COMMENTARY | This morning, while listening to the morning news on National Public Radio, I was saddened to learn that General Norman Schwarzkopf had passed away.
General Schwarzkopf, in being eulogized by our nation's leaders, was remembered as a great patriot, a soldier with a warrior spirit, an inspiring leader, and a good and decent man. He was that and much more.
In the early 1990's I was a member of the Travis County Sheriff's Department SWAT Team in Austin, Texas. I eventually supervised the team in 1993. It was during that period of time that General Schwarzkopf was leading the U.S.-allied troops to victory during Operation Desert Storm. He was a leader for the times and was certainly an inspiration for me as a young SWAT sergeant.
Newly promoted supervisors spend their formative years developing leadership skills. This is especially true for those serving in the military, or in paramilitary organizations such as a Sheriff's Department. In Texas, newly promoted law enforcement supervisors are mandated to successfully pass a "new supervisor course." The purpose of the course is to provide new supervisors with necessary leadership skills. This is very helpful indeed, but the best lessons are often learned by doing.
During my 27-year tenure with the Travis County Sheriff's Department I was fortunate to attend several training courses focusing on leadership development. This training was certainly beneficial and assisted me as I promoted to the rank of captain. Students attending these training courses spend considerable time studying the traits of the great leaders of history. Consistently, General Schwarzkopf was acknowledged as one of those leaders. It is easy to understand why.
General Schwarzkopf was given the nicknames of "Stormin' Norman" and "The Bear" by the soldiers he commanded. He was obviously pragmatic, charismatic, and larger than life. However, one thing stands out for me. General Schwarzkopf was a leader who led from the front. I recall seeing the General many times during the Desert Storm Operation and he was always walking amongst the troops, engaging the men and women who were serving under his command. That is the style of leadership that I embraced when I was a law enforcement supervisor; and one that I had to fine tune while on the job. Personally, General Schwarzkopf was more than a great military leader; he was also a great teacher. Though I never met him in person he taught me how to lead from the front. He taught me how to lead through diversity. He will be missed.