General Carl Stiner (Retired)


Shadow Warriors is the story of the Special Forces coauthored by General Stiner (Retired) the second Commander of the U. S. Special Operations Command.

      Carl Stiner on Leadership:

The following adaptation of the Appendix II of Shadow Warriors reflects the simple yet forceful and the proven effective as well as time tested personal leadership principles and techniques used by General Stiner during his long and successful military career.  These leadership principles apply to all leadership situations!


Based upon Carl Stiner’s Appendix II of “Shadow Warriors

By Tom Clancy and Carl Stiner

  (Compiled by David Ray Smith, February 2002)

Carl Stiner came into my life through our joint involvement in America’s Promise and efforts to provide science equipment to Campbell County Schools.  He gave the commencement address for the East Tennessee Regional Leadership program where he spoke on some of the events of his military life in light of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.  The book he co-authored with Tom Clancy details many of his unique experiences and dedicated leadership in the fight against terrorism the world over.  As Tom Clancy states in the acknowledgements of “Shadow Warriors, Carl Stiner is “a quiet hero if there ever was one, and a man you definitely want on your side.”  

His calm and demurring mannerisms belie the assurance with which he takes action and the quiet yet forceful impact he has on everyone around him.  The insight into his thoughts on leadership shared in Appendix II of “Shadow Warriors” is a rare glimpse into true leadership, true devotion to duty, true love for one’s country and exceptional personal characteristics of an American Hero who lives quietly in Campbell County, Tennessee yet who still commands the utmost respect of world leaders.  The traits of leadership listed below come from the epitome of a tried and true leader with extensive practical experience – General Carl Stiner (Ret.).

The Army’s institutionalized education system is a system uniquely designed to provide each officer and noncommissioned officer the technical and tactical proficiency necessary for every level of command.  This system is thought by General Carl Stiner (Ret.) to do the best-known job of producing leaders.  He is a product of that system, and yet is the exception to the rule in that his leadership ability goes beyond the system’s elite and finest leaders.

The Army’s system that develops leaders considers every level and prepares leaders to move to the next level of responsibility.  The broad scope of leadership education provided by this unique system is unparalleled in all other leadership-training programs.  The key visionaries that have brought this leadership-training program to its preeminence have done so through personally supervising training, by giving priority to the training process, by providing necessary resources and updating doctrine as required.  The results have been seen in recent successful operations in many parts of the world.  Operational leadership in such groups as our Special Forces may well be at the highest ebb of effectiveness ever.

  What Makes a Leader?

Effective leaders share certain basic characteristics.  Yet not all persons with the characteristics to be a good leader becomes one.  Leadership skills are primarily acquired.  The specific actions and details have to learned and repeated until they are internalized.  Carl Stiner’s experience learning leadership provides the basis for the insights contained in these few paragraphs.

Leadership does not just happen to a person.  A person becomes a leader because of a sincere desire to lead, being willing to give what it takes and by containing within the fundamental attributes and professional qualities that all successful leaders must possess.

An officer in the armed forces takes an oath that is a sacred responsibility for the lives and well-being of those entrusted to that officer’s leadership.  This responsibility is all encompassing and never ending. It requires the officer to consider the “whole person.”  Not only must the soldiers being led become the best soldiers possible the leader must also take care of their families and develop each soldier into a productive citizen.

Some other fundamental qualities of leadership are:

A leader should be physically fit.  Additionally a leader must be confident in his/her own abilities; must be mentally tough, particularly on themselves; must be courageous; must be willing to take risks; must train subordinates by providing them with an environment in which to grow – expecting mistakes and acting as a “heat shield” to protect them.  A leader should not serve to feed their own ego; rather they should stimulate the ego of those entrusted to his/her leadership.  A leader should never need to be told what to do, but must be a person of vision – always looking ahead and planning ways to take their team to a higher level of effectiveness.  A successful leader will never take credit for personal successes or for the successes of their team.  All credit should be given to the team – remember it is the teams, whether they be squads, platoons or crews, that win the battles and ultimately wars.  This applies in all areas of leadership.

A leader must create within their team “a healthy environment,” one that promotes the total health and growth of the whole person.  Within this environment each person will believe that what he or she is doing at any particular time is the most important thing they could be doing.  Great honor and self-respect is built when one feels they are truly focused on important activities meaningful to the welfare of others.

A leader must develop a “spiritual soundness program” for the team that meets the spiritual needs of the individuals and their families.  Many individuals may not have experienced any spiritual balance in their lives.  To succeed at any endeavor one must achieve a suitable balance of spirituality within their lives. 

