Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
  The Arts
   + [ Public Service ]
  Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


If you like Norman Schwarzkopf's story, you might also like:
Ehud Barak,
George H.W. Bush,
Tom Clancy,
David Halberstam,
Mike Krzyzewski,
William McRaven,
David Petraeus,
Colin Powell,
Neil Sheehan,
James Stockdale,
Michael Thornton
and Chuck Yeager

Norman Schwarzkopf can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Norman Schwarzkopf also appears in the videos:
Schwarzkopf on Leadership: 50th Anniversary of D-Day,

President George Bush: Lessons of Leadership,

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Norman Schwarzkopf in the Achievement Curriculum section:
What is a Leader?

Related Links:

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

Norman Schwarzkopf
Norman Schwarzkopf
Profile of Norman Schwarzkopf Biography of Norman Schwarzkopf Interview with Norman Schwarzkopf Norman Schwarzkopf Photo Gallery

Norman Schwarzkopf Interview (page: 5 / 6)

Commander, Operation Desert Storm

Print Norman Schwarzkopf Interview Print Interview

  Norman Schwarzkopf

What makes for a great leader? What are the qualities that are absolutely necessary?

Norman Schwarzkopf: Character, competence, selfless service, caring about people. I mean, really caring about people. I've know a lot of leaders who said, "Oh, boy, I really care about my troops," and they didn't give a damn, when it really got right down to it. But as I say, all of those things, I think go into the equation of a leader. I said earlier, passionately caring about your cause, whatever it might be.

Doesn't a General need a strong ego?

Norman Schwarzkopf: Any leader needs an ego. If you're not confident in yourself, how can you expect anybody else to have confidence in you? One of the most important things about a great leader is this thing called selfless service, that I mentioned earlier. You're not doing it for yourself, you're not doing it to stroke your ego, you're doing it in spite of yourself.

The victory over there has changed your life radically. How has the scrutiny and the attention affected you and your family?

Norman Schwarzkopf Interview Photo
Norman Schwarzkopf: Well, you don't have a private life anymore, that's the bad news. The good news is that you have a wonderful group of grateful Americans out there that come to you every single day, every single hour, every single minute and tell you that.

We've talked about this as a family. We've come to a recognition that our lives have changed forever. But we've also come to the recognition that it's for all the right reasons. When you've just signed the 800th autograph, and 801 comes up, and you've got bad writer's cramp, you just remind yourself that it's because people feel good about their country, they feel good about themselves, they feel good about their armed forces.

When they see you, you've reminded them of that, and that's why they come to you. Then you sign number 801, and go on. You don't say no to them, you say yes to them, because it's for all the right reasons.

Living in a fish bowl means you're constantly analyzed by the press. For the most part you've come out smelling like a rose. Has there been some criticism that irked you, or that you felt was just perhaps?

Norman Schwarzkopf: Oh, I could go on about that forever.

It's one of the terrible things about this country, that the minute people become public figures, there's members of the press who do everything they can to start destroying them, to tear them down. I never quite understood why. Some of the things, many of the things that have been said about me are just blatantly untrue. Some of the stories in the Gulf were manufactured by members of the press, and they wouldn't let go of them. Even when it was proven to them that the story was untrue, they continued to spread it around anyhow, only because they refused to admit that they might be wrong. So, I think it's too bad that that happens in this country because it keeps an awful lot of good people from serving this country, that otherwise would serve this country. But it goes with the territory. The important thing is, you can't let it get to you. You stay focused on the donut, instead of the hole. I honestly could care less what the press says about me. It's important to me what the American people think about me. And the American people come up and tell me over and over again how they feel about me. And if you stay focused on that - and I would also tell you what's very important to me, most of all, is what my family thinks about me. My family knows me for what I am and who I am, and that's all that counts. Thank God, my kids think I'm a pretty good dad. As long as they believe that, that's good enough for me, I don't need anything else.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

Any of them following in your footsteps?

Norman Schwarzkopf: No, not right now. I've got a daughter who's 21, another daughter who's 20, and a son who just turned 15. He is has not exhibited any interest in the military, and that's okay.

One of things I say to young people is, dare to be yourself. I want them to dare to be what they want to be. I don't want to build a box and force them into a mol, and make them do something because it will bring them fame, or fortune. I want them to do something because it will make them happy.

