Dumbledore as an Example of an Effective (School) Leader – Part II

In the first part of this series, I proposed the idea that Professor Albus Dumbledore is more than an authority figure to serve as a backdrop against which Harry Potter’s character develops – he embodies a strong leader to match (and mentor) the hero Harry becomes.  Dumbledore is devoted to a life of learning, is committed to the pre-eminence of learning over compliance, and is dedicated to the belief that learning rarely happens in the midst of chaos.  To these strong leadership qualities, Dumbledore adds the following.

Dumbledore places a strong emphasis on recruitment and personnel development.  He only hires the best teachers.  Minerva McGonagall is arguably the best teacher portrayed in the Harry Potter series.  She demonstrates a deep knowledge of her content area, is a very skillful classroom instructor, builds positive relationships with students, never acts out of bias or shows favoritism, and holds students to high standards.  She serves as Dumbledore’s Deputy Headmistress – a testament to her own leadership abilities.  In Professor McGonagall we see an example of a consummate professional.  From my perspective, the only reason that an individual of McGonagall’s extensive abilities works as a teacher at all is because of the leadership of Dumbledore.  She could easily hold any of a number of other positions, but believes in the vision of Dumbledore so much that she dedicates a lifetime of service to educating the young.  snapeAnother example of Dumbledore’s dedication to developing those around him is Severus Snape.  Although he is frequently in conflict with Harry and often appears to be in league with Voldemort, Snape is nevertheless in point of fact unrivaled at his craft.  Although he covets the Defense Against the Dark Arts position, his mastery of Potions is so prodigious that several teachers (including Professor Dumbledore) seek his assistance when they want to be absolutely sure of getting a potion right.  Dumbledore keeps him on as a teacher even when their pedagogical practices do not align perfectly.  Through the course of their relationship, Dumbledore serves as a mentor to him and shapes the course of his career (and life) significantly.  Another example of Dumbledore’s drive to assemble the best possible team is Rubeus Hagrid.  While most other Headmasters would not likely have permitted someone who had been expelled from school and had his wand broken to be their gamekeeper, Dumbledore sees great value and potential in Hagrid.  Who else would have the passion and willingness to handle all the dangerous and sensational magical beasts that Hagrid does?  As Harry and his friends find out, hands-on learning is much more meaningful than learning from a book in most subject areas.  When it comes to magical beasts, Hagrid’s abilities give all his students valuable knowledge and experiences that they are unlikely to have gained without him.  There are many other examples of Dumbledore’s commitment to hiring only the best – Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody, the best of the Aurors; Firenze, the ultimate Divination teacher; Professor Sprout, Herbology teacher extraordinaire; Professor Binns, the ghost who teaches history; etc, etc.  Dumbledore knows that an exemplary school requires an excellent team; his own proficiencies are not enough.  By recruiting and growing a team around him, he makes Hogwarts a school without parallel.

Professor Dumbledore always treats others with respect.  This is a leadership quality much more easily identified than exemplified.  It is particularly difficult (in my experience) to treat others with dignity and respect when you know that they are actively seeking to undermine your success and that of your organization.  Dumbledore does exactly that, though.  He speaks respectfully and graciously to Draco Malfoy at all times, even when Malfoy makes it his business to antagonize Harry Potter.  There is no change in this tone even when Malfoy comes to kill Dumbledore.  Dumbledore is courteous to Lucius Malfoy, even when he orchestrates Dumbledore’s removal as headmaster.  Dolores Umbrage, through her actions, severely disrupts learning at Hogwarts and actively persecutes Harry Potter and his friends.  In spite of all that, Professor Dumbledore insists on treating her too with great dignity.  But perhaps most notable is Dumbledore’s interactions with Tom Riddle.  As a young teacher at Hogwarts, Dumbledore taught a young man who would eventually choose a path that led to his becoming the most powerful dark wizard.  During his school days, Dumbledore suspected that Riddle had been doing evil things and knew that he was keeping secrets.  Even this very troubled young man who would allow his pain to twist him into a tortured adult could never honestly say that he was ignored or belittled or disrespected by Albus Dumbledore.

Professor Dumbledore is humble.  In spite of the fact that he has legitimately earned a lengthy list of titles and built an unparalleled resume, he is addressed simply as “professor” by his student and as “Albus” by his teachers.  When considered in contrast to so many who insist on the use of the proper honorific by those around them, this practice is even more refreshing.  In spite of his vast knowledge and rich experiences, Dumbledore is known for his short speeches.  Not only does he avoid bloviating publicly, Dumbledore does not even mention his own exploits or use much of his power except at great need and almost never publicly.  In fact, the majority of his power remains cloaked from his students to the point that at least one of them foolishly concludes that his own feeble abilities are a match for this great wizard’s.  In spite of his great power though, and as further proof of his humility, Dumbledore is not too proud to ask for help.  He seeks assistance from his teachers, from outcast wizards, from men and women who doubt themselves and their own abilities, from children, and from ordinary muggles.  He never, ever casts himself as a one-man act.  His humility keeps him from challenging Voldemort in open combat.  Although he is the most powerful wizard in the world, Dumbledore does not let that cloud the fact that it is not his destiny to defeat the Dark Lord.  He pours all he can into preparing Harry to fill that role instead.

If you have enjoyed either or both of the first two posts in this series, the third post  has aparated here.

photo credit: Monja · con · patines via photopin cc

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