If Harry Potter Ran General Electric: Leadership Wisdom from the World of Wizards

if-harry-potter-ran-general-electric-tom-morris

J. K. Rowling’s novels about Harry Potter and the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have captured the imaginations of people everywhere. In If Harry Potter Ran General Electric, bestselling business author Tom Morris (If Aristotle Ran General Motors) uncovers the values and timeless truths that underlie Rowling’s hugely popular books and illuminates the lessons they offer to all of us in our careers and daily lives. 

But, you say, Harry Potter lives in a world of magic. What can we possibly learn to apply to our own careers and everyday lives? Morris shows that the most difficult problems Harry and his friends face are rarely solved by the use of magic alone. Rather, they are conquered by intelligence, reasoning, determination, creativity, friendship, and a host of other classic virtues–the very qualities, in fact, that make for success in every aspect of our lives. 

Blending an array of provocative examples from the novels with thought-provoking commentary on contemporary management practices, If Harry Potter Ran General Electric offers readers a master’s course on leadership and ethics, told in an engaging and insightful way.

Author: Tom Morris

Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 5/5

Disclaimer: Harry Potter spoilers ahead!

Many of you in the leadership world may have heard of Tom Morris’ famous book, If Aristotle Ran General Motors. In it, he discusses how the principles addressed by great historic philosophers translate to the business world today. Many major organizations face questions about ethics, human nature, and competitive excellence. According to Morris, the great thinkers of old had much to say on these subjects.

However, you may not have heard of a spinoff book Morris wrote: If Harry Potter Ran General Electric: Leadership Wisdom from the World of Wizards. Having been a child in the 90s and early 2000s, I’m what you’d call a major Potterhead (okay, maybe even more than my peers are). Thus, when I first heard of this book, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. I immediately bought a used copy on Amazon. I knew I was hooked when I saw the title of the first chapter: “Albus Dumbledore, CEO.”

Morris dives into what it means to be a brave, authentic leader. He highlights the best part of Albus Dumbledore’s wisdom and experience. He shows how everyone flocks to Harry’s leadership because of his dedication to truth and morals. He extracts Harry’s 5 steps to courage, and shows how these steps relate to Jeff Immelt’s leadership of General Electric. He takes everything we love about these characters and brings it back to leadership…and what could be better than that? (Answer: almost nothing.)

I have only one criticism. Morris wrote this book before JK Rowling released the last Harry Potter book. Its copyright is 2006. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released in 2007. Was that really so long to wait to publish? Or, could we not have a second edition? There is SO much more to say about these characters once book seven brings everything to light. This is especially true about Dumbledore and the way his character (and thus his leadership) is not as perfect as we’ve always believed. There’s something to be said for knowing your own limitations and when a certain amount of power is too much for you, right?

That’s where my list of negatives ends, though.To give you a glimpse of how fresh and inspiring (and fun!) the Harry Potter-Leadership metaphor was, here’s one of my favorite quotes from the whole book:

“If you can find a real yet metaphorical troll to fight with your associates in any business or organizational context, you can position yourself to create or firm up a new level of trust, respect, productive friendship, and teamwork among the people around you.” — page 142

Morris is referring to the troll our favorite trio battled in The Sorcerer’s Stone. They were a close-knit team forever after. I totally get how this could translate to any team environment! But I never thought of it like that before. While reading this book, I found fun moments like this over and over again. He takes the situations and the characters we love and shows us how they embody what leaders can do for their teams.

There is one point I remember most vividly from this book: being ethical 100% of the time is hard, and it takes a lot of courage. It’s not easy to commit to always making the decision that is best for the masses and not just for yourself. You have to be really brave to tell the truth all the time, even if the situation seems trivial. And although we saw Harry break these rules on his journey to great leadership, we see the end product of that journey in Dumbledore. The headmaster’s composure, dedication, and amazing leadership (at the time of the books) is admirable, but it is also attainable. Morris shows us how.

Morris combed through the first six books (again, can we please get a second edition?) to find all the leadership techniques that are applicable to the real world. He put them into steps and guides for us to follow. And he did it while the Harry-Potter-lover in me danced for joy.

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