Would you want your son to go into the military?

Norman Schwarzkopf: No, and I'll tell you why. I think that sons of notorious Generals don't stand a chance. Everything that they do well and get credit for, everybody says, "Of course the only reason they're getting credit is because of their old man Schwarzkopf." And then the minute they stub their toe everybody says, "Well, gee, they sure can't fill their dad's footsteps." That puts a terrible burden on a younger person.

As I say, I want my son and daughters to be what they want to be.

Do you have a critic out there who you do rely on?

Norman Schwarzkopf: My wife, my children, my friends, myself. I'm my own strongest critic. I am much tougher on myself than anybody I know, consistently.

I gather that that's a positive thing in your eyes.

Norman Schwarzkopf: Of course. People who think they're right all the time scare the living daylights out of me, they really do. We all ought to recognize that none of us are infallible. We're all capable of making mistakes. That's okay, because you're human. What's important is to learn from those mistakes.

That's very good advice, because I think a lot of people feel like they're too self-critical, or they can't make mistakes. They're very rigid.

Norman Schwarzkopf: I give a lecture and it goes like leaders. I say, how many of you people learned something about how to do your present job by screwing it up the first time? I say, my goodness. How can you then possibly say, no mistakes in this outfit? How can you not allow yourself mistakes? You're not giving yourself a freedom to fail because I don't believe in the word failure. You're giving yourself the latitude to learn. I've learned most things I know how to do well, probably, by screwing it up the first time.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

What do you feel is the next danger area in world conflict?

Norman Schwarzkopf: I think it's obvious.

The Gulf War was a typical indication of what's happening in the world today. You are not going to see major armies confronting each other along a battle line, like you did in World War I, like you did in World War II, like we did in the confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. What you're going to see is regional conflicts, regional strifes, which tend to get bigger and bigger and suddenly spill over their boundaries and in fact, impact the rest of the world and the rest of the world gets drawn into it. That's the sort of thing you're seeing today in Yugoslavia. That's the sort of thing you're seeing in the former Soviet Union, and that's what we have to guard against. My answer to that is, get involved in it while it's still peaceful, before it turns into a war because you don't want to get dragged into these kinds of conflicts. But, let's face it, when we got involved in the Gulf in the Tanker War, when we got involved in the Gulf War, it was essentially a regional conflict that got too big and affected the rest of the world, and the rest of the world was dragged in.

Is the future for the military going to change a lot, as a result of the changes in the Soviet Union, and so forth?

Norman Schwarzkopf: I don't think it's going to change a lot. No more so than the future of this entire country is going to change. Since the end of World War II, our foreign policy has been dominated by confronting Communism throughout the world. Our military strategy has been fighting the Soviet Union. Our business strategy has been very much dominated by this thing. Now this is gone.

Norman Schwarzkopf Interview Photo
So, the central focus, the way of doing business in our government, in our world, in our military, is going to be refocused. That should change a lot of things.

But the fundamental mission of the armed forces is going to stay exactly the same: defend the country. We shouldn't get so euphoric that we decide to do away with the armed forces. When I graduated from West Point in 1956, if anybody had come to me and said, "Lieutenant, where do you expect to fight your wars?" I doubt very seriously if I would have said, "Oh, it's very clear, I'm going to fight in Vietnam, Granada and Iraq."

We don't know where the next war is going to be, and we can't just say, nothing is going to happen, therefore we ought to do away with the military.

What can you tell young people about the positive value of serving in the military?

Norman Schwarzkopf: The first thing about serving in the military is, you're serving something other than yourself. That's very important. I think you get a great sense of satisfaction when you server something better than yourself. That's number one.

Number two, it's an exciting career. I've traveled all over the world, lived all over the world, learned many, many things. I've enjoyed it, from the excitement of world travel, and the adventures that I've had. I've met some wonderful people, and I'm associated with great people. People that have been very, very close to me in the past and will be for the rest of my life, I've met in the military. I've enjoyed my military career. My family enjoyed my military career.

Norman Schwarzkopf Interview, Page: 1   2   3   4   5   6   

This page last revised on Dec 18, 2014 15:38 EDT
How To Cite This Page