Books Monographs

Profiles in Leadership: Directors of the Central Intelligence Agency and Its Predecessors, 1941–2023

Published in July 2023

Profiles in Leadership describes the 27 leaders of centralized US intelligence services, beginning with the Coordinator of Information (1941) and continuing with the Office of Strategic Services (1942), the Central Intelligence Group (1946), and CIA (1947).

The individuals who have held the highest office in the Central Intelligence Agency are an eclectic group. They include two Rhodes Scholars and a college dropout, captains of industry, and career public servants, as well as Agency veterans and newcomers to the field of intelligence.

Seventy-seven years after the Agency was founded, there is still no established road to the top.

This is just one of the many themes presented in this look at the 27 leaders who have directed the CIA and its forerunners from 1941 through today.

The publication opens with a profile of Major General William J. Donovan—the legendary intelligence chief who ran the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor of the CIA, during World War II—and those of two other intelligence pioneers, Sidney Souers and Hoyt Vandenberg, who, like Donovan, never served in CIA but helped lay the groundwork for its foundation.

The publication then traces the careers of the Directors of Central Intelligence until that title was replaced in 2005 with Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, after the establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The profiles depict the 27 leaders in the context of their times, describing their triumphs and setbacks,
not in isolation but as elements in a larger drama of domestic politics and foreign affairs. Their stories are inspiring, sometimes sobering, and always fascinating. They also feature, of course, the controversy that seems endemic to the sensitive and challenging work of intelligence.

Taken together, these profiles offer an illuminating account drawn from the full unclassified record. It is written in broad strokes but with enough detail to spark the kind of informed debate that has always been a hallmark of the CIA. Since its inception, the Agency has been rooted in a culture of inquiry and constant self-examination. This work stands as a fine example of that honorable tradition.

This monograph was originally published in February 2022. This edition updates the first version to include corrected dates and content.

Download PDF to read entire monograph (135 pages).