15 Military Insights from General “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf

15 Military Insights from General “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf

Formerly the head of United States Central Command, “Stormin’ Norman” Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. is a name familiar to millions of Americans. Schwarzkopf was tasked with freeing Kuwait in 1990 from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces, and he was plastered on television as the face of the war. 

With American forces routing the Iraqi Army after a 100-hour ground offensive, Schwarzkopf’s stock rose considerably as he was credited with planning the successful removal of Iraq from Kuwait. As part of his later years, Schwarzkopf was both a speaker and author, leaving his mark on the world with brilliant military insights.

Effective Leadership

Professional photo of General Normal Schwarzkopf.
©"RIP General Norman Schwarzkopf, United States Army" by roberthuffstutter is licensed under BY 2.0. - Original / License

“To be an effective leader, you have to have a manipulative streak – you have to figure out the people working for you and give each tasks that will take advantage of his strength.”

The quote says it all, but Schwarzkopf knew all about effective leadership.

Do What’s Right

General Schwarzkopf and General Powell met to talk about the war effort.
©"Operation Desert Storm" by Lietmotiv is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License

“Do what is right, not what you think the high headquarters wants or what you think will make you look good.”

Schwarzkopf knew that integrity was the most important thing above all else.


General Schwarzkopf meets with Colin Powell and other world leaders.
©"Operation Desert Storm" by Lietmotiv is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License

“Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed.”

Schwarzkopf was well-positioned to talk about this topic as one of the foremost military leaders in America at the time.

Peace Time

Multiple military generals meet to discuss the war effort.
©"Operation Desert Storm" by Lietmotiv is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License

“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”

Schwarzkopf knew that constant training during peacetime meant less risk of life during wartime.

Great Leaders

President Bush walking with General Schwarzkopf while visiting the troops on the front line.
©"Operation Desert Storm" by Lietmotiv is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License

“Great leaders are willing to sacrifice their own comfort and safety for the sake of their people.”

Schwarzkopf knew that great leadership was only achieved by those who wanted everyone around them to succeed.

Be a Hero

General Schwarzkopf meeting with other military leaders about the Gulf War.
©"Operation Desert Storm" by Lietmotiv is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License

“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”

Schwarzkopf was always a fan of personal courage and went where his troops went.

True Heroes

Led by Dick Cheney, United States Central Command gives an update on the war.
©"Operation Desert Storm" by Lietmotiv is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License

“The soldier who fights to preserve his own life is a coward. The soldier who fights for his country, for freedom of all, is a true hero.”

Schwarzkopf defined true heroism as those who were willing to sacrifice for others.

Strong Leadership

President Bush and Schwarzkopf
Visiting the front lines with President Bush.

“Leadership is about taking care of those in your command. It’s about making sure they have everything they need to succeed, and then stepping back.”

Schwarzkopf knew full well what qualities made for the best leaders.

Effective Leadership

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf
General Schwarzkopf gives a speech post-retirement.

“To be an effective leader, you have to have a vision that is clear, believable, and achievable.”

It’s clear Schwarzkopf lived these words during his military career.

Nation Strength

Keys to New York City 1991
New York Governor presents General Schwarzkopf with the key to New York City.

“The strength of a nation lies in the character of its people.”

Schwarzkopf was well aware the strength of a nation goes beyond military might.

True Leaders

GEN. Norman Schwarzkopf
General Schwarzkopf being presented with a sword from a Kuwaiti military official.

“True leaders are not afraid to delegate. They know that it is only by empowering others and trusting them that great achievements can be made.”

Throughout his life, Schwarzkopf didn’t achieve his rank on his own, but by also trusting in those around him.

Take Command

Schwarzkopf Promotion
Major General Schwarzkopf is promoted to Lieutenant General.

“When placed in command, take charge.”

This simple but effective Schwarzkopf statement was right on the money for someone with a lot of responsibility during the latter half of his military career.

True Courage

President Bush and Schwarzkopf
President Bush and General Schwarzkopf discuss the war aboard Air Force One.
©George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum / Public Domain - Original / License

“True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job anyhow, that’s what courage is.”

Like other military leaders, Schwarzkopf knew courage was not the absence of fear but overcoming it.

Anti War

GEN. Norman Schwarzkopf
Special forces troops protecting General Schwarzkopf.

“Any soldier worth his salt should be antiwar; and still there are things worth fighting for.”

Every good military leader knows that war is the last thing every soldier should hope for.

Professional Soldiers

GEN. Norman H. Schwarzkopf
General Schwarzkopf speaks to soldiers ahead of the start of the Gulf War.

“A professional soldier understands that war means killing people, war means maiming people, war means families left without fathers and mothers.”

According to Schwarzkopf, no soldier woke up in the morning wanting to go to war.

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