Over the Juneteenth holiday weekend, I visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. There I learned much about Iowa’s native son who became the 31st president, especially his approach to leadership while he was Secretary of Commerce.
When Hoover began as Secretary in 1920, it was considered a minor Cabinet post without much influence or power. However, Hoover applied his engineering background and his ability to formulate partnerships to make the department a “hub of the nation’s growth and stability.” He created standardization for commercial uniformity of most housing components, including electricity, plumbing, and gas meters that made it easier and more economical for people to build their own homes. He regulated the new airline industry and insisted on standard safety features such as lights for all runways. Hoover oversaw the Uniform Vehicle Code to standardize motor vehicles and traffic ordinances and created standards for radio stations.
By the time he finished his service in 1929, detractors joked that he was “Secretary of Commerce, Undersecretary of Everything Else,” but his influence helped the country boost productivity and increase employment in the short term, and made life easier for everyone else in the decades that followed.
Hoover didn’t shrink his leadership or minimize his outreach based on the perception of the agency he was appointed to lead. Instead, he brought with him a large vision and worked to expand the agency’s infrastructure to fulfill that potential — a role model for you to do the same.