Military Leadership influence on the Fire Service
Fire Officer III
Captain Robert Taylor
Throughout the history of our country the majority of our great leaders have served in the
United States Armed Forces. My position is to show that the leadership principles of the military correlate directly not only to the Fire Service but business leadership in general.
The three leaders I have chosen to research are Sun Tzu, Norman Schwarzkopf and
George H. W. Bush.
I believe that I will find Sun Tzu and Norman Schwarzkopf to be situational style leaders,
and George H.W. Bush to be a charismatic leader.
Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general and strategist in ancient China. His name is actually
an honorific meaning, Master Sun. His birth name was Sun Wu. He is credited as the author of The Art of War an influential book on military strategy. (Wikipedia)
One of the more well-known stories about Sun Tzu, taken from Sima Qian, illustrates Sun Tzu’s temperament as follows: Before hiring Sun Tzu, the King of Wu tested Sun Tzu’s skills by commanding him to train a harem of 180 concubines into soldiers. Sun Tzu divided them into two companies, appointing the two concubines most favored by the king as the company commanders. When Sun Tzu first ordered the concubines to face right, they giggled. In response, Sun Tzu said that the general, in this case himself, was responsible for ensuring that soldiers understood the commands given to them. Then, he reiterated the command, and again the concubines giggled. Sun Tzu then ordered the execution of the king’s two favored concubines, to the king’s protests. He explained that if the general’s soldiers understood their commands but did not obey, it was the fault of the officers. Sun Tzu also said that, once a general was appointed, it was his duty to carry out his mission, even if the king protested. After both concubines were
killed, new officers were chosen to replace them. Afterwards, both companies, now well aware of the costs of further frivolity, performed their maneuvers flawlessly. (Bradford 2000)
Five element model
Sun Tzu in chapter 1 paragraph 1 of the Art of War defines five elements that are crucial to the success of an organization in competitive situations. These five elements include an
understanding of: the climate (Tian), ground (Di), methods (Fa), philosophy/ culture (Tao), and the leader (Jiang) (Gagliardi, 2001). The first four deal with the situation and the follower, but
the fifth element deals specifically with the commander or leader. Sun Tzu further identifies the five characteristics of a leader as one who “must be smart, trustworthy, caring, brave, and strict” (p. 22). These traits form what could be called Sun Tzu’s five factor model.
These characteristics and traits are still being taught to the U.S. Army to date.
The Department of the Army, through its Command and General Staff College, has directed all units to maintain libraries within their respective headquarters for the continuing education of personnel in the art of war. The Art of War is mentioned as an example of works to be maintained at each facility, and officers are obliged to prepare short papers for presentation to other officers on their readings. (McNeilly 2001)
H Norman Schwarzkopf
General Schwarzkopf whose father was also a General spent his youth in school overseas while his father was stationed in Iran. He went to school in Iran, Switzerland, Germany and Italy and became fluent in French and German.
After returning to the United States, he followed in his father’s footsteps and entered West Point. He graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor’s of Science in mechanical engineering and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.
He received advanced infantry and airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia, before his first assignment, as executive officer of the 2nd Airborne Battle Group of the 187th Airborne
Infantry Regiment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Next were stints with the 101st Airborne, and the 6th Infantry in West Germany.
Norman Schwarzkopf returned to the United States and earned a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. His field of study was guided missile engineering.
By 1965 he was back at West Point, teaching engineering. More and more of his former classmates were heading to Vietnam as advisors to the South Vietnamese army and, in 1965; He applied to join them. As task Force Advisor to a South Vietnamese Airborne Division, he was promoted from Captain to Major.
