"No one messes with the Ministry of Public Welfare!"Some bureaucrats are a bother. Others are overworked. Still others are dishonest. However this one is a lord or lady of the office, and even the most powerful kneel before them. This is a character no one on the outside knows about. Others get the glory, but they get the job done and well enough to earn praise from their fellows. They are living paper shredders who cut through red tape like a buzz saw, and are usually very good with being The Scrounger. When female, she's likely to be young and attractive and very much a Plucky Office Girl, but with a streak of an Iron Lady as well. Often this is a female intelligence analyst who is something of an indirect Lady of War. Sometimes her Love Interest will be one of her field agents. Their general behavior is rather like an Apron Matron in their dedication and their hidden but intimidating air of authority, except this character brings these traits to work. Regardless of gender, they are something like The Consigliere but tend to work farther in the background. If circumstances call upon them to go into peril openly, they will, of course, take a level and be more straightforward in their badassery. But for now they are just a Badass Bureaucrat. Often found in combination with an Almighty Janitor and/or Silk Hiding Steel. Also see Pen-Pushing President.
— Takashi Terada, Roujin Z
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- In both versions of Fullmetal Alchemist, Maes Hughes is certifiably badass as he uncovers a lot of The Conspiracy through sheer investigation and intelligence not to mention that he takes out both Envy and Lust single handed; too bad they are both immortal.
- In X/1999, Yuuto Kigai and Kanoe work in the Japanese government (he's an office worker in a Tokyo ward, she's the Sexy Secretary to the Prime Minister). Kanoe leads the Dragons of Earth and Yuuto is her right hand man.
- Descendants of Darkness gives us the Right-Hand Hottie to Chief Konoe, Seiichirou Tatsumi. Very handsome, very smart, and has the power to manipulate shadows.
- Mobile Suit Gundam's sidestory The Plot to Assassinate Gihren has an evil example in Gihren's secretary, Cecilia Irene, who is also an example of the dark type of Obstructive Bureaucrat. A coldly efficient young woman who acts like The Baroness, she is feared/respected by the top brass, pushes Gihren's special projects through the red tape, and acts as his keeper of the keys, handling all the black operations that the rest of the General Staff doesn't want to think about.
- Saiunkoku Monogatari's heroine wants to become a civil servant in an ancient China-esque country; the show focuses much with the internal workings of the State, and most main characters are Badass Bureaucrats of some sorts.
- In all incarnations of Ghost in the Shell Daisuke "The Ape" Aramaki is an old Government hand, respected and feared by a friend and foe alike. Though, setting the Division 9 as an independednt Cabinet-level investigative agency without any of the the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs oversight, is usually treated as his greatest feat.
- Meowth in Symbiosis, who games Team Rocket's system for Jessie and James's sake.
- The Infinite Loops makes Mayor Mare into one of these when she convinces the Vogons not to destroy Equestria (with superior paperwork-fu).
- In The Universiad, the Salary Men of the Office of Special Resources' Financial Management Directorate pursue financial crimes with superhuman diligence and persistence and have been known to stay on cases for decades to centuries in order to get their man.
- In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, Senator Glia Ham'Del might qualify, seeing as she's almost a one-woman crusade against the Republic Intelligence Service, who despite being much removed by time seem to take their cues from the Imperial Security Bureau.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Pam, in The Man Who Never Was, and most of the other main characters.
- Lawrence starts off as this in Lawrence of Arabia.
- The middle-aged professionals in Old School are noted for being really good at filing paperwork.
- Mallory from Skyfall at first seemed like a Obstructive Bureaucrat but is later shown to be a Reasonable Authority Figure and even takes the bullet for M from Silva and was able to kill two of his Mooks before becoming the new M at the death of Judi Dench's character.
- Keiji Watanabe in Ikiru is an understated example, but best exemplified when his response to being punched in the stomach (while suffering from stomach cancer) is to simply go into the office to rabble-rouse some more.
