Leaders and leadership themes in Black Panther


Leaders and leadership themes in Black Panther


Black Panther, a 2018 film produced by Walt Disney Pictures, embodies extensive leadership lessons that can be linked to theories on leadership covered in class so far. The film revolves around the story of T’Challa (Black Panther) who returns to his homeland, Wakanda, to take over as king after his father’s death. His right as king gets tested by Kilmonger who challenges T’Challa’s position. They dynamics of leadership that ensue force T’Challa to rally his allies towards conquering the enemy and securing the kingdom. His approach to leadership place him as a servant-leader, contingent leader, and transformational leader particularly his interaction with the subjects and rallying them behind a war.

Leaders and leadership themes

T’Challa (Black Panther) is the central focus of the film as a leader – a king over Wakanda. However, other members of the cast like Nakia, a brave female warrior who is a spy and also Shuri – T’Challa’s sister – also exhibited leadership capabilities in their own right. First off, T’Challa is a leader trained through hard work and discipline, and as the film portrays him, he is well-enabled as a warrior by technology (vibranium), but his abilities go beyond what technology offers him. He is well aware of all his capabilities – and their limits – which is a characteristic that associated him with servant leadership.

An even clearer perspective for his servant leadership lies in his quest for building a community. T’Challa’s father left Wakanda as a flourishing community with the best technology and in custody of a rich resource (vibranium) and T’Challa’s leadership was focused on protecting and growing the same community. A good example of this is how he chooses to keep vibranium a secret from the rest of the world even if it means Wakanda being seen from the outside as a third world country. He was more concerned about how well the community was doing from the inside. On several instances he rebukes Kilmonger – who cares more about exploiting vibranium for the world – as being selfish and short-sighted. T’Challa’s goal is first the peace and prosperity of his people and then moving on to exposing vibranium to the world. This portrays him as concern with the welfare of his community first.

T’Challa’s quest for a better community also mirror his transformational leadership approach. According to Chou et. al., (2013), transformational leadership is about achieving a vision with efficacy by fostering trust in a team. This is demonstrated in how the Wakanda community, under  T’Challa worked as a team – an element that even stood out in how they won the war against their enemies with different individuals like Nakia and Shuri portraying high levels of trust and sacrifice.

Need a paper like this one? Order here –

Further, just as is characteristic of servant leaders, T’Challa has a coach-like approach to leadership where he tries to make everyone a better version of themselves throughout Wakanda. This was a consistent theme between him and his immediate subjects. An example his how T’Challa praised Shuri – his sister – for her technological inventions and encouraged her to do even more. T’Challa also ensured Wakanda’s warriors were consistently being trained to get better at different things. Similarly, Shuri is replicating the same coaching approach to her colleagues. In one scene, when Ross, a scared CIA agent feels like he cannot fly an aeroplane through a hologram, Shuri, knowing the agent’s history as a decorated pilot, nudges him on by reminding him of all his accomplishments as a pilot.

As a servant leader would do too, T’Challa had a great balance of wisdom, empathy, foresight and persuasion. In one scene he is for instance, he was persuading Jabari, his competitor King, to yield to him in a fight instead of having to kill him. This act of empathy came around to form an alliance that helped Wakanda during an attack since the Gorrilla King (Jabari), rallied his people behind T’Challa. Ingram (2016) in reference to thus type of behavior notes that servant leaders value people and the input they have hence showing empathy to the situations of each follower as it contributes to the greater good of the community.

Central to T’Challa’s leadership is also the notion of sacrifice and bravery for others including that which he personally demonstrated as well as that seen in his followers. Greenleaf (1991, p. 7) noted that “serving others and placing the good of others and the organization above the leader’s self-interest”. This is seen in Black Panther as T’Challa is seen as ready to put his life on the line as long as his community is peaceful and prosperous. An example is when he fights Jabari in a match that is supposed to be until one opponent dies. Also, Nakia demonstrates the same characteristics – as empowered by T’Challa – when she saved the purple heart shaped herb that revived T’Challa’s powers. She did so for the common good given she could have taken the herb herself to escape from the wrath of Killmonger or even having not to put her life at risk in the first place. Both of these cases also show elements of transformational leadership in T’Challa as it entails building teams that serve with efficacy (Chou et. al., 2013).

Lastly, some cases in the movie show contingent leadership approaches. This is for instance when Shuri takes charge of the situation at the lab when T’Challa, Nakia, and Okoye came back with a wounded Ross from South Korea. This ability to think quickly and create solutions makes Shuri a great contingent leader. She for instance helped T’Challa in another scene to capture Klaue by driving his car using a hologram in an case where she improvised. She also helped Ross fly a plan by innovating a hologram cockpit. The same leadership is also seen as she sneaks back to the kingdom to take the Remote Access Kimoyo Bead alongside Nakia and Okoye.


Black Panther shows several instances of leadership that parallels the characteristics of servant leadership, transformational leadership, and the contingent approach to leadership. This is seen via the main character T’Challa, as well as his team including Nakia, Okoye, and Shuri. In the examples offered, different characteristics from these leadership approaches are seen to interplay hence the conclusion that some characters such as T’Challa applied more than one leadership style. Overall, the film demonstrates different approaches to leadership as discussed in this essay.


Chou, H. W., Lin, Y. H., Chang, H. H., & Chuang, W. W. (2013). Transformational leadership and team performance: The mediating roles of cognitive trust and collective efficacy. Sage Open, 3(3), 2158244013497027.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1991). The servant as leader (Rev. ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Robert K. Greenleaf Center.

Ingram, O. C. (2016). Servant leadership as a leadership model. JMSBI, C, 1, 1.

Need a paper like this one? Order here –

Leave your thought here

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *