What Chadwick Boseman's Life Can Teach Us About Being Leaders

Three key leadership lessons from Chadwick Boseman's career and life that we can embody as entrepreneurs.

learn more about Asiya Othman

By Asiya Othman

Matt Winkelmeyer | Getty Images

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Like much of the world, I was shocked to hear of the passing of the actor Chadwick Boseman, who was much lauded for his performance in Black Panther as well as other hit movies over the past few years.

To know he spent the last four years not just making movies that moved us emotionally and inspired us intellectually but also did so between chemotherapy and major surgery was a shock. It shows us that he truly embodied walking your own talk — owning his crown as a leader in whatever role he was playing on set and in his real life off-set.

His dedication to playing roles so gracefully and powerfully while maintaining his privacy is something many Hollywood actors can't do without alienating fans. Boseman, though, managed to do this and to make us rethink narratives every step of the way.

Related: Skip the Avengers: Why Entrepreneurs Should Watch 'Black Panther' Again Instead

There are so many lessons we can learn from him. Being a successful entrepreneur means not just creating something that stands the test of time, but also truly making an impact and sparking meaningful conversations and change. You can't just rely on talent — you have to be conscious of the narratives you're contributing to. So, here are three key leadership lessons from Chadwick Boseman's career and life that all entrepreneurs can embody.

1. Build a ship big enough for more than one man

Teamwork creates excellence, and contributing to that means never seeing a role or responsibility as too big or too small. Be conscious of who's on your team and how they can use their uniqueness to help grown your business.

I recently read that Chadwick Boseman would attend auditions for supporting roles in the films he was working on. It goes without saying that that's uncommon for lead actors in big-budget films. But Boseman understood that developing a strong team that could perform as a whole mattered as much as his own performance.

Related: 10 Movies All Entrepreneurs Should Watch on Amazon

2. Innovate by going deep and not wide

The concept of "innovation" is overused in entrepreneurship. So many businesses are merely changing the packaging and delivering the same service, support, and information as everyone else. Innovation doesn't mean reinventing the wheel — it's paying attention to the details no one else has thought of. Some of the companies we have come to love all innovated by embodying this trait. Think Apple, which with the iPhone put the world in our pockets, or even Netflix, which changed how we consume movies and television.

Related: 18 Movies Every Entrepreneur Should Watch

Paying attention to details is something Boseman knew the importance of. Ryan Coogler, the co-writer and director of Black Panther, has said that Boseman would often discuss lines and different ways to add depth to each scene. What stood out to me, though, was his attention to the minute details. Coogler says Boseman cared about everything from costumes to military practices. He once told Coogler, "Wakandans have to dance during the coronations. If they just stand there with spears, what separates them from Romans?"

That level of awareness is something every entrepreneur should try to embody. Truly ask yourself: What separates us from the rest?

3. Be bold enough to change the box

Being an entrepreneur isn't about fitting everything into a neat box and checking things off a to-do list. It's redefining the box so that the parameters can be stretched, never to return to what they were before. It might sound like I'm overestimating the importance of what entrepreneurs can create, but aren't all entrepreneurs who bring forth new possibilities just stretching our imaginations beyond what we'd previously thought?

All the technology we see now, the evolution and change that's happened at speeds we couldn't have anticipated 20 years ago, is because entrepreneurs were bold enough to change the box.

It's why Chadwick Boseman was so loved in all his roles, from playing Jackie Robinson, to playing the godfather of soul music James Brown, to playing King T'Challa in Black Panther. In each role, Boseman stepped up not only as an actor but also as a leader. As entrepreneurs in this climate, now more than ever we need fewer imitators and more leaders willing to step up.

Related: 10 Movies Dealing With Racial Injustice That All Entrepreneurs Can Learn From

Asiya Othman

Co-Founder Of Muslim Coaching Academy

Asiya is a peak-performance business coach. She was an outspoken humanitarian worker and speaker before choosing to pivot to make a wider impact in changing people’s lives. She became immersed in coaching to the highest level and made her mark by having a no-nonsense approach to her coaching.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

The Dark Side of Pay Transparency — And What to Do If You Find Out You're Being Underpaid
Thinking of a Career Change? Here Are 4 Steps You Can Take to Get There.
A Founder Who Bootstrapped Her Jewelry Business With Just $1,000 Now Sees 7-Figure Revenue Because She Knew Something About Her Customers Nobody Else Did
Everything You Need to Know About Franchise Law
Business News

Amazon Is Starting to Let Customers Know What Products Are Returned Often

The e-commerce giant has begun flagging certain items that were frequently sent back.

Business News

'Crying Northwestern Kid' Turned His Viral Fan Moment Into a Successful Harvard Admissions Essay. He Says the Experience Taught Him About Empathy.

Six years ago, Phillips was watching No. 8 Northwestern take on No. 1 Gonzaga during March Madness when he became a meme.


5 Challenges Leaders Are Facing Right Now (and How to Overcome Them)

Leaders who can find solutions to post-pandemic challenges are poised to thrive.

Starting a Business

Choosing A Bank For Your Startup: Here's Some Things To Consider

Although the fall of SVB has sent shockwaves across the economy and banking sector, for many small startups it's crucial to find the right bank that offers them a range of tailor-made products and services.