- Tywin Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire and its HBO adaptation, Game of Thrones. While he is definitely an effective battlefield commander and tactician, his real strength is his almost unmatched skill as a politician and long-term strategist. He is feared throughout the entire country for his ruthlessness and brutal efficiency. His audiences with people are almost universally one-sided, with him being able to completely break people's ability to negotiate with brutal speeches and out-maneuvering. While his psychopathic grandson is, on paper, the king and the most powerful person in the Seven Kingdoms, Tywin is the real power behind his rule and lets Joffrey know on several occasions who is really the one in charge.
- Jack Ryan starts off as this in The Hunt for Red October. If anyone wants to know something, talk to him. There is also a secretary referred to who, while directors come and go, she "really" runs the CIA.
- Anyone and everyone working for Her Royal Majesty's Laundry Service who is not an Obstructive Bureaucrat or snivelling incompetent is revealed to have elements of this trope.
- Kwiatuszek in Shaman of the Undead may look like a pudgy secretary, but she has Awesomeness by Analysis gift and she doesn't shy away from helping main characters, even if it's technically none of her business. She also worked herself into Man Behind the Man position without having other characters' badass magic skills.
- Jorj X. Mc Kie and probably everyone at the Bureau of Sabotage in ConSentiency.
- Several of Lord Vetinari's "dark clerks" in the Discworld are Assassin's Guild-trained. How much actual clerical work they do seems to depend on the assignment...
- Inigo Skimmer in The Fifth Elephant is one of them, a small man with a way of nervously clearing his throat and an expert on Überwald politics, who, left alone with a group of bandits, killed seven before the rest fled.
- A.E. Pessimal from Thud! deserves at least honorary mention, notable for attacking a troll (which are made of rock) with his teeth. After being inducted as a full copper, he puts his skills to use against white collar crime. The business community's greatest fear is being subjected to one of his audits.
- Even the regular clerks get a touch of this at the end of Going Postal, where the description of the clerks auditing Reacher Gilt's finances makes forensic accountancy sound like an inexorable, inescapable force of Truth.
- On the other hand (or at least the hand that pays him more) is Mr. Slant, zombie attorney and president of the Guild of Lawyers, whose death only enabled him to stop taking lunch breaks. He can quiet a roomful of attorneys with a glance, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of case and precedent because he was there and helped write it.
- And don't forget Mr. Bent, from Making Money, who runs the bank accountants with an iron fist... but as it turns out is very well-thought of because tough as he is, he's also the sole reason why the bank of Ankh-Morpork has worked at all, and he's been a tireless crusader for improving work conditions for the bankers. Plus, he took out assassins with long-forgotten, probably genetic clowning techniques!
- Vinny Duto in John Wells series, Hero of Another Story. While his days in the field has passed now, he remains legendary in the CIA for his fearlessness. He has once shrugged off a two-month abduction by Colombian rebels with two week trips in Caribbean.
- The Vogon Constant Mown from And Another Thing... seems well on his way to become this at the end of the book — in a race of Obstructive Bureaucrats he figures out how to use laws and loopholes in laws to help people while at the same time making it appear that he's being as ruthless as other Vogons. (He does have some luck on his side, when some of his genuinely concerned remarks are mistaken for and lauded as very sophisticated sarcasms.)
- Star Wars Expanded Universe
- Rogue Squadron is an elite special forces unit in the X-Wing Series, whose members were recruited not only for their experience and expertise as starfighter pilots, but also for a wide range of additional skills that could come in handy during covert infiltration mission behind enemy lines. One of the most important members is Nawara Ven, who is a former lawyer and whose legal expertise is frequently used to trick imperial bureaucrats and occasionally exploit legal loopholes against their superiors.
- In the New Jedi Order, General (and later Supreme Commander) Sien Sovv is characterized by his thoughtfulness, efficiency, thoroughness, and not a lot of combat experience. While he suffers some ignominious defeats, due mostly to his bosses, the Senate or to the enemy's sheer numbers, he matures into exactly the sort of commander the Galactic Alliance military needs: a shrewd politician but unconcerned with his own power, capable of keeping morale up and riding herd on his more impetuous junior officers while managing the interstellar infrastructure needed to keep new troops and ships pouring in. Over the course of Destiny's Way, he transforms the allied fleet from a crippled, scattered, demoralized Red Shirt Army into a well-equipped, fully replenished force of seasoned veterans capable of carrying out Admiral Ackbar's ambitious plans to take the war back to the Vong.
