The Harry Potter Sorting Hat in Real-Life Corporate World

The most essential trait of any successful person is their ability to win over and influence the people around them. In order to succeed in your career, you should be able to convince your customers, subordinates, peers, and, most importantly, your bosses. Convincing essentially is a process of selling your ideas. To be effective in selling your ideas, you need to understand the needs and wants of your customer, especially your most important customers, i.e., your bosses. The needs and wants come out of their basic desires, and the desires are born out of the basic factors that motivate a p...
The most essential trait of any successful person is their ability to win over and influence the people around them. In order to succeed in your ca...

The most essential trait of any successful person is their ability to win over and influence the people around them. In order to succeed in your career, you should be able to convince your customers, subordinates, peers, and, most importantly, your bosses. Convincing essentially is a process of selling your ideas. To be effective in selling your ideas, you need to understand the needs and wants of your customer, especially your most important customers, i.e., your bosses. The needs and wants come out of their basic desires, and the desires are born out of the basic factors that motivate a person.

Market researchers prescribe plotting of psychographics to unearth the factors that motivate a person. Psychographics is the understanding of the underlying parameters of a person’s behavior, i.e., what are their aspirations, what values they hold, and what motivates them the most. Market researchers collect data from various customers and analyze the data using advanced computer programs and tools to understand the psychographics of the customer. Based on this analysis, they formulate a successful marketing strategy.

But as individuals, we will not be able to employ this method of arriving at the psychographics of our bosses to arrive at a success formula. Some people use demographics and behavioral patterns, while some use the zodiac sign under which a person is born to analyze a person’s character. But these methods are not proven ones.

One can definitely take a cue from art and literature to analyze the character of a person by keenly observing, comparing, and drawing inference. Wonder why some books and movies are immensely popular? Well, they portray vivid pictures of how the human mind works through allegorical stories. This has been the attraction of famous literary works, right from the days of Greek mythological stories through the era of Shakespeare to modern literature.

One of the bestseller series of the recent times, which has captivated kids and adults across the globe, is Harry Potter. Ms. J.K. Rowling has held the readers “spellbound” through the amazing narration of life in the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Isn’t Hogwarts School a symbolic picture of the industry community to which your organization belongs? Don’t we see characters and situations similar to the ones we come across every day in our professional life?

One of the important events in Hogwarts is the sorting of the students into 4 different houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. A special hat called the Sorting Hat is tried on every student. The hat reads the mind of the student and announces the house he/she belongs to, depending on their character and behavioral pattern.

The key traits of each house are: Gryffindor – Brave at heart, daring, courageous, and chivalrous. Hufflepuff – Loyal, just, patient, and unafraid of toil. Ravenclaw – Skilled ones with a ready mind, and Slytherin – Cunning folk who use any means to achieve their ends.

We can see a striking analogy in our career world. The people around fall into one of the above groups with its distinctive traits. Needless to say, your superiors also fall into one of the groups.


Gryffindors are true leaders. They are achievement-motivated with a very clear vision, superior values, excellent communication skills, brave, and confident. Power will be their secondary motivation affiliation, and security comes after that. They are tough taskmasters. They seem to be slightly egoistic and do not give too much attention to social and family matters. The lion is the symbol of the house, which truly symbolizes their character as well.

They align their vision with that of the organization they work for. They select organizations that have a similar vision to theirs so that both the company and the individuals can excel. They roll up their sleeves and lead from the front. They are long innings players and strive hard to see that the organization, along with themselves, reaches greater heights and makes a mark. They tend to change jobs only when they are not able to take their company along with them for reasons beyond their control.

They will have a team of trusted lieutenants picked based on sincerity, loyalty, shared values, and willingness to work hard. If the boss leaves for a new company, they will try to pull these lieutenants one by one to their next organization. If you have a Gryffindor boss, try to be their lieutenant, but never try to compete with them or position yourself as their replacement. But, definitely, you can position yourself as their successor. They will try to groom you to be their successor.

Never go to a meeting or presentation with a Gryffindor without proper preparation. They will chew you up even for a minor error. They are highly egoistic, so never attempt to contradict or criticize your boss in the open. The best way to tackle your differences with them is to have a one-to-one meeting and put across your point in a logical and rational manner.

You can find a lot of Gryffindor CEOs in MNCs and progressive public sector companies, educational institutions, and progressive Govt. Departments. In the Harry Potter story, the illustrious Head Master Albus Dumbledore is a typical Gryffindor. Jack Welsh, the charismatic CEO of GE, Vikram Sarabhai, the architect of Indian Space research, Lee Iacocca, are a few examples.

The best thing that can happen to you is to be blessed to work directly under a Gryffindor in a progressive organization. Your success is guaranteed.


Loyalty and hard work are what set Hufflepuffs apart. They might lack extraordinary leadership skills, but they compensate for this with their hard work. Job security will be their primary motivating factor, followed by achievement, affiliation, and power. Their vision and values will be the same as those of the organization they work for, and they do not bring any groundbreaking changes. They usually play a long innings, are workaholics, and expect their team to work hard and be loyal. The beaver is the symbol of the house. If you are a Gryffindor type, your Hufflepuff boss may support you as long as your dynamic and progressive ideas are not clashing with those of the company’s traditional way of working. But the moment they are in tangent, you are in trouble.

