Leadership for witches and wizards podcast

Host Fiona Allison speaks with author Aditya Simha about his book: Leadership for Witches and Wizards, part of the Exploring Effectives Leadership Practices through Popular Culture book series.

Leadership Insights for Wizards and Witches outlines various leadership styles, theories, and concepts through the imaginative lens of J.K. Rowling’s magical world – from ethical, servant, and authentic leadership, to power, influence, and persuasion.

Speaker profile(s)

Aditya Simha is an Associate Professor of Management at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater.

Simha obtained his PhD in Business Administration at Washington State University, a Master's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University.

His research is primarily in business and healthcare ethics, and organisational behaviour

In this episode:

  • The latest instalment in the ever fun series of pop culture books
  • The inspiration behind using the wizarding world to illustrate leadership concepts
  • Examples of leadership demonstrated by individuals in the series
  • How to relate a fantasy world to the real world for students and management practitioners

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Leadership for witches and wizards

Fiona Allison (FA):

Welcome to the Emerald Podcast Series. In this episode, I am joined by Dr. Aditya Simha, author of Leadership Insights for Wizards and Witches, which is part of ‘Exploring Effective Leadership Practices through Popular Culture’ book series. Aditya Simha is an Associate Professor of Management at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He obtained his PhD in business administration at Washington State University, a master's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His research is primarily in business and healthcare ethics as well as Organisational Behaviour.

Hi, Adi, thanks for joining me today.

Aditya Simha (AS):

Hi, Fiona. Thanks for having me on the podcast

FA: My absolute pleasure. So obviously, my first question is going to be where did the idea of using your characters from the Wizarding World come from? What was your inspiration there?

AS: Well, I've always been a huge Harry Potter fan, I've read every single book in the series multiple times. And I've also seen all of the movies and I've been teaching leadership for over, Yeah, over 12 years now that I've been teaching leadership for over 12 years, and in my classes have always, you know, I always like to use examples that the students can connect better with. And I've used Harry Potter examples. And, you know, students seem to like it. So the when the call for book proposals came out, and I read that, I thought that was a natural fit. But that's where the idea of using characters from the Wizarding world a leadership book context came about.

FA: That's great. So as you said, it makes it really relatable for your students, you know, you can use those examples that they will be familiar with, from from the books, or the movies, as you say, this is quite a wealth of material out there. Within the wizarding world, does that help people understand the concepts better, especially if you're teaching rather than for the reader? How does that work?

AS: Yeah, definitely. I mean, using concepts that are relatable, I think that there's nothing better than that to help someone understand and grasp, like a topic, which might be a little complex. For instance, something like charismatic leadership, it's sometimes it's hard for people to understand that charismatic leadership can go both ways, you can have very negative consequences, and you can have very positive consequences. And you know, from the Harry Potter series, you've got examples of both you've got individuals like Dumbledore, who is very charismatic and a force for good. And then you have other individuals who are very destructive. I mean, both the Dark Lord Voldemort and Grindelwald, they were both very charismatic, but their charisma took, you know, took a very different turn a very negative turn. So, examples like that. I think they help students, and I mean, they don't have to be students, anyone, they can help anyone understand and grasp technical and complex concepts, you know, they can help them understand them better.


FA: That's a really good point, because the book isn't obviously just aimed for, you know, students, it's sort of aimed at everyone really, I've read it, it's very accessible. It's very straightforward as well. So you know, it's for people who are managers, or people who want to be managers as well, isn't it? It's for them to sort of, you know, they can relate something that happens to them in their workplace, organisation and be like, Ah, okay, you know, because we probably have probably a group of, you know, people maybe coming up to management of certain ages that might have grown up with these books and these movies. Yes. So that's, that's really good. I love how accessible it is. And you know, even if someone's doing sort of a postgrad, in sort of management and leadership areas, I think it's a really, really useful title for them as well.

AS: Thank you.

FA: So how did you go about your research was it was it tough? You're revisiting the books and re watching the movies all the time? Was it hard?