In 1968, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and attended the Command and General Staff College at Leavenworth, Kansas. As U.S. casualties in Vietnam mounted, Colonel Schwarzkopf became convinced it was his duty to apply his training and experience there, where they might save the most lives. In 1969, he returned to Vietnam as a battalion commander. (“Norman Schwarzkopf-Biography 2012”)
One of the most remarkable incidents in a distinguished career happened on this tour. When Colonel Schwarzkopf received word that men under his command had encountered a minefield, he rushed to the scene in his helicopter. He found several soldiers still trapped in the minefield. Schwarzkopf urged them to retrace their steps slowly. Still, one man tripped a mine and was severely injured but remained conscious. As the wounded man flailed in agony, the soldiers around him feared that he would set off another mine. Schwarzkopf, also injured by the
explosion, crawled across the minefield to the wounded man and held him down so another could splint his shattered leg. One soldier stepped away to break a branch from a nearby tree to
make the splint. In doing so, he too hit a mine, killing himself and the two men closest to him, and blowing the leg off of Schwarzkopf’s liaison officer. Eventually, Colonel Schwarzkopf led his surviving men to safety. He was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery but, more importantly to
Norman Schwarzkopf, he cemented his reputation as an officer who would risk anything for the soldiers under his command. (“Norman Schwarzkopf-Biography 2012”)
Before the tour was up, he would earn three Silver Stars and be wounded again. In 1971, he returned to the United States. The Army sent him to speak to civilian groups about the war, and he was shocked at the depth of public hostility to the war and, increasingly, to the military. He came to believe that the government had embarked on a military venture with unclear objectives, no support from the public and a confused strategy that made victory impossible. For a time, he considered leaving the service, but determined that he would stay, and that any war fought under his command would be conducted very differently.
Over the next twenty years he rose through the General ranks, serving as the ground commander during the Grenada operation. In 1988, he received his fourth star and was appointed Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army Central Command.
General Schwarzkopf was Commander in Chief of U.S. Forces in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After the defeat of the Iraqi forces and a heroes homecoming General Schwarzkopf retired from the Army in 1992.
Norman Schwarzkopf’s fourteen rules of leadership
- Think of yourself as a leader. Leaders lead people, not systems, processes et al.
- Character. Requires sense of duty, ethics, morality – it is not a measure of competence. In times of crisis, people pick character to follow. Have strength of character – a prerequisite to having the courage to do the right thing.
- Leadership must be respected, even though not loved. Make it happen and take responsibility. You can delegate authority, and still take responsibility. It is more important to be respected than to be loved. Leaders do not seek to be pleasing first.
- The true rewards of leadership come from leadership itself – not the next promotion or tangible reward. Do not seek rewards; leadership is its own reward.
- No organization will get better until leadership admits that something is broken. The prevalent can do attitude must be willing to accept you can’t do before you know something has to change.
- The climate must allow people to speak up.
- Leaders establish goals for an organization. They must be understood and know their role in reaching the goal. FOCUS is the number #1 goal in the military. The greater the number of goals, the more confusion you get. Creating focus is the number #1 priority for a leader. Excellent leaders instill focus by creating shared goals that are clear and understood; everyone understands their roles in achieving the shared goals.
- Leaders set high standards; they don’t accept low standards. They set expectations. People go to work to succeed, not to fail.
- Leaders set high standards and clarify their expectations. They then expect that people will go to work on achieving these standards.
- Recognize and reward success – it is infectious. Failure is contagious. Leaders recognize and reward success. They understand deeply that both successes as well as failure are contagious.
- Accept a few mistakes. Provide the latitude to learn. Leaders accept a few mistakes but also, create the latitude and atmosphere to learn.
- Don’t tell them how to do the job – simply allocate resources, set standards and the results will exceed your expectations. Leaders do not deal with how to get the job done; they surround themselves with talent and then allocate resources and remove roadblocks to enable the talent to excel. Love the troops. Leaders love their troops and let them know in many ways.
- When placed in command, take charge. Even if the decision is bad, you have set change in motion. It is better than being stagnant. When placed in command, take charge.
- Do what is right. It is a sign of character. Have strength of character – a prerequisite to having the courage to do the right thing. Do the right thing – have the moral courage to do the right thing.
George H.W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush belongs to a political dynasty; he sits in the middle of three generations of politicians, including his father Prescott, a senator from Connecticut; his son Jeb, former governor of Florida; and his son, George Walker, the 43rd President of the United States.