- While most Administratum drones are of the Obstructive Bureaucrat variety (that oft-repeated quote about losing entire planets to rounding errors? Yeah, that's them), Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM) meets a refugee who qualifies during his trek through the deserts of Perlia. Not only does the guy survive months of desert warfare enduring countless ork attacks, he even plans out the column's rationing for food, fuel and water, without which they'd all have died in the desert.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's The Star Beast we have his Excellency the Right Honorable Henry Gladston Kiku, M.A. (Oxon.) Litt. D. honoris causa (Capetown), O.B.E., Permanent Undersecretary for Spatial Affairs. Mr. Kiku can read at over 2,000 words per minute, useful since he needed to go through a dozen memos and other documents per working hour, making the occasional notation and referral to subordinate for action. Most were for information but he needed to be kept informed. During the climactic confrontation with the Hroshii on the tarmac of a spaceship landing field and with the threat that they could destroy the Earth with their one ship, he stood there and cursed mildly when the wind nearly blew his hat off.
- In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ivan Vorpatril is a major administrative genius, being able to chew through the whole day workload of his boss, the Chief of Naval Operations, in just three hours — and it wasn't a particularly slow day at the HQ, as the narration kindly notes. Later on, when he's been Reassigned to Antarctica to hide him from sight in the wake of the whole hoopla, he manages to compress a whole workload of a Barrayaran Consul (himself) into just three mornings per week, so efficient he is.
- Robert Moses in The Power Broker. He's called "the best bill drafter in Albany" early on and lives up to it by injecting loopholes into all kinds of legislation. Despite having no elected position, Moses runs right over checks and balances and mayors and governors to build infrastructure how he wants.
- Wolf Hall is about (and a Historical Hero Upgrade of) the resident Badass Bureaucrat of Henry VIII's court, Thomas Cromwell. He knows how to fight, but by the time of the books' main plot, he rarely has to, preferring to use words, Rule Fu, and a network of bankers, merchants and spies to get things done.
- In Alien in a Small Town, although Paul loathed his time shuffling papers in his alien race's endless bureaucracy, he became good enough at it that when the abused Warriors want to stage a demonstration, he's able to navigate the permits and legal red tape so deftly that the leaders have absolutely no legal way to stop the protest, as much as they want to.
- Game of Thrones:
- Hetty from NCIS: Los Angeles. She is both a bureaucrat and a former agent who once wrecked a Ferrari in Monte Carlo and is proficient in numerous exotic weapons. She is nicknamed "The Duchess of Deception"
- M*A*S*H. Radar. Klinger later manages to grow into the role after Radar gets sent back to the States.
- Bunpei Shiratori, a local government bureaucrat from Inba, Japan, is an All-Star competitor on Ninja Warrior. A particularly memorable competition had him recovering from heat exhaustion to advance all the way to the third stage.
- Esther Drummond in Torchwood: Miracle Day. She's not very good at gathering intelligence, or being professional and separating her work from her personal life, or coping with high risk situations, but give her a pile of data, and she's sure to advance the plot.
- Joan from Mad Men. Pretty much everyone in the office acknowledges that she really runs the place and is one of the only people who knows how the office bureaucracy and logistics truly works.
- Sherlock: Mycroft Holmes claims to have a minor position within the British government. It is heavily implied that Mycroft Holmes is the British government. He does, after all, control all the CCTV cameras in London. And is possibly the head of MI-6.
- Donna from Doctor Who is a variation: although she never made it past temp note , she can pretty much single-handedly run an office, work out complex calendar systems, type 100 words a minute and do a Sherlock Scan of office file systems. She saves the day a few times over with those skills.
