Nearly everybody who remembers General Norman Schwarzkopf has a strong opinion about him. He had a personality that matched his substantial size---even as a cadet at West Point sixty years ago, he was already 6'3" and 225 pounds, when this was really big---and he cultivated the outgoing nature that was his hallmark. Schwarzkopf considered himself an infantry soldier for his entire professional life, even after he became a general officer, highly unusual in a world in which generals spend most of their time on superfluous staffs and think that they are executives.
Despite having had a successful career, he did not come to national attention until later in life, when he was the boss of Central Command during Operation Desert Storm. His fame was the result of several things that came together for the first time.
Desert Storm pitted an Iraqi army of limited capability against the massive technological prowess of the United States. We used overwhelming combat power to achieve a specific and---this is important---limited objective. Like a well-constructed song or novel, it had a beginning, a middle and an end, and so it was intellectually satisfying, even to observers with no military experience. And it was short. Before anybody had an opportunity to become concerned about our motives or tired of the spectacle or worried about the draft or multiple deployments, the whole thing was over.
And the star of the show was Schwarzkopf. Knowing that the conflict would be short, and happy to take center stage anyway, he, rather than a lower-ranking flunky, led many of the daily press briefings. He was good TV, relaxed, natural and quick-witted, and he looked like he was having fun every minute. In addition, because he controlled the distribution of information, the briefings were composed almost entirely of good news. The public ate it up.
Celebrity is short-lived and superficial, and what has been lost in Schwarzkopf's celebrity is a characteristic many would be well-advised to emulate. He liked to surround himself with good people. Too many leaders fear being upstaged by exceptionally skilled subordinates or are more comfortable among yes-men. Schwarzkopf wanted people who could think outside the box. Among the most notable was an Air Force Colonel named John Warden, who was the architect of the revolutionary air campaign during Desert Storm. The success of that part of the operations plan was what gave the ground troops the leverage to annihilate the Iraqi forces, and without Warden's groundbreaking thinking, the campaign would have been messier, longer and much more dangerous to American forces. Many generals would have ignored Warden, or discouraged him outright, but Schwarzkopf, to his great credit, did not.
Often obnoxious, irritating, opinionated and stubborn, Schwarzkopf was easy to fear and dislike. He was headstrong, too, and some people accused him of grandstanding for his own aggrandizement. But those who knew him grasped that he was the quintessential boiled candy: hard on the outside and soft on the inside. His bravado concealed a highly emotional man with an understanding of his own weaknesses and the importance of leading in full view of those who need to be motivated to do things they otherwise would not do.