The following discussion talks about Schwarzkopf’s autobiographical book. The book was a bestseller that sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
It is from Bantam Books, a publishing company based in New York. It was published in October 1993, a few years after Schwarzkopf’s successful handling of Operation Dessert Storm. It was the military operation that liberated Kuwait from the clutches of Saddam Hussein’s army (Schwarzkopf, 1993).
The Subject of the Book
General Norman Schwarzkopf and the Persian Gulf War
The book was an autobiographical account of the life of Norman Schwarzkopf. He became a household name in the 1990s when former President George Bush appointed him as the commander-in-chief of a global alliance to defeat Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War.
He became popular, because of his successful leadership in Operation Dessert Storm. He became a hero because of how he liberated Kuwait after a few months of continuous military campaign. He was considered one of the greatest military leaders of all time, due to his ability to persuade different military leaders from 30 countries to work together as one team.
Example of a Great Leader
Schwarzkopf had the capability to lead a diverse group of people coming from different cultural backgrounds. He was able to develop this capability after spending time in Iran, when he was barely a teenager. Due to his father’s influence he was also able to travel to key European cities. Finally, his two tours in Vietnam prepared him for the difficult task of leading an allied force to defeat Saddam Hussein.
Humility, Adaptability, and Cultural Sensitivity
His leadership style can be considered as a charismatic type of leadership. However, it is a complex type of leadership that is characterized by humility, adaptability, and the capability to work with people from different cultural backgrounds.
His humility stems from his upbringing. It is also rooted in a character that was molded through various trials. He grew up in an affluent neighborhood. However, at a young age, his family experienced economic hardships due to the onset of the Second World War.
His mother’s alcoholism was a profound experience that gave him the ability to understand the frailty of human nature. Thus, he was able to develop a heightened sense of empathy that endeared him to his men.
He valued the ability to adapt to different situations in order to accomplish specific goals. He said that a leader must know how to adjust his communication style in order for his subordinates to understand the essence of the orders that were given to them.
His humility enabled him to develop a team that was loyal to him. He was able to endear himself to his men. Therefore, he was able to accomplish goals beginning from the time that he was in West Point, and when he was the commander-in-chief in the Persian Gulf War.
His ability to make adjustments on his communication style allowed him to persuade people to perform difficult tasks. In one memorable episode of his life, he confronted a helicopter pilot that refused to carry the dead bodies of Vietnamese soldiers who was under his command.
The American pilot refused to carry them, because they were not part of the U.S. army. Schwarzkopf was willing to make a sacrifice for his slain Vietnamese comrades. This gallant stand created a band of loyal soldiers that saved his life during the Vietnam War.
Critique of Leadership Style
His leadership style was severely tested during Persian Gulf War, because he had to manage the egos of generals coming from different countries. He had to work with top leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Great Britain, France, and Egypt. He had to persuade them to follow his lead. At the same time, he had to deal with the press.
It was the first major war in human history where aggressive reporters were willing to make sacrifices on behalf of their respective TV networks. Aside from the complex military operation, Schwarzkopf had to carefully chose his words regarding his comments on the war effort.
If he had a flawed leadership style, resources would have been squandered due to internal conflicts. It was his experience during the Vietnam War, and the time spent in Iran, that enabled him to develop a cultural sensitivity that allowed him to resolve conflicts in the most efficient manner.
Schwarzkopf’s commendable job as the commander-in-chief of Operation Desert Storm was a great example of effective leadership. It is hard to imagine another leader who can surpass the accomplishments he did, especially if one will compare these achievements to other major wars of the 20th century. The Korean War and the Vietnam War had many casualties.
However, under Schwarzkopf’s able leadership, there were only a few casualties in the Persian Gulf War. In the said conflict, the war ended after only a few months of sustained warfare. The astounding success of the Persian Gulf War must be attributed to Schwarzkopf’s leadership style. Leaders will accomplish more if they will also adopt the values of humility, adaptability, and cultural sensitivity embodied by Schwarzkopf.
Schwarzkopf, N. (1993). It doesn’t take a hero: The autobiography of General Norman Schwarzkopf. New York: Bantam Books.