Friday, December 28, 2012

Remembering Stormin' Norman - a Salute to General Schwarzkopf - Some Personal Reflections

Over the next several days, much will be written and spoken about the outstanding career of General Norman Schwarzkopf.  It will be richly deserved.  He has often been described as a "soldiers' soldier."  Let me offer a couple of personal anecdotes that you may not hear in the national news coverage.

In 2001, I was fortunate to be a guest of the Army football team for the Army-Navy game.  The game was played just a few months after the tragic events of 9/11, and patriotism was in the air at a level I had never seen before in my lifetime.  The game was a very emotional and symbolic event.  For the first time in many years, the men playing on the gridiron knew for certain that they would be going off to war.  The crowd was electric in their support of these football players about to turn into warriors.  During halftime, General Schwarzkopf reprised a famous speech previously given by General Douglas MacArthur.  Schwarzkopf delivered the speech by memory with no notes.  It was a defining moment.

After the game, I waited by the entrance to the Army locker room to thank the players for having provided me with my ticket to the game.  Incidentally, this game was the last one that Army won - 26-17.  My West Point grad friends keep insisting that I need to return to a game so the Black Knights can win again.  They came very close this year.  When Army quarterback, Chad Jenkins, exited from the stadium, I thanked him for giving me one of his tickets to the game - great seats in the 10th Row at the 40-yard line.  I said to Chad: "I understand that President Bush stopped by the locker room to wish you luck.  What was that like?"  Chad responded passionately: "Yeah, that was nice.  But General Schwarzkopf came by the locker room and hung out with us.  That was awesome!"

My friend, Dr. Scott Snook, teaches leadership at  Harvard Business School.  He is a graduate of the West Point class of 1980.  I have had the privilege of watching him teaching in a variety of settings.  He sometimes uses a recording of a speech that General Schwarzkopf gave to the West Point Corps of Cadets as an example of  great leadership and communication.  Here is the back story to that speech.

In May of 1991, the Coalition forces had just achieved a swift victory in Operation Desert Storm - 100 hours from first to last shot.  It was time for Schwarzkopf, the commanding general , to return to the U.S. from the Persian Gulf.  His staff asked him where he would like to land in the U.S. - his home in Florida, the Pentagon?  "I want my first stop in America to be at West Point.  I would like to address the Corps of Cadets."  So, on very short notice, the West Point administration made the logistical arrangements to have the Corps of Cadets assembly in cavernous Eisenhower Hall.  The speech that he gave that day is available in the three brief YouTube videos linked below.

In May of this year, Dr.Bernard Banks, another friend of mine, reflected on the Schwarzkopf speech in a piece he wrote for the Blog, "Building A Smarter Planet."  Dr. Banks is a Colonel in the United States Army and the Deputy Department Head of West Point’s Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership:

"In 1991, General Norman Schwarzkopf gave a famous speech at West Point to the Corps of Cadets.  The thesis statement of his remarks was that leaders must possess both competence and character.  He asserted that leaders who possess extreme competence, but lack character, can achieve many missions.

However, the manner in which they reach their objectives might place the organization and its people at risk.  Conversely, a leader who possesses impeccable character can fail to achieve assigned objectives due to a lack of competence.
Competence and character are required in order to generate sustainable positive outcomes."
(See link below for the full article)

In his career, General Schwarzkopf exemplified both competence and character, and he has set the bar high for the leaders that aspire to follow in his footsteps.

R.I.P., General.

1 comment:

Josh Rizzo said...

Thank you Al for putting this piece together. I saw the email and stopped what I was doing - I'm glad I did... You really nailed this one. Thanks again.

Very Respectfully,