Bush was born and raised in New England in a wealthy family. His parents valued hard work and public service and were strong influences in his life. He was educated at Phillips Academy Andover before joining the U.S. Navy and becoming a pilot, the youngest in the Navy, during World War II. (Miller Center)
Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday, June 12, 1942, as a Seaman 2nd Class. He was commissioned an ensign and pilot and served aboard the USS San Jacinto flying Grumman Avenger bombers with the 3rd and 5th Fleets. (Military.com)
On September 2, 1944, Bush was assigned to take out a radio station located in the Bonin Islands. In the course of the action, Bush’s plane was hit with enemy fire. Though the plane was on fire, he completed his strafing run on the targeted Japanese installation before flying towards sea to bail out offshore from Chichi Jima, a Japanese-held island near the more well-known Iwo Jima. He was rescued by a Navy submarine, the USS Finback. A genuine hero, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals. He was discharged in September 1945 with the rank of lieutenant (j.g.) (Military.com)
. Bush next turned his energies toward completing his education and raising a family.
After his graduation, George and Barbara Bush moved to Texas, where he worked as an oil field supply salesman for Dresser Industries. In 1951, he co-founded a small royalty firm, The Bush-Overbey Oil Development Company. Two years later he co-founded the Zapata Petroleum Corporation. In 1954, he became co-founder and president of a third firm, Zapata Off-Shore. (Military.com)
He eventually became involved in politics, first serving as the Republican Party chairman in Harris County, Texas, and then serving two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
After losing an election for the U.S. Senate in 1970, he was appointed the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by President Nixon. He went on to hold a number of positions within the presidential administrations of Nixon and Ford, including chairman of the Republican National
committee, U.S. envoy to China, and Director of Central Intelligence. He then served as Vice President of the U.S. from 1980-1988 when he was elected to his first term as President of the United States. (Miller Center)
Bush is known for exercising both a democratic and commanding leadership style. While he is prone answer questions on his own, he appreciates consensus and is a good listener. More importantly, he understands the importance of the democratic leadership style. It was his competence at working in between various leadership styles and basing his decision making on the specific situation that led to the international successes of his term. The Bush leadership philosophy is one that reflects the nature of the political environment and the difficultly of leading those who entrusted their lives to a leadership position. (Glueck 2008)
An example of his philosophy regarding the wellbeing of those he was entrusted to lead can be seen in a letter he wrote to his family during the days leading up to the Persian Gulf War.
Excerpts from the letter reveal
- He was not looking forward to what lay ahead but was not lonely as he had the backing of knowledgeable and committed people.
- He had peace of mind knowing he tried for peace and was backed by a coalition of many countries.
- That every human life is precious and that the answers to the question of how many lives are you willing to sacrifice is “none, none at all.”
- That he waited to give sanctions a chance and had “moved a tremendous force so as to reduce the risk to every American Solider if force has to be used.
(Letter to family 12/31/90)
The results of my research lead to the conclusion that none of the three leaders chosen could be classified into a single leadership style, situational would best describe them however all three move easily throughout all of the leadership styles freely as the situation dictates.
From the research completed I have found that all three have achieved what I believe to be a common characteristic of being able to switch leadership styles at will. This unique ability allows for them to lead under any circumstance and obtain whatever goal or mission they set out to accomplish. I believe that this should be considered as its own style of leadership and one that we all should strive to emulate throughout both or lives and careers.
The second leader I chose to research and the one I would most like to emulate is Norman Schwarzkopf because I served in a combat zone where he was the commander and believe his
fourteen rules of leadership and his ability to change leadership styles as the situation dictates relate directly to all business including the Fire Service.
His core values of taking charge, leading from the front, shared risk and misery are ideal ideologies that every Fire Officer should strive to obtain.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Tzu#cite_note-29 (Accessed 6/12/15)
Bradford, Alfred S. (2000), With Arrow, Sword, and Spear: A History of Warfare in the Ancient World,
McNeilly, Mark R. (2001), Sun Tzu and the Art of Modern Warfare,
http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/sch0bio-1 (Accessed 6/12/15)
http://millercenter.org/president/bush/essays/biography/print (Accessed 6/8/15)