Strategy & Leadership

5 Management Lessons From Professor Snape

I was so sad to hear about Alan Rickman‘s passing. He was only 69, which is way too young. I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I’m a huge fan of Rickman’s portrayal of Professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” series. To be true to the books, Snape should have been played by a much younger man, but there could have been no better choice for that role.

Snape_Warner Bros.We learn a lot from Snape — rather, “Professor Snape,” as Professor Dumbledore would insist— and some of these can even apply to management. In honor of Alan Rickman, think about these five lessons to make yourself a better manager.

1. Be virtuous instead of signaling virtue. Snape was good. He made huge sacrifices for the good of others, but he didn’t run around talking about it. You know who did run around talking about how much good he was doing? Lucius Malfoy. Malfoy signaled virtue. Snape was virtuous. As a manager, simply be good. You don’t need to send out press releases every time you give your employees a perk. Just give the perks.

2. Know when to balance precision and creativity Snape was the potions master and the only one who could properly brew the Wolfsbane potion Remus Lupin needed. That requires precision. But, he also created his own spells (granted, some of them were far from virtuous, as Harry accidentally found out). He was willing to try new things. The lesson? Even a good formula can be improved with a few tweaks.

3. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend (but you do have to be their manager). Let’s be honest, Snape didn’t love all his students and he was a downright jerk to people who didn’t deserve it. (What did Neville ever do to him?) Regardless, he still taught. He didn’t like Harry, Ron or Hermione, but they all learned enough to make it into the advanced potions class, while favorites like Crabbe and Goyle did not. (Note: In the books, not the movie). Great managers recognize skills — even if they don’t individuals.

4. Persitance is a virtue. We know that Snape wanted to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts forever, but he stayed as the Potions Master. He worked hard even though the job wasn’t his first choice. We’re often asked to do things we don’t want to do, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work hard. Follow Snape’s lead.

5. We can recover from mistakes. Snape certainly had a black mark on his resume — he was Death Eater for goodness’ sake! But Dumbledore gave him a chance and he did a great job. He never went back to his old ways. People make bad choices, but those shouldn’t color their lives forever. Remember: People can change.

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  • Tana Siemaszko

    Um no. On the very first day of an eleven year old’s school career Severus Snape mercilessly bullied both Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter any manager in any company I owned did that ever, they’d be fired, five seconds after they did it. Period, full stop. He did a lousy job. He did nothing to rein in Draco either, always punishing the students he bullied instead of the bully. He did not manage his classroom, letting his students do anything they wanted then punishing the Gryffindors, all in all he’s a perfect example of how NOT to ever be a manager. He might have been considered technically one of the “good guys” but he was a horrible person and was never even for one second a role model. And if I were Lily Potter and met him on the other side of death, I’d see him in Hell despite his “good deeds,” for what he did to my son.

    Alan however, was an amazing human being.

    • Brent McDonald

      I don’t think the point of this article was “Why Managers Should be Just Like Professor Snape.” It was lessons we could learn from him. In other words, the point was to pull out the best points, not use him as an example of the perfect manager. It was a fun article.

  • Steve Smallman

    insert picture of Gandalf with hat and staff, dressed in a star fleet uniform, saying “use the force Harry….”

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