- Pretty much the entire main cast on The West Wing. They're always cutting deals, manipulating other departments and offices, and getting none of the glory outside of the office.
- James Lester in Primeval. His main concerns are typically bureaucratic in nature. But it's quickly revealed that he cares much more than he'd like to admit. When someone points this out, he coldly threatens to sue them for libel. In the latest season, when the wealthy industrialist financing the ARC is demanding that all the prehistoric creatures be put down (after one nearly causes his death), Lester threatens to leak information about this to the press, even though he himself has often complained about the animals (except for the mammoth, which saved his life earlier).
- Richard Woolsey in Stargate-verse. He starts off as an Obstructive Bureaucrat, but through character development becomes this when he is put in charge of the Atlantis Expedition. In the Grand Finale, he takes the Atlantis into battle against a super-hive in Earth's orbit, even ordering Carson to keep firing at the risk of causing the city to have an uncontrolled re-entry.
- Vir Cotto in Babylon 5 uses recordkeeping to aid his smuggling of Narns to other worlds, by declaring them dead via a fake Centauri noble so that they would not be missed. He helps thousands of Narns in this way.
- Melinda May in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. When Coulson recruits her, she's working a desk job she willingly chose to avoid going through the unspecified trauma she suffered in the field earlier.
- Sir Humphrey Appleby of Yes, Minister epitomizes this trope. He basically runs the Department of Administrative Affairs and has a huge influence on the British Government whether working for his Minister or out-gambiting him as an adversary. He eventually rises to Cabinet Secretary where he is the bulk of the power behind the Hacker regime, including getting Hacker promoted to PM in the first place. All while being a "humble functionary". Sir Arnold, prior to retirement, also fit this.
- Plenty of the Ministry workers in El Ministerio del Tiempo. They're civil servants with little to no weapon or hand-to-hand fighting training, but perfectly able to kick serious ass.
- Savatage features two on Handful Of Rain: "Chance" is about Chiune Sugihara and the turmoil he must have felt as he destroyed his career to do the right thing, see the Real Life section below. "Castles Burning" is about Giovanni Falcone who died taking on The Mafia.
- "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" by CAKE is about the narrator's love for a female badass bureaucrat. She "uses a machete to cut through red tape."
- While very much on the Obstructive Bureaucrat archetype, there's no denying that the Azorius are awe-inspiring when moved to do something.
- The few notable Vilani commanders in the Interstellar Wars era of Traveller tended to be this. Vilani bureaucracy is so convoluted that only a badass can survive it. But several do and do so quite well.
- The alien race of the Bwaps has this as it's hat.
- In Exalted the number of things that can be accomplished by members of the Celestial Bureaucracy with the mere stroke of a pen can be staggering. Some of the most noteworthy are the Sidereal Exalted who are at the forefront of the Bureau of Destiny. The most powerful Sidereal, Chejop Kejak, hasn't been using his powers much in the past several centuries, but maintains incredible power in Heaven through the number of committees he chairs or has membership in (which amounts to virtually all of them), and in Creation through his status as advisor to the Scarlet Empress, tutor to her children, and secretary of the head of the most powerful religion in the world.
- In the First Age, we have Salina. To recap, Salina is (in)famous for a Working that literally rewrote the laws of reality. The only thing exceeding this achievement is the amount of bureaucratic wrangling she managed to pull off to secure the official support and logistics required to implement it.
- This is one of the key talents of Eclipse Caste Solars. Give an Eclipse ten minutes, a piece of parchment, and a pen, and he will snare your entire government in pits of bureaucratic madness that nobody can escape, then take advantage of the chaos to go and punch a deathknight through a wall or three.
- The Seneschal player class in the Warhammer 40,000 RPG Rogue Trader is characterized in this way. A typical seneschal is a financier, quartermaster, and/or business manager to one of the eponymous Rogue Traders and is an expert in matters of commerce, intelligence — oh, yes, and personal combat as need be. Like all Rogue Trader characters, they are expected to hold down both shipboard posts and participate in highly dangerous adventures.
