Lessons from General Erwin Rommel
The Desert Fox


By studying the lives of exceptional people, we gain insights that may in turn help us to become exceptional. Here are some of the highlights from my recent readings on Rommel.

1. Blitzkrieg: Like Napolean, Speed is a powerful demoralizing weapon. The rapid advance of German Panzer Divisions was like lightning... The swift thrust of the tanks was so rapid that it totally discombobulated the French... At times, Rommel advanced so swiftly that he was detached from the army. He simply rushed forward. Wherever he went was his.

2. Style: He was unpopular with his peers and superiors. He defied orders... but he had an instinct for battle. He was there in the pocket of fire... he did not shrink from the front. Because he was a winner, he was well received by those who mattered most, the Dictators of Germany and Italy who ultimately approved and supported him.

3. Initiative: Rommel, in the battle, was not interested in "correct" memos and routines. He issued orders from the midst of the heat and followed his instincts, which had proven good most of his career. He would act based on front line information, not waiting for decisions from higher ups a thousand miles in the rear.

4. Ego: his was huge... he wanted glory, wanted to win and did not wish to be portrayed as anything but a winner. He had a PR staff promoting his image.... and he was the one general who was distinctly known by Germans and Allies alike. He built a reputatio that had more power than even the man himself...

5. Politics: He was not a political animal, although in the end, politics killed him. The failed assasination attempt that brought about his downfall did have his circuitous assent.

6. Fate: Rommel had numerous close calls with death.... Our Destiny is partially determined by fortune and Providence. Rommel did not wait for fate to make him famous... he fought hard to secure his reputation. When he had the opportunity, he seized the day each and every chance he could get.

7. Experience: Rommel was schooled on the battlefields of WW I, not textbooks and classrooms. There is no better teacher...

8. Feints and Fakeouts: In war, the ability to deceive the enemy provides added strength... One good fakeout also helps throw uncertainty into the enemy's minds. Since the British Generals were told not to advance until they could be Certain of victory, they were stymied, because Rommel had so deftly fooled them several times. This was a Rommel asset and British handicap.
When he re-shuffled his Panzer divisions, it was always done in such a way as to conceal his intentions.

9. Stamina: When the heat was on, he could go days with minimal sleep. "His superhuman energy was the despair of his more mortal staff."

10. Choose your friends carefully: When the assasination attempt (on Hitler) failed, it cost him his life.

11. Building Loyalty: "there is this strange magic strength that (Rommel) radiates to his troops, right down the the last rifleman. The privates call him Erwin... it is a mark of profound admiration." ... "he doesn't sentimentalize with them, but meets them man to man, often uses hard language with them, but also knows how to praise and encourage them and make suggestions*, and make complicated subjects easily comprehensible to them." ---War reporter Baron von Esebeck
note: Rommel ate the same food as his men... did not indulge in luxuries during battle times
*so simliar to Napolean in this regard.

12. Boldness: "Take whichever decision is bolder -- it's always best." When Rommel outlined his plan for the assault on Tobruk, his chief of staff said, "You will be risking your entire reputation."




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