Commentary

May 4, 2018
 

Marvel’s Black Panther sets tone for leaders

by Col. CHERIE ROFF
315th Mission Support Group 

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. — My family and I had movie night a couple of weeks ago, and as I was watching, I was immediately struck by the leadership modeling prevalent in the movie.

For years, Air Force Professional Military Education has had leaders watch the movie “Twelve O’Clock High” as a portrayal of leadership examples, as part of the curriculum.

“Twelve O’Clock High,” a World War II depiction of leadership challenges, is now dated, and in my opinion, boring and not relevant to our up and coming leaders. I feel, we now have a new, much more exciting movie that should be on the PME listing for leadership movies, Marvel’s “Black Panther.”

The movie represented a very good depiction of a status-quo leader in the main character T’Challa/Black Panther, in his focus to protect his people. He would not change the paradigms of the past to meet the demands of the future.

The change agent, or courageous leader example, is the love interest Nakia, who wanted to help the world by sharing technology and improvements, by seeing a vision of the future and what it could be.

The integrity dilemma leader is the commanding General Okoye, who struggled with a responsibility to uphold her position and not challenge the leader, even knowing that it was wrong for her people.

And finally, the toxic leader is the villain Erik Killmonger, who by winning the contest of strength became the leader yet he did not care about the people unless it benefited him.

I found it very fascinating that this story contained such great examples of what we are trying to teach our young leaders. I was also amazed at how quickly the leadership models could be identified as the movie played out. I am reminded of the discussions we often have on leadership and the examples we desire in our leaders.

We all desire our leaders to be inspirational and set a vision of an achievable goal greater than themselves. Unfortunately, leaders often fall short, only continuing with the status-quo, because they are distracted by the day-to-day tasks and fires that need to be managed.

The courageous leaders are the ones we admire, the ones who face bad news without giving up and take on difficult situations with confidence in their people and can reach their goal.

The integrity dilemma is something all leaders face in day-to-day scenarios and represents leaders who have to maintain their integrity, even when it would be easy or convenient not to.

Lastly, no leader wants to be defined as a toxic leader, but some leaders can get caught up in the drive toward the mission objective, and they forget about the people behind the mission.

So, I would challenge you to watch “Black Panther,” and as you do, to look at the leadership displayed by the characters and determine your path to that inspirational and courageous leader. If you do, we will all cheer as the good guys win.




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