AS: Oh, this was frankly, the most fun I ever had doing a project because I got to reread all the books again. And you know, it like without that guilty feeling like, Oh, I'm not doing my work, Hey, I am doing my work here, because I'm reading the material that I'm going to use in this book. So I don't think the research was. I mean, I wouldn't say it was tough, because I really enjoyed doing it. It was I mean, I did have to reread it. But like you said, I mean, if, if you enjoy doing something that it's really not tough, it's very different from when I do research papers, for instance, that can be tough to clear tenure, sometimes investigating stuff, which you don't necessarily know a whole lot about. But here this stuff like revisiting familiar ground, because like I said, I've read the books so many times that, I mean, don't hold me to this, but I'm pretty sure I can, like repeat entire sections of the book without having a teleprompter. So I enjoyed the process, I did read all the books, and I watched some of the movies too. In fact, I watched all the movies, but this particular book, I've focused more on the material from the books, because the movies, they, you know, they divert quite a lot from the data from the book series. So I wanted to keep it sort of pure,

FA: That makes a lot of sense, because you can maybe have slightly different character arcs from a book and a movie. And if you're trying to illustrate your point, you need to use the best material there. So imagine like you know the books were the main source. But obviously there is a lot of the movies are involved and you, you do get more character understanding from some of the movies as a focus a bit more on some, you know, certain characters than the books do. But that's really interesting. I just, I just hope you can, can you still enjoy them? The books and the movies now without thinking about? Oh, this is an example of charismatic leadership, or this is teamwork? Can you still enjoy them?

AS: Oh, yes, of course. So personally, I enjoy it. I mean, even if I can connect it with a particular leadership concept or a theory, I still enjoy it, when in fact, it makes it doubly enjoyable for me, when I can connect it back with something that I teach or research on. But I think the point about letting someone read my book, and then it goes back, he or she goes back and watches a movie or reads the one of the Harry Potter books, I think that person will not, it will not affect their enjoyment of the books or the movies, because you gain additional knowledge, but it doesn't detract from the joy part of it. So I think it just, you are better able to see situations in different ways. But I don't think it will reduce the amount of joy you derive from those books or movies.

FA: Well, that I am very glad to hear that then, didn’t want you to get sort of Harry Potter-d out while you were doing the research for this book. So in terms of, you know, the various leadership qualities, and again, this sort of, you know, depends on how a good leader is defined who, within the franchise probably stands out the most, maybe give me your top three and why?

AS: Oh, yeah, definitely. So the Harry Potter context, I think it's really very relatable for for individuals. I mean, you know, you might have people say, Oh, it's all about magic, and wizardry and Giants and dragons, and all of that all those impossible things. But if you take those away, the people involved in the wizarding world, you have real life exemplars of that. So for instance, take someone like Cornelius Fudge, when we, you know, first get introduced to him, he sounds like a bendable and, you know, like a, almost like an uncle of sorts, you know, like a nice, friendly uncle. But then, as the series progresses, he becomes increasingly paranoid. And we can see that in real life leaders, you know, someone gets elected on a particular premise. And then over time, slowly, their their love for the, you know, the power, their love for the care, will be that a Prime Minister, President, whatever that takes over them, and then they start doing negative things. Consider someone like Dolores Umbridge, who is you know, personally, I think she is the worst character in the entire series. I mean, in terms of villainy, I think she was much worse than Voldemort himself, but you have real life Umbridges all over, you know, people that are prejudiced and they, you know, they discriminate against the other people who are different from them or things like that. So so I think in terms of leadership qualities, you can pick out different leadership qualities from different characters, you can pick out the good leadership qualities from individuals like I mean Harry himself, Hermione, Professor McGonigal, Neville, and then you can pick up the negative qualities, also his leadership, you know, you can have both positive and negative qualities, the negative qualities, all the Death Eaters, you know, like all of the Malfoy and Crab, Goyle all of them, Voldemort himself. And then of course, I should not forget to mention Gilderoy Lockhart, you have a lot of incompetent people out there who somehow have taken on positions of power, be it  in the organisation or be it in a you know, in a country or state or, or whatever context you can think of. So, in terms of leadership qualities, pick a leadership quality and you will find an individual from the Wizarding world that will exemplify that. So, yeah, it's hard to one particular individual, but like, leadership growth, for instance, if I think about that, the person that best exemplifies that is Neville Longbottom. So when we, you know, when we first get introduced to him, he, he's very, he's very, I mean, you wonder, Why is he in the Gryffindor House, because he's so scared, and, you know, but then, over time, he developed plenty flourishes into a very fine leader. So I think that Neville, he really exemplifies what I believe is the biggest principle in leadership. Now, leadership is something that you can hone that you can improve. And you can become a better leader by understanding more about what exactly goes into leadership.

