At last, every hero becomes a bore.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
He saw himself and the institution he built as one in the same.
He was revered and reviled. He was founder and the builder of an United States Federal institution, that now has over thirty thousand employees and has a budget of eight billion. Once upon a time, famous, and respected, he was idolized by kids in the 1930s, for he was responsible for creating the good feelings about G men (government men), the prototypical hero of law and order, and justice, in an earlier age when government wasn’t as pervasive as it is today. Later, he was hated and reviled, on the top of list of the 1960s conspiracy theorist’s boogie men: he was viewed as a nexus for secrets, power, and repression of free speech.
J. Edgar Hoover was a complicated man, a Supervisor Guardian, an organizational genius of the first rank.
Supervisors like to take charge of groups and are comfortable issuing orders. They are cooperative with their own superiors, and they would like cooperation from the people working under them. Rank, they believe, has its obligations, but it also has its privileges. Please Understand Me II, pg. 84
Clint Eastwood‘s bio-pic of J Edgar is a balanced and long look at one of the 20th century’s most famous men. Being a dominating force for “law and order” for about 50 years – J Edgar Hoover – had his supporters and his critics, but it was hard to ignore the man. He built the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from essentially nothing. He had applied his exacting and high standards of professionalism for those who enter the force to conform, thus forming a powerful organization to protect and maintain the security of the nation. In the beginning, he modernized the haphazard Bureau of Investigation from a backwater dumping ground for political hacks into a top notch Federal organization, and created and fostered an organized, scientifically grounded set of procedures to investigating criminal behavior.
Supervisors enforce [and create] standard operating procedures, keeping one eye on their people’s performance, and the other on the rules and regulations that govern their activities, making sure that they behave in keeping with agreed upon procedures and standards of conduct – or face the agreed upon consequences. These expressive Supervisors let you know how you’re doing; their business is to mind others business, overseeing what they do surveilling the premises, controlling work areas, directing operations, refereeing disputes, all to ensure compliance with the rules and regulations. Please Understand Me II, pg. 84
Extremely hard-working and serious about his job, Hoover was concerned with his reputation. He considered himself a protector of the United States, and viewed any attack on him, his FBI, and his America, as being one and the same. The enemies of him were the enemies of people. A brilliant man, but deeply flawed, he was the driving force of the FBI until his death, for better or worse.
J Edgar is an easy and entertaining way to learn some history, observe this complicated man, an extreme example of a Supervisor Guardian.