I thoroughly enjoyed General Schwarzkopf’s autobiography, It Doesn’t Take A Hero. I was initially attracted to his book because I was in the service too—the U. S. Marine Corps. And I was in Viet Nam just as General Schwarzkopf was, and at the same time—but I never met him or even heard of him when I was there.
As I got into the book, and throughout the book, I saw over and over again that he was no ordinary soldier and officer. Though he probably wouldn’t consider himself a religious, church going person (but I don’t know), someone instilled in him some pretty good moral virtues and leadership qualities.
A lot of it, I suppose, had to do with his father, who was also a fine military man and a general—but I know God is the designer. He makes us the way we are, and He makes us for a purpose. Norman Schwarzkopf’s purpose, obviously, was to save many Kuwaitis’ and also to help cut off and hold back evil.
But there is another purpose for his life that has come to me. He has been a mentor and an inspiration to me, particularly in the area of leadership. I have a tendency to be timid and not able to lead. Norman’s life and the way he carried himself have given me new confidence in this area.
Instead of giving you a typical book review of It Doesn’t Take A Hero, I will give you the things I really liked about it, which were the good virtues I saw in General Schwarzkopf, especially his leadership qualities.
6 Virtues of General Norman Schwarzkopf
1. He was a hard and willing worker. He was willing to do more than was required of his rank. On several occasions he told of times when he was instructed to do the duties of his superiors. And always, he willingly did them and did them well—without complaining.
2. He was courageous and willing to lay down his life for others. He was always helping his troops, even when it meant putting himself in personal danger. One time, in Viet Nam, he walked through a minefield to rescue one of his wounded men and calmly told him what to do so he wouldn’t get blown up. Here is the account of it (page 170):
So I said to the company commander, “I’ve got to take care of that guy. You get on the radio. Start talking to your leaders. Get control of your company. Don’t let them panic.”
I started through the minefield, one slow step at a time, staring at the ground, looking for telltale bumps or little prongs sticking up from the dirt. My knees were shaking so hard that each time I took a step, I had to grab my leg and steady it with both hands before I could take another. I had to nearly double over to move. It seemed like a thousand years before I reached the kid.
I lay down on top of him because I wanted to stop him from thrashing. I’d been a wrestler at West Point and knew how to pin a guy down; also, I weighed about 240 pounds. I started talking to him: “you’re gonna be okay. We’re gonna get you out of here. Calm down and quit screaming…You’re not not gonna die. We want to save your leg, but of you keep on flailing around like that, you’re liable to break an artery and kill yourself.”
What make’s a man do what General Schwarzkopf did? His actions remind me of what Jesus said in John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
3. He was a selfless servant. He was always thinking of his troops. He cared for them and saw to it that they got what they needed. One time when he noticed that one particular unit was drilling on the weekend, he chewed out the commander of that unit and told him that it was better for his troops to get the week end off. He made family time a high priority and saw to it that the wives of troops were well cared for. He did as much as was in his power to get his men better food, better clothing, and more time off with their families.
4. He was Bold. He was always willing to stick his neck out and fight and argue for what he thought was right for his troops and for a battle situation. He did not just blindly follow orders. He was a good thinker and strategist and made his thoughts known to his fellow officers, even to those who were above him in rank. As a good soldier he always obeyed orders, but still he was not afraid to tell them what he thought.
5. He saw and used the gifts of others. He was not a micro manager. He led by delegating responsibility to others. He was good as seeing other’s gifts and talents and put them to use, thus keeping his troops, especially the officers under his charge, feeling good about themselves. One time (recorded on page 206), on the first day he took command of a particular unit, he gave his key officers this assignment: He said to them, “
Over the weekend I want you to take a piece of paper and answer the following questions anonymously. Number one, what are the commanders of this brigade suppose to be doing? Number two, how well are we doing it? Number three, if you could start something, stop something, and continue something in this brigade, what would those things be?
This was a good example of how General Schwarzkopf operated and led his men. And by the way, in that case, most of the suggestions that were given were used. I can see from this that he wasn’t interested in doing it his way; he wanted to find the best way and to use the gifts that his men had and believed in. That’s smart.
6. He Was A friend and A Peacemaker. He cared about the culture and customs of those in other countries. He was good at making friends of the leaders of other countries, such as in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. They seemed to like him and yet respected him for his strength and leadership.