FA: That's a really great example actually, because you right, he does start off, you wouldn't think Oh, Neville is going to be, you know, a great leader. I mean, he might be a bit of a reluctant leader. But he certainly, you know, just, you know, especially if it was the later stages really demonstrates, you know, that he he has those really, really good qualities and people start to do they used to mock him, almost, and now that they're following him and he's, yeah, becomes a bit of a hero. He's actually one of my favourite.

AS: Oh, yeah. Yeah, he is very, yeah, he's pretty awesome.

FA: So this is this is, you know, a bit more subjective, but who, within the franchise do you relate to the most at a personal level, just out of interest.

AS: Um, I thought about this quite a bit. So, again, I love so many of the characters in this book, that there are elements of Harry that I really relate to, because I love how Harry is so accepting of, you know, people, goblins, elves, or whatever the case be. So I love that because I personally think that I am able to relate to individuals, like from various backgrounds, and I can get along with like, almost everyone, so I guess Harry, I can relate to him at a certain level. And then I can also relate to Lupin and Dumbledore. They're both great teachers and professors. I love the fact that they are so kind. So that that is something I try to practice myself. So when I'm teaching or instructing anything, I try to be kind if someone needs an extension or something for an assignment, I I don't dock points for you know, late submissions and all of that I tried to do what Dumbledore or Lupin would do. So I guess, character wise, I suppose these three are the they're my personal favourites. So I guess I would relate to them. And I also relate to Ron a little bit in that, Ron’s sense of humour. I love that. I mean, that's, that is one of the things I really disliked about the movie series in comparison with the book series. Is that the movie series they did away with Ron's sense of humour, they almost made him like a, like the butt of the joke in the movies, as opposed to in the books where he was the one delivering the jokes. Okay, so I get those four characters.

FA: Another question that I had was, you know, obviously, like Harry is seen as a leader but he also gets quite a lot of preferential treatment and he's Uh, you know, you see that in the workplace, you see that in schools with certain students and stuff. So how'd you think that shaped his leadership qualities?

AS: Uh, you know, I don't think he really got preferential treatment throughout the series, because to start off, his childhood was very miserable. I mean, his uncle and aunt and cousin, they were very horrible to him throughout his childhood. So he grew up in a very miserable sort of environment. I mean, he was, it was not, I guess he was not severely abused. But it was very abusive. I mean, he had to live in what little room by the staircase, like the closet by the staircase that and the only time they actually got him to go into a bedroom was when the owl first appeared. So. And then even in school, the teachers, most of them were kind to him with the exception of Snape, but I think book four onwards, book five, he was treated very poorly by Umbridge. And you know, the ministry, they kept publishing all those hit pieces against him. So I don't know if it was completely preferential towards, Harry, because I think he got to experience a bit of both. But to your point about preferential treatment, I think that's a important point. Because quite often, especially, you know, leaders that sometimes tend to have in groups, and then that can be, that can be great if you're part of the in group. But if you're part of the out group, then that's not such a great thing, because then you lose out on preferential treatment. So

FA: You made a good point. And that sort of harks back to what you said about you know, Harry's very accepting, which could be a surprise, because, you know, I was just sort of more thinking when he is at Hogwarts, you know, especially maybe his relationship with Dumbledore. And, you know, the sort of the good professors that kind professors that we like, McGonical and Lupin and that he probably does, maybe get away with things, but you know, yes, obviously, regarding how he had to live under the stairs, it's surprising that he is maybe as pleasant as he is with everyone. So you know, that's a good a good counter that I really appreciate that. So, obviously, the book is out. And, you know, it's like, it's fairly short. Do you feel like, you know, there's still more movies? Do you feel there could be another one? In the pipeline?