We can see quite a few Hufflepuffs in second-wave companies that have stable, steady, and average growth. The Hufflepuffs would have established a solid rapport and credibility with the owners, directors, or higher-ups. Don’t try to dislodge them by over-projecting your achievements or playing politics. A Hufflepuff boss will definitely try to go out of the way to promote you as long as your performance is above average, and your behavior is in total conformance with the organization’s value systems. They might even go to the extent of promoting you to their peer level. Robert Gorzueta, the Cuban immigrant who joined Coke in the early fifties and became the CEO in 1981, and Mr. Akio Morita, the patriarch, are some of the great Hufflepuffs.


Most bosses fall into this category. For a Ravenclaw, self-interest comes above anything else. They are like ravens sitting atop a ship’s mast and claiming that they are the ones who are navigating the ship. They are endowed with good skills, but not necessarily in the field of the business the organization is into. They have very good social connections and know how to use them to sell themselves effectively. Affiliations are their primary motivating factor, followed by the need for power and security. Achievement in the chosen profession does not appeal to them that much.

They can judge the moment the ship they are sitting on is sailing on rough waters and without any compunctions, they will fly to a safer ship. They don’t have any superlative vision for the company and do not have any strong value systems. They are more of a manager than a leader.

The most difficult situation you may encounter with a Ravenclaw boss is their lack of clarity and sense of direction. They will always try to move with the tide and can change their words and commitments to save themselves from tricky situations. As far as possible, try to get every major commitment from Ravenclaws in writing. Be very careful about targets, special price clearance, commitments, any increment, promotions, etc. Ravenclaws are extremely skillful at snatching low-hanging fruits. Keep an extra eye on your resources and achievements.

Ravenclaws tend to depend heavily on a set of cronies to get things done. To some extent, the Ravenclaw will dance to the tune of the crony. But remember, Ravenclaw is a smart guy. As far as possible, they will create parallel groups so that there is no single point of failure. If you are chums with your Ravenclaw boss, to a great extent, you can progress, but don’t think that you can extract favors through emotional blackmail. Moreover, the Ravenclaws will find a weak spot in you to block your moves. Try to get into better mind-share with them through areas of interest. Remember, they have good connections. If you feel that the present organization is not providing you with the kind of challenges you are looking for, you can effectively and skillfully leverage your boss’s connections.

It is difficult to find Ravenclaws who have made a mark in the corporate world. They are like Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Peter declares his undying love for Jesus at the Last Supper, but as Jesus predicted, before the following day, Peter would deny him three times to save himself. Roscoe Hayward in Arthur Hailey’s book “Money Changers” is another example.


is a typical feudal lord who believes in inheritance and legacy. A snake is the symbol of the Slytherin house. They strongly believe that only those who have blue blood running in their veins can become the boss. Their views will be strongly rooted in bigotry. Power is their primary motivation. They will be a little paranoid when it comes to threats to their authority. They would have become bosses because of their blood relationship or communal relationship with the owners.

Henry Ford II, the CEO of Ford Motor Corporation, is a typical Slytherin. To get more insight into their irrational behavior, one may read Lee Iacocca’s autobiography. In the Harry Potter story, Lord Voldemort and the Malfoys are glaring examples of Slytherins.

Slytherins will have a team of coterie who will be their spies or informers. There will be an inner clique within this team who will thrive on flattery. You can grow under a Slytherin by becoming a part of the coterie, but be prepared to put your conscience in your pocket. If you are a Gryffindor type, it is almost certain that you will find it difficult to work under Slytherin bosses.


J.K. Rowling has coined the word Muggles, which has even found a place in the Oxford dictionary, to describe people who are outside the Witchcraft and Wizardry world. In our career, sometimes you will have bosses who are rank outsiders to your professions. Imagine a media or advertising professional in a hardcore engineering organization. An HR or an IT head in a conservative trading organization is another example.

You must respect and understand Muggles’ concerns and how well you are able to relate your job to theirs. To work under Muggles, you must be patient and should know how to put across your ideas to your bosses by relating them to their core business concerns.

How to use this sorting method for success? 

In real life, there are very few pure Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, or Slytherins. In the Harry Potter story, the sorting hat sometimes takes a little while before it sorts a student into a house. While Harry Potter puts the hat on, the Sorting Hat whispers, “Difficult, very difficult, not a bad mind either, plenty of talent.” Harry pleads not to be sorted into Slytherin, and the sorting hat gives the verdict as Gryffindor.

In real life, there is no sorting hat to help you. You have to analyze a person’s past job experience, achievements, job-changing patterns, social groups they are affiliated with, hobbies and interests, the words they choose, how they respond to tough situations, etc. With the same yardstick, you need to analyze your own character to find out which house you belong to. Arrive at different approaches to influence the people who really matter by appealing to their primary motivating factors.

Birds of the same feather flock together. Please keep in mind that Gryffindors will be most comfortable working under Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs under Hufflepuffs, etc. Wonder why organizations are termed as excellent, some mediocre, some political, etc.? The character of the core group molds the organization’s overall character at the inception stage.

Mold your character. Analyze your character well and find out your primary motivating factor. Is it achievement, job security, affiliation, or power? The motivating factor is like a moving goalpost. So, if your security needs are taken care of, try to move into a higher motivational plane by becoming a Gryffindor. Slytherin and Ravenclaw are risky paths, so avoid.

Gryffindors have good vision and are bold. By dint of hard work, determination, self-discipline, and association with a Gryffindor organization, you can mold a successful career. This is very easy at the early stages of your career.

Success tips: Immaterial of what stage of the career you are in, success depends upon how well you analyze and understand people around you and how creative you are at influencing them. Take an active interest in sports, literature, or any art form. By relating your experiences in these fields, you will definitely broaden your perspective and creativity. Relating the Harry Potter story to your career environment is just one such illustration.

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