- The Bureaucrat class from Anarchy Online lives and breathes this tropes. They use a combination of bureaucratic red tape and propaganda to hold enemies in place or turn them neutral, making them invaluable for crowd control, while their robot bodyguard or charmed enemies handle the rest. . The nice suits and Guns Akimbo they frequently sport are just gravy on one of the most Difficult but Awesome classes in the game.
- In earlier versions of Dwarf Fortress, raising any skill would increase all your stats, regardless of the skill; raising it to godlike levels would make you godlike. And the Bookkeeping skill was incredibly easy to raise by assigning a dwarf as your bookkeeper. As a result, Dwarf Fortress bookkeepers would rapidly become practically demigods.
- Mass Effect 3
- You can intercept this transcript from a human colony world about to be overrun by the Reapers:
Secretary Phillips: The emergency fund's gone, sir. We don't have the credits to hire enough ships to evacuate the colony before the Reapers get here. Not with the prices their captains are asking for.
Councilor Gujir: What about the military?
Phillips: The left an hour ago. They said... they said it's too much of a risk to come back.
Gujir: Did they.
Phillips: Yes, sir.
Phillips: This... is this a passkey, sir? And an inventory?
Gujir: Phillips, I am authorizing you on behalf of this city's Senate to seize any and all eezo stockpiles in our treasury, in order to secure safe passage for our citizens on any available ships.
Phillips: These look like private stockpiles. Senate members' stockpiles.
Gujir: I'm forgoing re-election. Now get us those ships.
Phillips: Yes, sir!
- Also during 3, there are a few oblique references that Shepard, despite being a hero shouldering the burden of an entire galaxy at war, is still careful to always fill out his/her paperwork properly.
Brooks: I'm going to have to write a report about getting shot. I hear those are really complicated.
Shepard: It's faster if you make a template.
Brooks: I think maybe you get shot too much.
- You can intercept this transcript from a human colony world about to be overrun by the Reapers:
- In Fallout: New Vegas, you can find Ranger Jackson, a mustached ranger who serve as the commander of the Mojave Outpost. He is described by Cass as washed up old fuck-up and a Brotherhood Scribe because he loves paperwork, and doing things exactly like the law says. But if you accomplish some good work for him, he may have lost some supplies that ended in your pocket. And if you find evidence of the Van Graff's and Crimson Caravan's corruption and murdering work... Tthe NCR bureaucracy is described in the game as obstinate, but you don't want to have it against you. Jackson will assure you the Van Graff and the Crimson's leader will be in deep trouble, and Cass even say it is a fate worse than death...
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has Senator Steven Armstrong, who is not only the true mastermind behind the plot, but is also capable of physically overpowering Raiden with his bare hands due to nanomachines that grant him Nigh-Invulnerability and Super Strength. At first, Raiden stands no chance against him. It's only after Raiden obtains Sam's High Frequency Blade that he is able to do any significant damage to Armstrong.
- The checkpoint the player mans in Papers, Please is regularly attacked by terrorists. Eventually, funding is cut so much that they no longer employ soldiers to protect you, meaning you have to resolve such situations with a sniper rifle. The player can choose to aid a shadowy revolutionary group. While this requires less shooting and making more "mistakes", the player and their entire family are under the watchful eye of the Arstotzkan government and could be killed or detained for the slightest infraction.
- We have the Arachnos Arbiters in City of Heroes. The Rogue Isles, are run in a state of organized anarchy by Arachnos. The organization keeps things running smoothly with their Arbiters. You need to go to them to take advantage of level-ups, they give you training while also taking note of your current threat-level. But one does not get to be a bureaucrat in the Rogue Isles without first having veteran military experience, as such all Arbiters will have a pencil in one hand, a note pad in the other... and an assault riffle strapped to their backs. Furthermore if you do not fill out form 32-B they have legal authority to open fire!