AS: Do you mean another book on Harry Potter?

FA: Around the wizarding world? Yep.

AS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think multiple books could be written like multiple scholarly books. Based on this book, for instance, like this particular book, I've sort of provided a brief sort of introduction to the various topics in leadership. But, I mean, honestly, I mean, I could write a book entirely on charismatic leadership and use the Harry Potter context for that. Or I could write a book on servant leadership. And, you know, again, so it's a deeper dive into selected leadership topics that is entered, you know, that is very possible. So, yeah, I think multiple books can be written.

FA: That's a fair point, actually. And then just obviously, there's a couple of chapters I wanted to highlight. And you tell me like a little bit more about them. So I want to talk about Chapter Three a bit more about the cognitive and emotional intelligence? And how do you use an examples for that?

AS: Emotional intelligence? I think there are several characters Harry himself. In the beginning, he wasn't actually very emotionally intelligent, like, if I remember, around, you know, so in the Order of the Phoenix, that particular book, at the beginning, how he's all angry, and he's lashing out, and he's, he's not very emotionally intelligent at that particular point, but then he grows to improve his sense of emotional intelligence. But I think one of the people that is really very good in emotional intelligence is Hermione Granger. And it's quite, it's quite brilliant, actually, because she is gifted in cognitive intelligence. And she's also gifted in emotional intelligence, which is, which is why I mean, it's right, if speculation is to be believed that thinks he will become the Minister of Magic at some point, which is perfect. I mean, it's sort of like the best It's possible combination. If you contrast it with Cornelius fudge, for instance, I mean, the guy, he had some cognitive intelligence, but his emotional intelligence just got destroyed after he became so paranoid. So, yeah, I think Hermione Granger is definitely someone who exemplifies both forms of intelligence, cognitive and emotional.

FA: Yeah, I think you really hit the nail on the head there. No, I agree there. So you know, you have an epilogue. To wrap this up. Basically, it's, you know, there's so many examples. And I think it's important to remember just because it set within a magical, and fantasy world. So many of the examples that you use with the characters are actually so relatable, as you said, everyone has had a Dolores Umbridge in their life, at some point, whether that's when you're at school, or you know, even in the workplace, I just wanted to highlight that, yes, there is magic, there is wizards, there is witches, there is flying brooms. But overall, what we see is these really, as you say, really good examples of, you know, these themes such as charismatic leadership, the good and the bad, you know, ethical leadership, power, persuasion, you know, servant leadership as well. And I just think it's really important how well that has been captured, and how useful this book could be, because the way it is set out as well, is you don't sort of, like from from my reading of it. I didn't have to read it sort of like start to finish, I felt you could jump into the individual chapters. You know, if that was something maybe you were wanting to look at authentic leadership, you could just jump into that that chapter. You know, that's a really good way to write.

AS: Oh, yeah, thanks. Yeah, I mean, you can definitely jump into specific chapters, I think you'll you'll still get something from, you know, like, jumping into specific chapters first, and sort of skipping around a bit, if you like.

FA: Yeah, no, that's that's what I just really, really liked about it. Obviously, not just its topic, but how you could just, you know, pick and choose which which chapter you wanted to read, because there's there isn't many books that you can actually do that with, and you certainly can't do it with the Harry Potter books. You do need to read them start to finish. So that was all the questions I had. I really appreciate your time today.

AS: Oh, absolutely.

FA: Really happy to see, see the book. Anything else that you wanted to add?

AS: I hope people enjoy reading the book. And I really look forward to now hearing from folks who have read the book. I'd like to see what they thought of the book, they can feel free to reach out to me.

FA: Thank you. Thank you, Adi. Thanks so much for joining me today. Really appreciate it.

AS: Yeah, thank you Fiona.

FA: Thank you for listening to this episode today. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks to my guest Adi, and my thanks to Alex at This Is Distorted studios for producing this podcast.

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