Today, our favorite Hufflepuff prefect, Patrick Weasley (read about him here), is taking some time away from studying for his N.E.W.T. exams to chat with me about leadership styles.
Me: Patrick, you’ve said before that you don’t feel like your leadership style is very active. What do you mean by that?
Patrick: Well, other than when we do the Hufflepuff History lectures, I’m really not up in front of people that often. I’m not really into organizing group events or dropping in for visits when people are studying or trying to get ready for bed. That’s just not my style; I feel like I’m bothering people if I do that kind of stuff. But it’s amazing how often the younger students, especially, will come find me when I’m doing my own homework or relaxing. I kind of have “office hours” out in the common room–I don’t advertise them, but a lot of times I’ll be writing an essay or whatever, and a first-year will come tell me he’s homesick or somebody in one of his classes is being mean to him. Or her. Or they might just want help with homework. And we talk for a little while, or we go to the kitchens and see if the house-elves have a piece of cake we can take.
Me: So the answer to all problems is cake?
Patrick: Well, kind of. [laughs] I mean, there’s a reason why there’s that saying about tea and sympathy. Drinking tea, or eating cake, by yourself is okay, but it’s even better when you share it with someone who has the patience to just sit there and listen to you for a little while. Or a long while, if necessary. And I’m not saying I’m the world’s greatest at this…
Me: You’re pretty good, from what I hear.
Patrick: It’s not that hard, though. [embarrassed laughter]
Me: It is hard, though! Listening can be exhausting. I know this from personal experience. But what about those times when being available and willing to listen doesn’t really address the problem–when you have to confront someone?
Patrick: I haaaaate it. I think this is the real reason why I’m in Hufflepuff! I never understood why Gryffindors and Slytherins seem to enjoy conflict. Conflict makes me want to hide under a rock.
Me: And eat cake?
Patrick: Yeah, for sure! But as much as I hate conflict, I’ve seen what happens when people avoid confronting each other about stuff. Roommates get bitter and quit talking to each other; people carry around all this worry about how so-and-so probably hates them…
Me: I’ve seen that too. It’s ugly. But I just realized something: You’ve conflated the word “confrontation” with the word “conflict.” I do it too; that’s why I didn’t even notice until now. Confrontation–facing misunderstandings head-on–doesn’t always lead to conflict, does it?
Patrick: You’re right; it doesn’t. Sometimes it leads to really great conversations. I’ve even seen it lead to friendships. But getting past that initial awkwardness and fear–that’s really hard. I don’t think it’ll ever be easy for me. I just have to trust that the other person is a human being who’s as willing to listen and understand as I am. Most of the time I’m right; if I’m wrong, and the person is a jerk–
Me: That does happen sometimes!
Patrick: Or if we just can’t see eye-to-eye…at least we tried. And it’s helped me to be braver, or whatever. And maybe it’s helped the other person in some way that I can’t see yet.
Me: Patrick Weasley, you’re a very wise young man. I should let you get back to your studying.
Patrick: It was nice to have a break. Before you go, we should go check the kitchens and see if there’s any cake.
Stay tuned for more leadership discussions with Patrick, as well as his aunt Becky, Hogwarts professor and Hufflepuff alum!