Leadership Lessons From Harry Potter

Nov 02, 2012 1 Min Read
Harry Potter


There are several leadership lessons to be learned from Harry Potter himself even though there are many other important lessons to be learnt from other characters of the book. According to Halee Gray Scott, the three most important ones are:

1. Humility

Potter was famous from young throughout the wizarding world. His legend preceded him. Even though he started off living in obscurity, he soon became noticed and was then under constant scrutiny.

His fame as “the boy who lived” after his encounter with Voldemort, escaping his dark powers at such a young age gave him a “hero” status even before he could speak or walk. When progressing through the story, we discover that Potter’s triumph over Voldemort’s spell was because of his mother’s unconditional love rather than his own powers.

Similarly in leadership, individuals often become filled with arrogant sentiments and think too highly of their “own” power, forgetting that ultimately, it is not our individual strengths, but rather the secure bases and support system around us that lead us to great heights and allow us to fully investigate and leadership opportunities.

2. Self-sacrifice

While the story unfolds, Potter wants nothing more than to be an ordinary boy, yet he suppresses this desire and continues to shoulder the burden of responsibility in handling the comeback of Voldemort.

He discovers the The Mirror of Erised, a mirror that shows the person looking at it whatever would make him the most contented person in the world. Potter’s reflection shows him standing there with his parents behind him, looking at him with tender love and affection. Every night, he sneaks back into this room for hours, looking at the reflection of himself and his parents.

He would trade anything in the world to have them back. He doesn’t want the fame and the responsibility of dealing with Voldemort. He just wants his parents. When one night Dumbledore finds him in front of the mirror, he explains to him that the mirror only reflects the deepest desire of a person’s heart, and provides neither truth nor knowledge.

With this bit of wisdom, Dumbledore encourages Potter to not waste away in front of the mirror, and instead embrace the challenges set before him, which Potter does.

We usually do not associate leadership with self-sacrifice. Potter shows us that leadership is often connected with sacrifice – leadership is less about power and influence, but more about responsibility.

It is true that inevitably power and authority is part of leadership, but it is more about responsibility for the greater good of those you lead more than anything ere to serve first and lead second. The concept was first articulated by an AT&T executive named Robert Greenleaf in the mid-20th century.  He identified 10 characteristics of servant leaders.

Potter seems to have all 10 of these characteristics. Here they are:

  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Healing
  • Awareness
  • Persuasion
  • Conceptualisation
  • Foresight
  • Stewardship
  • Commitment to people’s growth
  • Building community

As you watch Potter in his last movie, look for those characteristics of a servant leader. My guess is you’ll see them. Perhaps those qualities are one reason the books and movies have been such a phenomenon. People want to be around and be led by people who embody those traits.

Maybe we see in Potter what we hope or would like to see in ourselves. Maybe the magic was not so much in the wand and the spells as in the way Potter led others. If that’s the case, all of us may actually have a shot at being leaders who make a difference.

It just comes down to our motivation and how we act. If you want to evaluate your leadership style and develop it further, it might not be a bad idea to start here.

You can contact Eva at editor@leaderonomics.com. For more Harry Potter articles, click here.

Also published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 8 December 2012 under the Leaderonomics pullout in the publication

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Eva was formerly the Research & Development leader at Leaderonomics. Prior to that, she was an editor at Leaderonomics.com. Today, she is the Product leader of Happily, an engagement app at Leaderonomics Digital. She believes that everyone can be the leader they would like to be, if they are willing to put in the effort and are curious to learn along the way, as well as with some help from the people around them.

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