Synthesis of the Book: If Harry Potter Were CEO?

I admit it. It is a secret vice of mine, and there are much worse vices-I love Harry Potter. And in my very rationalized defense, so do millions of other grown-ups (see the NY Times best seller list). So, when I saw the book, “If Harry Potter Ran General Electric: Leadership Wisdom from the World of Wizards”, I bought it. Written by Tom Morris, a distinguished philosophy professor at Notre Dame, and a very active public philosopher for the corporate world, If Harry Potter has some interesting ideas.

Some of the more interesting ideas are as follows:
A leader must be truthful, but the truth must be earned, and spoken at the “right moment”. The following paragraph covers this: Dumbledore (the head of Hogwarts-the leadership model for the book), inspires truth and trust because he is truthful. He knows the power and importance of truth, which is the foundation of trust. He lives the truth and brings into his dealings with others. But he also understands that not everyone I equally well prepared to grasp and deal properly with the truth. He states, “The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing and should therefore be treated with great caution. However, I shall answer your questions unless I have a very good reason not too. Relatedly, the truth has to be appropriate and earned. Spoken when an individual is ready to hear it. One responsibility of a great leader is to prepare the individual to hear the truth. The book also covers the some of the controversy over the “Harry Potter” books. One complaint is how often Harry Potter lies. And how often he is lied too. There seem to be no outward ramifications for this. Morris supposes that this is the “way of the world”. He discussed the various ways people lie, when they lie, the purpose of lying and when and if it is acceptable to lie in business. One overriding concept is that the truth can be used to harm as much as to hurt, if not used appropriately. That a wise leader like Dumbledore, rarely lies, he simply does not give the truth-and then prepares the subordinate to “gain the truth” when necessary. A related idea is that the truth is ultimately a friend, even though it seems many times like an enemy. In business is it crucially important to utilize the truth and to be truthful to gain trust. But to profoundly aware of the power of the truth and to be wise when to utilize it. Morris states, “the importance of truth can be seen by the damage falsehood can cause”. In the end, Morris states there is some value to the rather cynical saying, “Truth is precious, use it sparingly”, an addendum might be use it wisely.

One underlying key to leadership is personal excellence. A true leader must first be profoundly self-aware and strive for and create within themselves personal excellence.

A student of Aristotle, Morris states that Harry Potter utilizes Aristolean concepts of leadership qualities. These qualities are as follows: 1) Temperance, a rational moderation and proper self-restraint. 2) Liberality, a freedom in giving others what can be of help to them. 3) Magnificence, a capacity for acting on a grand scale. 4) Pride, a true and honest assessment of honor and worthiness. 4) Good temper, an inner calm manifested by appropriate outward behavior 5) Friendliness, the demeanor or treating others convivially and sociably 6) Truthfulness, as covered in the prior paragraph 7) Wittiness, the ability to see and express humor 8) Justice, the fundamental disposition of treating other well and fairly.

One key to Dumbledore success as a leader is his profound calm and his inability to “overcome slights”. Morris covers the constructs of the ancient Stoics stating that this inner calm and the inability to chose when to “strike back” is key, instead of automatically striking back. Essentially, Morris states, “Most people tend to reflect back the conduct they themselves have achieved”, “philosophers call this reciprocity”. A leader must “overcome” reciprocity. “Reciprocity is a pressure that, unfortunately most people seem to give into most of the time-we rise or sink to the level of the people around us. If they’re nice to us, we’re all smiles and sweetness, but if they are rude to us, they maybe amazed at how sharp and nasty we can be in return”. According to Morris, “reciprocity allows others to call the shots and pull “our” strings”. It is essentially turning the power of another over to another person. We have the choice of how we are going to respond to a situation, and according to Morris a true leader is one who essentially turns the other cheek, and then chose how and when to respond. Essentially, taking back our own power in a situation-instead of just responding slight to slight. “The stoics were a group of ancient thinkers who emphasized that we may not often have the measure of control that we like over the circumstances that we find ourselves in, but we can always take control of own attitudes and reactions towards those circumstances. In particular, we can’t control how other people behave, but we can govern own emotions and actions in response to their behavior. This Stoic maneuver can be very effective. When you refuse to let other’s people’s agitation or hostility dictate your own emotions, you keep yourself in the best state of making good decisions, and you retain at least the possibility of steering the situation in a more productive direction for yourself. The Stoic sensibility does not allow external events to govern inner attitudes or decisions. “

One problem that quantum physicists faced was that when searching for the basic building block of reality, what they looked for they essentially found. For example, one physicist presupposed that the building block of nature was a waveform-found and set up apparatus looking for a waveform and found a waveform. Another physicist presupposed that the building block of reality was a particle (one description is a particle is a tiny dot). The questions they asked and the assumptions they made created what they found. I have written based upon this, that the key to solving many problems is finding the right question. The right question leads to the right answer. Instead of finding a solution, look for the right question. Morris essentially states that the right question or question is key to leadership. When Harry messes up, Dumbledore did what anyone in a leadership position should do in such circumstances. He was candid but calm, HE QUESTIONED HARRY. He didn’t react to failure with emotional agitation, anger or recriminations. He treats Harry with kindness. âÂ?¦.. When a leader can control his own emotions and focus on his associate properly, using the powerful technique of probing questions he can usually attain success in turning a situation around.

Morris confronts the Darwinian concept that life and indeed “business is war”. Morris states “The metaphors of war and sport can help us understand some aspects of business. But business isn’t literally war. And a body block near the fax machine isn’t normally good business behavior”. The construct of business as war has created a business environment of “moral justification”. “It isn’t personal, it’s just business”, is the edifice of this concept. Morris states that “It is a failure to see the difference (between business and war/sports) that has contributive to the unethical behavior that is ultimately self-destructive. Morris proposes that instead of thinking of business and leadership as “war”, we consider it in terms of alchemy. He states, “One powerful ancient and medieval predecessor of modern science was the discipline and dream of alchemy. In its simplest forms, alchemy was the quest to create a substance, knows as “the Philosopher’s Stone” that could be used to turn base metals into gold. Later, Morris states, “Alchemists thought of themselves as engaged in a spiritual enterprise. They defined their activities as comprising an art and science of transformation and transmutation. Interestingly, many success modern day leaders think of themselves sin much the same way. They take basic ideas, base material, ordinary human beings and classic organizational structures and at least metaphorically turn them into gold. Morris also states, “Leadership at its core is transformational. Leaders don’t simply manage they seek to produce what should be. They are alchemists of achievement, the magicians of metamorphosis, and artists of accomplishment.” Essentially, the alchemist’s view of leadership requires a profound cooperation between individuals. As well, as inspiring them, and giving them the tools need to create, change and grow.

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