Central defender Dunne returned after a two-and-a-half-month absence with a broken collarbone to help Villa secure a goalless draw at the Hawthorns.
McLeish said: "Richard is a leader, a leader by example. We took a calculated gamble. Richard told me if I needed him, he was good to go.
"I said 'your presence would be wonderful' and so it proved because he produced a wonderful performance today.
"He headed everything, he read the play, he calmed the players down. It was a real top performance.
"He was a week ahead of schedule, he's not done much work with the group but, when you are his age (32), you know your body. When Richard volunteered for duty, we bit his hand off."
Roy Hodgson took pleasure from Albion finishing ahead of Villa in the division for the first time in 33 years.
He said: "I'm happy enough with a point, I'm happy with another clean sheet - our 10th of the season - which is very good considering how difficult we found getting clean sheets last season.
"I'm also glad to confirm - for the first time in goodness knows how many years - we've finished above Aston Villa in the table so it's not been a bad day.
"It would have been a wonderful day if we'd won it, but I mustn't be too greedy and I'll save a victory over Villa for next season. It was important our players didn't allow people the opportunity to say we took the game too lightly and weren't as interested in getting a point - or three points - as the opposition."