- Chancellor Jarjuna of the human nation of Vasgol in The Water Phoenix King has yet to appear in person, other than one brief glimpse in a flashback to the war as a "kid in goofy armor", but he gained his position by leading the rebellion despite being only a commoner and killing a god with his own sword — and he's held onto that job for the decade since despite ongoing attacks from outside forces and fractious nobles trying to grab, or grab back the power they had before the empire was shattered. So pretty badass, despite being dismissed as a mere bureaucrat by the old nobility, and it's hinted pretty good as well — he seems to be trying, and at least partially succeeding, to be a good ruler, at least.
- Lars Sturtz from Dominic Deegan. Most of the events in the Battle for Barthis were to either delay or distract Brakkis, the Lawful Evil Corrupt Corporate Executive, so that Lars could navigate the legal system to rescind the unsubstantiated declaration of corruption on the town, grant the citizens disaster relief, circumvent Gregory's "debts", organize a benefit concert, and expedite the rebuilding protocols. Not to mention Lars' painstakingly arduous auditing of the executive's doctored consolidated financial statements that uncovered a complex money laundering scheme and connections to a few murders that ultimately took Brakkis down. And Lars only did that just to bring his son closure.
- Girl Genius:
- Vanamonde von Mekkahn looks like a young loafer who does nothing but laze around and drink coffee all day. In reality, Vanamonde secretly runs the town of Mechanicsburg from his seat in the coffee shop, can rally the people of the town into highly effective guerrilla fighters against the Wulfenbach army in a matter of hours, and will utterly mess you up if you dare threaten a member of the Heterodyne family.
- Baron Klaus Wulfenbach:
- By necessity, Klaus had to become this. By the time he returned from exile, he found Europa torn apart by the various mad scientists, his estate destroyed and rampaging Eldritch Abominations, essentially undoing all the work his friends (the Heterodyne Boys) did. Lacking their charisma and the fate of Bill and Barry Heterodyne pretty much unknown, the Baron proceded to amass a greay army to take over Europa and force people to stop fighting by basically saying "Do NOT make me come over there." And it worked. He brought peace and order back to the land, with the quality of life being second to only when the Heterodyne Boys were around. However, he is very miserable as the realpolitik and managing of an empire has made him cynical and weary, not able to enjoy his passions in science and having to be forced into greater measures when worse things happen (even having to coerce Gil, his own son, at one point, something he really didn't want to do.)
- The necessity is proven during the timeskip. Klaus' latest drastic measure ends up locking him and the rest of Mechanicsberg in time-stop state, putting him out of the picture. Two years later, 40 of the 52 royal families of Europa are dead, warlords are trying to take the Empire and Gil having to use all the forces to retake his empire while dealing with the aftermath his dad put in. The people view Wulfenbach's rule as some sort of lost golden age and things have gotten so bad that the Knights of Jove (a massive conspiracy against the Baron) align themselves to restore Gil to the throne to try and restore order.
- Boris Dolokhov serves as the Baron's personal secretary and administrative second-in-command. He personally organised the forces of the empire in the face of continent-wide rebellions while the Baron is incapacitated, and when faced with the mutiny of the Jagers he beats the location of the generals out of their messenger so that he can discuss the matter with them.
- Hermes Conrad from Futurama once organized a forced labor camp he was imprisoned at so efficiently that all the work could be done by one Australian man.
- He also used his organization skills to lead a fleet in a battle to retake Earth in Bender's Big Score.
- He also at one point managed to clear the Central Bureaucracy's entire backlog in 3 minutes 58 seconds. While performing a musical number.
- Tarrlok, a Sleazy Politician from The Legend of Korra, at first seems to be your average Desk Jockey, but quickly displays his prowess as a martial organizer (What else do you call a politician who participates in police raids?) and is a competent waterbender.
- In SWAT Kats, Callie Briggs is officially the Deputy Mayor of Megakat City, but as the Hypercompetent Sidekick to lazy, incompetent Mayor Manx she's the one who does most of the work. She can also handle herself in a fight, becoming an Improvised Weapon User to defend herself when necessary.
- Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic adores lists and schedules, which is often mocked by the others. Still on many occasions her attention to detail has saved the day, and she has shown herself to be pretty competent in a governmental position. (she's also a traditional badass, for added flavor)
- Betty Carp, an attractive immigrant filled this position at the OSS and earned praises from various formidable spymasters.
