Dumbledore as a model admin?

In A Great Man, DumbledoreRob Jenkins, an associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College, proposes

Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, might just be the greatest academic administrator of all time. … Of course, not everybody can be a Dumbledore, but two-year college administrators can certainly benefit from his example. At the very least, they can learn to resist their more Umbridge-like urges, and thus save a herd of angry Centaurs (which I take to be something like the members of a faculty senate) the trouble of carrying them off into the Forbidden Forest.

What a vibrant mental picture as we prepare for the fall term on any campus.  According to Jenkins, what does Dumbledore bring to the administrator’s desk or his buzzing about through the halls of power?

Albus Dumbledore

Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”

The key to good leadership is to earn people’s trust — which generally means trusting them first. … Not only does Dumbledore trust his faculty members, he consistently has their backs — even to the point of putting himself in jeopardy. … Dumbledore also does the one thing the faculty members value perhaps even more than administrative support: He leaves them alone and allows them to do their jobs. …

While he generally leaves the business of education up to the faculty, Dumbledore, like all good administrators, does not shy away from making tough decisions when necessary. … A good administrator must frequently admit to being in the wrong, sometimes even when he or she actually isn’t. Finally, my favorite thing about Dumbledore — and perhaps the rarest of qualities in an administrator — is his eternal good humor and civility. During the confrontation with Umbridge that I mentioned above, while the High Inquisitor is ranting and fuming, Dumbledore remains unflappable, smiling, even.

I’d encourage you to read A Great Man, Dumbledore (Chronicle of Higher Education, July 21, 2009) to benefit from the specific illustrations and reflect on the topic further.*  As we prepare for the fall term and welcome new members to our learning communities, one of my prayers is for followers of Christ across the campus milieu to consciously reflect the Light of Christ each and every day.  If you have suggestions/illustrations regarding how to be administrators who share the  love and light of Christ, please take a moment to share your stories/insights.

*Two related articles which may be of interest to some:

  1. The Decisive Difference Between Dean and Professor (David D. Perlmutter, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 20, 2009)
  2. All the Bells and Whistles (David Moltz, Inside Higher Education, July 16, 2009):  community college upgrades.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tom Grosh IV

Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!

More Posts - Website


  • tobingrant@gmail.com'
    JTG commented on August 12, 2009 Reply

    I dig Dumbledore, but if my dean left our school in full government receivership, had the school closed numerous times for security breaches, and could only keep a department (defense against the dark arts) filled on an annual basis, he wouldn’t have made it past book 1. Ok, book 2 due to bureaucratic delay.

  • mikehickerson@gmail.com'
    Micheal Hickerson commented on August 12, 2009 Reply

    JTG, that is hilarious! I expect the Board or Faculty Senate would also raise questions about whether he was spending too much time on outside commitments and not enough time “on the job.”

    Professor, I understand that saving the world from evil is important to you. How you spend your free time is your business, but not if it distracts from your administrative responsibilities.

  • hannaheag@comcast.net'
    Hannah commented on August 13, 2009 Reply

    And imagine trying to explain why the Defense Against the Dark Arts course can’t stay filled: “My dear board, please consider that a curse has been placed on the job. Would you care to suggest a viable solution?”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.