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?
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:
- The Decisive Difference Between Dean and Professor (David D. Perlmutter, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 20, 2009)
- All the Bells and Whistles (David Moltz, Inside Higher Education, July 16, 2009): community college upgrades.
About the author:
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 Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was 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!