Looking at leadership: Wakanda edition

From the crossroads of character, diversity and ethics

https://www-admin.brandman.edu/-/media/348278f7b119435c909725c42022f7dc.ashx?la=en&h=240&w=360&hash=EF2DF85422222CABE52586F0EC6FEA289D5B52F7By Dr. Jalin B. Johnson

I once read a story about a great leader. His realm and its people were known for technological advancement, resource wealth, innovation and for having a great sense of pride. After a series of tragic losses, his newfound leadership was put to the test. With a diverse group of elders, dynamic women and crime-fighting colleagues, by his side, he overcame obstacles and became legend. His exhibition of strategy and international diplomacy are characteristics that would be wisely modeled after by today’s career politicians and novices alike.

As a scientist and one who is known for ethical principal and sharing his unique skill sets with his associates and peers (like minds, striving to make the world a better place than it was when they entered it), he is a coveted friend and ally.

First debuting in July of 1966 (Marvel Comics: Fantastic Four #52– Jack Kirby and Stan Lee), this example of ethically driven leadership, T’Challa, now makes his big screen debut (as the lead) in “Black Panther” (Disney-Marvel, 2018).

While release of the film coincides with Black History Month in the U.S., the film rightly celebrates excellence of character, diversity and ethical standards, each of which transcend color, ethnic background, gender and the like.

It should not be lost however, that this predominantly cast of color, tells the story of T’Challa (Black Panther), whose entire royal guard is fierce and unapologetically all female. After the release of “Wonder Woman” (DC and Warner Bros, 2017), the world embraced woman as purveyor of justice, allowing the box office ($412 million gross domestically) to do the talking.

The “Black Panther,” as of two weeks prior to this years’ Feb. 16 opening, already spoke via the box office, breaking all-time records for pre-release ticket sales. According to Variety, “Fandango is reporting that presales for ‘Black Panther’ are now outpacing advance sales for all other first-quarter releases in (Disney-Marvel’s) 18-year history.” Starring Chadwick Boseman, “Black Panther” is also on pace to be Fandango’s top pre-seller among all superhero titles. “It’s not just a superhero movie, it’s a ground-breaking cultural event,” Fandango managing editor Erik Davis told Variety.

The cast, also offers diversity in ethnic background from acting and directing (Ryan Coogler) to production of the soundtrack and musical score.  Thus reminding Hollywood that multiplicity and collaboration do indeed create blockbusters and transcend boundaries at the ticket window.

Celebrating diversity (currently spotlighted in the entertainment industry) is a theme that often requires more than subjective interpretation. Personal awareness, surrounding ourselves with and listening to others whose ideas differ from our own, applying ethical and moral standards in our execution of said ideas, having and modeling principled character, are all part of what make these leadership traits so important. These qualities are not only to be seen on the big screen, as movie goers will do when watching “Black Panther,” but also in our daily lives.

Celebration of women and people of color goes beyond what may be highlighted during one month or day of the year, but at any time while amongst our friends, neighbors and colleagues; allowing for reciprocation and appreciation for one another, regardless of background, socioeconomic boundaries, gender or held stereotypes and implicit biases.

Consider being a part of the discussion this February, share an example of someone who exemplified principled character, embraced diversity and lead with ethical principles at the forefront. You may find commonalties among you as you’re looking at leadership.

Jalin B. Johnson, Ed.D., is an associate professor in the School of Business and Professional Studies at Brandman University, focusing on business and organizational leadership. She is a regular contributor on issues of leadership and current events.


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