- Felix Vasquez your typical salaryman, a Housing Authority Supervisor for the city of New York to be exact, who received a call that one of the buildings that he oversaw was on fire. After calling the fire department, he then ran to the burning apartment building, beating emergency services, and saw a woman who was waving her baby out of a window. When he told her not to throw the baby, the woman misunderstood and threw her baby out of the window. Having only seconds to spare, Felix hopped a freaking fence and caught the baby, saving its life. What's even more badass is that the baby wasn't breathing when he caught it, so he gave it CPR. If that's not badass, nothing is.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower. Stuck in a training post for World War I, he never saw action leading men in combat and did not hold an independent command higher than a battalion before the World War II. His appointment as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force was considered a maverick act. He turned out to be one of the most able general officers the United States has ever sent to war, at least partially because the sheer size of the Allied Expeditionary Force required someone whose skills were not those of your typical combat general. Probably Eisenhower's most important skill was the recognizing that his post was primarily a political one. He knew he was never going to be recognized as a battlefield leader or expert strategist or tactician, and didn't think of himself as one. His job was to ride herd on his international team of subordinates who had such an assortment of personal quirks, raging egos, and nationalistic points of view that they'd be disastrous in command of a multinational military force.
- Eisenhower's boss, George C. Marshall. Marshall more than any other man was the architect and builder of the United States Army that fought World War II, and as such its ultimate success in Europe and the Pacific was largely his doing. Winston Churchill called him the "organizer of victory". After the war he moved into diplomacy, where he was responsible for the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe in the late 40s and early 50s.
- Josef Stalin. Whatever else you might think of him, he was a bank robber and a revolutionary, and a far more charismatic and intelligent one than his most famous sources portray him as. He used bureaucracy as a springboard to establishing a personal dictatorship and in turn to annexing most of Eastern Europe and turned Russia from the least of the Great Powers into one of Earth's only two superpowers.
- There are a number of stories of diplomats and consular officials who saved Jews from the Holocaust due to determined applications of bureaucracy.
- Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, saved thousands by filling out visas that allowed Jews to evacuate to Japan. He was recalled in disgrace, but he continued to fill out visas as fast as he could until the very last minute, even flinging them out of the window at the crowd as the train pulled away. Sugihara was a vice-consul, which means in the (highly stratified) Japanese diplomacy he did not have the authority to decide on visas. He gave them out in direct violation of his orders from Tokyo, during the time when powerful Japanese generals had to step carefully to avoid disgrace, execution or assassination. This is an even more badass act.
- Similarly, Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, saved numerous Jews by falsifying paperwork permitting them to enter Sweden, then bought up apartment buildings, filled them with Jewish families, declared them Swedish sovereign territory (much like an embassy or consulate in a foreign country) and pretty much dared the Nazis to stop him. They didn't.
- John Rabe, on the other side of the world, was a diabetic Siemens employee who managed to get a section of Nanjing turned into a safe zone for Chinese civilians during the Japanese occupation with no authority, no government backing, and no military force.
- Samuel Pepys almost founded the Royal Navy on his own during the Stuart monarchs.
- Abdolhossein Teymourtash. Persia's youngest Member of Parliament and one of the top authorities on the Persian language despite not actually speaking it as a child. Was halfway through completely overhauling the Persian judicial system when the government fell and Reza Shah Pahlavi came to power. Teymourtash became Minister of Court, a position with no actual responsibility, and turned it into the Ministry of Absolutely Everything. He set up a central bank, a bar association, a secular school system and a university, defined the border with Turkey, built the country a railroad network, centralised the collection of taxes and sent hundreds of students to Europe to pick up technical skills, while the ministers supposedly responsible watched in amazement. Foreign treaty-makers had spent a century extracting concessions from Persia in return for "aid"; Teymourtash took five years to send them all packing. All except the British, whose oil-drilling agreement caused Teymourtash's downfall at the hands of the Shah - not because Teymourtash hadn't been remarkably successful in renegotiating it, but because the capricious and ill-educated Shah couldn't understand why he didn't just rip the thing up.
