Byron's Babbles

Inspiration of Herbert Hoover Leadership

Today, my family and I had the privilege of visiting the Hoover Historic Site in his birthplace of West Branch, Iowa. The historic site is well done with the home Herbert Hoover was born in, his dad’s blacksmith shop, his one room schoolhouse, the Quaker Meeting House, and many other buildings set to the time of his birth on August 10, 1874. He was born in a two-room cottage and could have been any small town boy. Orphaned at age nine, he left West Branch, never to live here again. 

We also visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa, and we took the opportunity to learn some leadership lessons from our 31st president. Values learned in his hometown of rural West Branch guided Herbert Hoover throughout his life of service to the nation and the world.

Herbert Hoover was President during the early years of the Great Depression, others may know him as a complex public servant, the “Great Humanitarian” whose career spanned a remarkable seven decades. A graduate of the Pioneer Class of Stanford University, Hoover became a successful mining engineer before organizing relief programs for the starving victims of World War I.

Herbert Hoover was a man of action. When he saw a need, he took action to meet it; when he saw a wrong, he did his best to rectify it. Hoover didn’t wait to see if someone else would take care of it – he recognized need and took initiative to resolve it. Hoover was a responsive leader.

In addition to being responsive, Hoover was also understanding and compassionate. Though later in life he became a millionaire, Hoover was born into poverty and orphaned as a young boy. It was only through hard work and determination that he was able to make a better life for himself. Because of his personal experience with poverty and hardships as a boy, Hoover empathized with the less fortunate. Turning his attention to the woes of the world, Hoover used his wealth and influence to become an international humanitarian; under his charge, millions of starving men, women and children were fed and lives saved.

As Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, he helped to create safer highways and aircraft, better health care for children, and the standardization of commercial products. And, in 1927, he mustered a fleet of 600 boats and 60 airplanes to rescue 325,000 Americans who were left homeless during the catastrophic Mississippi River flood.

“There is no joy to be had from retirement, except in some type of productive work. Otherwise you degenerate into talking to everybody about your pains and pills. The point is not to retire from work or you will shrivel up into a nuisance to all mankind.” ~ Herbert Hoover

President Truman chose Hoover to help the hungry people of Europe at the end of World War II, and he spent his “retirement” years as an amazingly prolific author, speaker, and government adviser. Continuing his life-long desire to help needy children, he also served as chairman of the Boys’ Clubs of America, helping to open 500 new chapters throuhgout the United States.
Hoover really never retired. I admire him for that. Hoover really understood that significance is much more important than success. With success leaders add value to themselves. Make no mistake we have to work toward success innour careers, but I believe significance comes when you add value to others—and you can’t have true success without significance.  Hoover truly worked toward significance, where he asked himself, “What else is there in life beyond professional, political, and monetary success? He, in my opinion, made the world a better place. 

It also strikes me how Hoover did not make ideological differences personal. He always said to attack the problems and differences, not the person. We need to take this lesson and apply it to our world today. Especially in the field I am in of education. We always make differences so personal. We all want the same ends for our children; we just have different means by which to get there. 

As you can see there are many leadership lessons to take from the historical leadership playbook of Herbert Hoover. What areas do you want to work on? What would you like to have as a legacy for your family and country? How does Herbert Hoover’s life inspire you?

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