Harry Potter as Servant Leader

Posted 07.15.2011

Harrypotter-scott-diane This past Monday night, my wife Diane and I had a once a lifetime experience.  We got to attend the red carpet premiere of the last Harry Potter movie at Lincoln Center in New York.  Diane has to be in the top 1% of Harry Potter fans in the world and she won the trip through a local radio station.  It was a blast and a surreal experience to be in the same room with the cast and people behind the biggest movie franchise of all time.  If you want the inside scoop on red carpet night, Diane wrote it all up on her blog and included some really great pictures of the cast speaking before the movie started.

Harrypotter1 No doubt, many of you will be seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this weekend and in the days to come. Enjoy it. It’s a wonderful film and a fitting end to the series. If you have any mental and emotional bandwidth left over as you’re watching Harry save the world, you might also put your leadership lens on for some examples of servant leadership in action.

Servant leadership is based on the principle that the leader is the servant of the people that he or she leads. Servant leaders have a desire to serve first and lead second. The concept was first articulated by an AT&T executive named Robert Greenleaf in the mid 20th century and he eventually wrote a book on the subject. Today, the Robert K. Greenleaf Center shares and builds on his work.

The president of the Greenleaf Center, Larry Spears, has identified 10 characteristics of servant leaders.  Having been immersed in all things Potter in my house for the last 10 years, it seems to me that Harry embodies all or most of them. Here they are:

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

As you watch Harry 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 Harry 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 Harry led others. If that’s the case, all of us muggles may actually have a shot at being leaders who make a difference. It just comes down to our motivation and how we act.

What do you think?