- Frank J. Wilson, agent of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Internal Revenue (and later Chief of the United States Secret Service). It was his meticulous scrutiny of Al Capone's finances which allowed the criminal's arrest and conviction for tax evasion. You might be able to bribe the right elements of law enforcement to stay free, but God help you if the IRS comes after you...
- J. Edgar Hoover singlehandedly built the FBI, arguably one of the largest and most powerful law enforcement agencies in the world. Not only that, but as director of the FBI, Hoover was effectively the most powerful person in the US, outlasting 5 presidents and largely being untouchable, due to him having dirt on everybody. Nobody dared try to remove him from office and he only gave up the position due to his death from a heart attack.
- Staff officers in an army have throughout history had the job of working out all the little details that turn a general's grand plan into actuality, from ordering the right quantities of ammunition, rations, etc. to mapping out the paths that the soldiers will take to their deployment and jump-off points, how many carriages in how many trains are needed, organising transfer and care of the wounded and dead, and making sure that infantry (and cavalry in a bygone age), artillery, and (where applicable) tanks and aircraft all work together smoothly. Etcetera. They are the ultimate detail-obsessed pen pushers. They are also all trained professional soldiers.
- When WWII broke out, the British Parliament decided to form a national unity government, uniting left and right, Labour and Conservative, in a single executive dedicated to fighting the war effort. At the head, in the office of Prime Minister and providing the face and the quotes, was the irrepressible Winston Churchill, leader of the Conservatives. The body, however, was definitely Clement Attlee, leader of the Labour Party. Where Churchill was flighty, Attlee was steady. Where Churchill was emotional, Attlee had a vulcan-like analytic mind. Where Churchill was charismatic, Attlee was grey and dull. And yet his organizational skills, essentially centralizing and creating a vast, unified, war machine out of Britain's sprawling Imperial bureacracy, was just as important a contribution to Britain's victory as Churchill's speeches in the Commons.
- In Nazi Germany itself, we had Georg Konrad Morgen, who was horrified when (after intercepting contraband in the form of stolen gold fillings) he learned of the extent of the Holocaust, doing everything he could during and after WWII to nab other Nazis, typically on charges of corruption, up to and including Gestapo chief Maximilian Grabner.
- US President Herbert Hoover tends to be remembered, if at all, by Americans as being the guy under whose watch the Great Depression started, and he tends to be regarded unfavorably because of that (despite the fact that it wasn't his fault, and he did probably all he could legally and in good conscience do to cut it short). What's forgotten is that he donated nearly all of his salary as President to charity (the first of two Presidents so far to do so) and headed the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the US Food Administration during World War I and the American Relief Administration after it, all of which provided literally millions of tons of food and supplies to war-stricken countries in Europe.
- He was also the Secretary of Commerce during the Harding and Coolidge administrations. During his tenure he managed to create the first meaningful radio communications regulations in the United States, the same regulations which would be one of the major influences on the FCC when it was founded, standardized motor vehicle driving laws and rules for the entire nation to reduce traffic accidents, coordinated and organized the relief efforts necessary after the Mississippi Flood of 1927, and managed to stamp out malaria, pellagra, and typhoid fever in much of the same region.
- The Order of Solomon's Temple, while famous for their knights deserve mention here. Everyone has heard of the Templar Treasure, but while movies imagine this as hoard of gold or Thor's hammer, the reality is that their funding largely came from investments. By creating one of the most well established banking and cheque system in Europe, they were able to establish what was essentially a multinational corporation. By investing the pilgrim's money while they were in the holy land, they were able to receive the interest profits from these investments and amass their own personal endowment that rivaled kingdoms. In reality their eventual purge was little more than a hostile takeover to take control of these assets. All of this while they remained one Europe's most effective armies.
- To put this into perspective: the king of France was the one to order the Templars put out of business, because the kingdom was so far in debt to them that the order could have taken France itself in payment.