is looking. Do not apologize for having high standards so long as these standards are tempered by prudence or wisdom. 

5. Know Thyself

It is necessary to know your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you work on improving in your areas of weaknesses. It will also guide you on who to hire. You should be looking for those who are strong where you are weak. This way, there is comparative advantage and mutual growth. 

Knowing your strengths and weakness can be easily deciphered through an honest understanding of your talents: those skills that come naturally to you but which some others may find difficult. You can also learn them from honest feedback in addition to other tools such as personality tests.

6. Channel Your Hurt Positively

Any pain in life can lead to bitterness. However, leaders know that bitterness overtime can change you personally and take you in directions that you may not have chosen if you had let go of the bitterness. True leaders give themselves time to walk away from and to work on their bitterness and anger. They seek help humbly from the right sources such as therapists, particularly those grounded in the Truth about God’s good intention.  Once you have healed from you anger, that experience will give you extra tools for strong leadership. You would eventually now know how to rise from the ashes of pain and lead others through similar processes. You would embody empathy and your empathy would be of high quality because of your ability to better understand the position of others.

“Only the most broken people can be great leaders,”  –Namor, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever!

7. Humility

A leader should always remind themselves that one day, s/he would no longer be seen as useful or helpful in certain areas. Remember that Presidents and Chieftains do retire and a few years later, almost no one speaks of or about them. If they are lucky, they may appear in a book somewhere and even this does not mean that their representation will be in good light. Therefore, a leader can train their humility by working everyday with this reality in mind: that s/he is not indispensable.

8. Groom Good Replacements

A leader should strive to find their replacement by mentoring and sharing their knowledge and skills as much as possible. Interestingly, through the teaching or coaching of others, the leader can live on through their mentees. It is the age-old paradox of losing one’s life only to gain it back in another way.

Therefore, leaders should not be scared of integrating a succession plan into their day-to-day strategic plan, even if the foreseeable exit is in twenty years. On this note, overstaying too should be avoided. What overstaying means varies but a leader should take the temperature of his or her community to get the exit signal. Premature exits are also irresponsible especially if succession is not solid. To be safe, a leader should find an alternate career on the side even while being a leader so that s/he can test the best time to exit without much personal cost.

9. Receive Honest Feedback

A leader should be careful to take, with a pinch of salt, feedback from coworkers and others who may have something to lose or gain when they provide compliments or negative feedback to the leader.

Good leaders ought to have advisors who strive to be virtuous themselves. This is important to receive truthful feedback apart from the sentiment or trends that tend to trail other forms of feedback. Such feedback could come from family and good friends. However, they are even stronger when they come from other sources such as spiritual guides who have established themselves in wisdom. 

10. Relationship: People Skills

A leader ought to understand people and have the skills to manage people in a manner akin to a coach and not a task master. This means allowing room for growth while giving feedback so that the colleague can grow. A leader can achieve people skills by striving as follows:

Be a peacemaker unless conflict is necessary. Deal with any apparent conflict through dialogue and the proper channels set up for these where they exist such as human resources procedures.  Avoid divide and conquer tactics among colleagues such as tearing one person down through gossip. Rather resolve any misunderstanding through dialogue as much as possible. Avoid being a recipient of rumours. Change the topic instead. For instance, ask the rumour instigator about his family or new car to divert from the subject at hand. Avoid passive aggressive responses that leads you to react to your anger through other means such as “lateness”, and “procrastination.” Deal directly with the issue maturely and rationally as outlined above.

Give people the benefit of the doubt if you learn something negative about them. If the matter is negatively affecting your work, then deal with it through the right channels that have been provided, or exit the situation in a healthy way or work on yourself to put up with it especially if its relatively minor..

Avoid complaining too much. Even if it’s about the weather. Since this life is generally tough for most people, it is important that we stay on the optimistic side to contribute what we can to make life easier for others. However, this does not mean making unrealistic positive statements that are lies. Rather, it means interpreting situations that are mixed at best, with an optimistic lens

Temper justice with mercy. This may often mean being willing to forgive someone or to excuse their behaviour/give them another chance. However, this may not always be possible if the issue is hard to excuse or if it is important to create a public perception of zero tolerance of the issue.

PHD syndrome (pull him/her down) is not your thing. Practice being genuinely happy for others when they have good news. You cannot always be the winner so acknowledge this fact and use that moment to rejoice with others. Imagine that this person is a relative you care for and this could help you to be truly happy for them. Otherwise, just practice being happy when something good has happened in this world, no matter how small it may seem or no matter how much envy you have to contend with.

Own your mistake. Don’t be too quick to blame others. If you are at least, partly responsible for a problem, own it. Your immediate reaction shouldn’t be defensiveness or blame of others who might also be to blame.

Receive criticism and grow from it. It is true that others may be criticizing you from envy or other malicious intent. If you are sure of this, then flip it: ask yourself what virtue you are being called to show in this situation: patience, forbearance, courage etc. Should the unfounded criticism persist, go through the proper channels such as human resources to deal with it. Otherwise, accept the criticism and learn as much as possible from it. Preparation for your next chapter in life will come not only from formal positive learning but also the negative ones.

In the end

A good leader is above all else, sacrificial and lives by virtue and can sort through a hierarchy of goods through wisdom . S/he is also skillful and has humility as well as people skills.  

If you think you are a leader, you are probably right. However, ensure you first subject yourself to an honest appraisal of your qualities: not only the technical knowledge of your job but also  the ethical, social and other subjective qualities discussed above.

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