So, my daughter is reading the Harry Potter series AGAIN! Not sure how many times this makes it. But she has been pretty regularly re-reading them for the last 6 years, and can now recite key passages. Should I worry? And, of course, she wants me to read them – again.
As I have reluctantly begun to comply with her wishes, I am struck by two things that are relevant to this column, to surviving in this world, and to leadership. First, people who have been mistreated have a very difficult time feeling good about themselves, even in the face of a great deal of evidence that counters the messages of those who have mistreated them. Harry Potter is supposed to save the world. He has all of these powers. And yet, he lives in fear that it will all be taken away from him, that the bad guys will win, and that the Dursley’s (the aunt and uncle who mistreated him for years after his parents were killed) will be right after all: that he is nothing. Does this sound familiar? Do you identify with these feelings? Do you know people who can identify with his fears?
Second, often people find relief from the results of mistreatment, or just from the difficulties of the world, from a spiritual source. For some, that means a personal relationship with God. For others, it means investing in the “higher” things of life, however they define these. For still others it means finding some meaning or “calling” in life, something that serves an important purpose in the world, and that brings them great personal joy. When they become clear about their spiritual meanings or callings, people can say to the Dursleys and the Slytherins of the world, “I am somebody! I have been created to do something worthwhile! I love what I am doing! And you can never take that away from me!” And so, up from the ashes of their former existence rises a new life of joy and fulfillment. And, even when the world (or the Dursley’s or the Slytherins) try to take it away, they can call on their inner or spiritual resources to fight back and say, “NO!”
Third, wouldn’t it be great if leaders keep these things in mind, for themselves and for those they lead? Wouldn’t it be great if they healed their own hurts by calling on some deeper meanings or sources of spiritual solace (rather than taking their hurts out on those who have less power)? Wouldn’t it be great if they believed that each of their people had a special purpose or “calling” in the world, and made the effort to match that purpose or calling with organizational needs, so the organization could benefit from the best that their people had to offer?
Eventually, Harry Potter finds his personal (and magical) strength and he regularly saves his friends. He is, after all, the only one who can defeat “he who shall not be named.” Just so, each of us are the only ones who can fill (fulfill?) our own special place in the universe with meaning and purpose. And if we are leaders, shouldn’t that mean helping our people to do the same?