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
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
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
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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