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Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Leadership Style of J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover used a leadership style that was closer to the multiple linkage style then either the situational leadership model or the cognitive resource theory model:
    • Situational leadership – In this model, leadership style can be adjusted for the maturity level of the follower; “for a low-maturity subordinate the leader should use substantial task-oriented behavior such as defining roles, clarifying standards and procedures, directing the work, and monitoring progress. As subordinate maturity increases up to a moderate level, the leader can decrease the amount of task-oriented behavior and increase the amount of relations-oriented behavior”(Yukl, 2012, p.166). Yukl continues, “The primary focus of the theory is on short-term behavior, but over time the leader may be able to increase subordinate maturity”(2012, p.166). In contrast, Hoover maintained control over most decision-making within the FBI, even though he “experimented with methods of improving his agents' efficiency” (Powers, 1987, p. 151)
    • Multiple linkage model – In this model, the leader relies on certain variables in his followers: ability and competence, effort, team spirit and coordination, and mutual cooperation (South University Online(a),2014, para. 1). Hoover, while maintaining the reins of decision-making, selected and promoted followers who displayed the listed qualities, while dismissing followers that wouldn't “play by the rules”. Powers contends that Hoover “restlessly tinkered” with the “administrative machinery” until he knew what his agents where doing at any given time (1987, p. 152)
    • Cognitive resource theory – in this model, “The situation may require a simple manager who is efficient at recognizing the skills of the subordinates and using them effectively. (South University Online(b), 2014, para. 2). Hoover selected and promoted followers based on qualities that were closer to the multiple linkage model then for their competence. In fact, followers who were competent but refused to play by the rules were dismissed or sent to out of the way field offices. Bill Sullivan, a one time assistant of Hoover's, describes the firing of an agent for a gesture the agent made in describing Hoover (1979, pp.111,112).
  • How can the leadership substitutes theory be applied to explain the situational variables for this leader?
Although Hoover instituted many rules and protocols for the FBI which could be be described as “the substitutes for instrumental leadership” which “include...extensive rules and standard procedures, and extensive prior training and experience for subordinates”(Yukl, 2012, p.166), Hoover's tendency to make most of the Bureau's decisions himself negates the importance of using the leadership substitute’s theory to describe his leadership style.
  • Do you think the path-goal theory explains the strategies of influence used by this leader?
In the path-goal model, “leaders can motivate subordinates by influencing their perceptions about the likely consequences of different levels of effort. Subordinates will perform better when they have clear and accurate role expectations, they perceive that a high level of effort is necessary to attain task objectives, they are optimistic that it is possible to achieve the task objectives, and they perceive that high performance will result in beneficial outcomes” (Yukl, 2012, p.165). Because Hoover did maintain high standards for followers and because he made their role in the FBI clear, we can use path-goal theory to help describe the leadership style of Hoover.
  • Did this leader receive too much credit for the agency’s success, or do you believe that he or she could have been successful despite the subordinates?
Hoover should receive credit for the FBI's success. His choice of subordinates was based on a template that he thought was best to achieve the FBI's goals, and any employees chosen would be in that mold regardless. In addition, his management of public relations, and his use of informal communications with the various Presidents by keeping them informed of political opponents ensured the success of the agency; as just one example, “Roosevelt and other administration officials did occasionally exploit the bureau's intelligence functions for partisan purpose” (O’Reilly, 1982, p.27)

O’Reilly, K. (1982). A New Deal for the FBI: The Roosevelt Administration, Crime Control, and National Security. The Journal of American History, 69(3), 638–658. doi:10.2307/1903141

Powers, R. (1987). Secrecy and power: The life of J. Edgar Hoover. New York. Macmillan Inc.
South University Online . (2014). MCJ6405: Organizational Leadership: Contingency Theories of Leadership (2 of 4). Retrieved November 30, 2014 from myeclassonline.com

South University Online (a). (2014). MCJ6405: Organizational Leadership: Contingency Theories of Leadership (4 of 4). Retrieved November 30, 2014 from myeclassonline.com

Sullivan, W.New York. (1979). The Bureau: My thirty years in Hoover's FBI. New York.W W Norton & Company

Yukl, G. A. (2012). Leadership in Organizations, 8th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf version]. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from http://digitalbookshelf.southuniversity.edu/books/9781256650225

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