A leader must cause those following him/her to believe their mission is vital and to prepare to the best of their ability for its achievement.  Each individual must understand that other individuals in the team have the same motivation and dedication and that they should therefore respect and take care of each other.  If this element of leadership is effectively implemented the individuals being led will feel each day is worthwhile and a rewarding experience.  They will also feel that the team they are a part of is the best team in the overall organization and will desire to help each other.

A leader must talk to those being led.  Clear communication of mission, training objectives, goals and objectives of the team and of the leader as well as the expectations the leader has for standards of conduct, duty and performance must be fully understood if one is to lead successfully.

A leader must get team members started off right.  A formal welcome program where the leader personally welcomes and orients all new members is important.  This lets the new team member get to know the leader quickly and helps them to come to understand the importance of the team’s mission.  A formal and personal welcome done properly will cause the newcomers to feel they are in the best place they could be for accomplishing an important mission and for furthering their personal growth goals.  Sponsorship is a key element of quick and effective orientation to new members.  Someone already experienced in the group should take the new member under their wing and help them become acclimated and quickly feel a part of the group.

A leader should never forget the needs of the team members when they are away from the formal team organization.  A well-rounded social life is an encouragement and helps team members maintain a balance between mission and healthy relaxation.

A leader is responsible for morale, good order, and discipline in the group.  This requires full knowledge of what is going on at all times.  Subordinate supervisors must be relied upon to take a significant role in assuring this element of leadership is passed down through the levels of responsibility.

A leader must realize that every team member is important.  A charge General Stiner gave his subordinates: “You should put into every soldier the same love, devotion, and caring you would want someone someday to put into your own son or daughter.”  He goes on to add that after having done this, if they fail to perform up to standards – if you can’t depend on that soldier in combat – then get rid of him soonest.  Taking this principle of leadership and applying it more broadly than a military application means that a leader should treat each team member with love, devotion and caring and then if they do not perform give them another opportunity in another group.  This principle of love, devotion and caring is also in line with the current thinking on “Servant Leadership” and is proven as a truly superb motivation when sincere leaders apply it.

A leader is responsible for the training of the team and mission related training should be the first priority.  Training must be oriented toward mission accomplishment and must be realistic.  Simulations cannot provide the proficiency required for top performance.  The training must exercise the trainee in real situations with coaching and close supervision until proficiency is demonstrated.

A leader must have the respect of the team members.  Respect must be earned, period.  Respect comes from the leader sharing in the hardships of the team.  Personal participation in the difficult tasks so as to know first-hand the impact on the individual required to perform the task and to be present personally when the hard work is being done will go along way to building trust and the resulting respect.  Only when the team members trust you will they talk to you and “tell it like it is” without fear of reprisal.  They will develop faith in the leader who demonstrates care, builds trust and earns respect.

A leader must place a high priority on training.  The training should be tough and realistic preparing the team member for the difficult tasks of the job. They know if they are important to the leader by the level of training they are provided before being asked to perform difficult work.  They realize the training is for their own good and ultimately will result in them being able to accomplish the mission.

A leader must maintain a constant state of readiness in the team.  The team must be able to accomplish its mission at any time and every time called upon.  If a problem develops within the team, it should be corrected immediately.  If the problem is beyond the leader’s control, it must be elevated to the level with the authority and ability to fix the problem.  Never allow a known problem to continue to exist.

A leader should recognize that competition is healthy as long as it is not at the expense of another team or individual.  Competition for recognition as the best team in any aspect of the mission is good and should be encouraged. 

A leader must learn from others.  Role models and mentors are important regardless if they are formally assigned or just naturally recognized and utilized to learn effective behaviors.   Seek those individuals who have experience in leadership, who take care of the people in their charge, who have earned respect and who have developed trust over years of leadership challenges.  Seasoned veterans of leadership are the true leaders who have staying power and who can recognize the changes necessary to maintain effective leadership, yet who also recognize the leadership principles that are eternal and lasting and on those principles they refuse to give any quarter or allow them to be compromised.

In conclusion, General Stiner states “Over the last decade, the services have greatly improved their education system by taking advantage of the talents and experience of the likes of General Colin Powell, Ambassador Donald Rumsfeld, General Jack Vessey, General Carl Vuono, General John Foss, General Jim Lindsay, General Bob Kingston, General P. X. Kelley, General Bill Livsey, Lieutenant General  Dick Lawrence, General Fredrick Kroesen, General Edward C. (Shy) Meyer, General George Blanchard, and General Roscoe Robinson by making them “senior mentors” in intermediate and senior-level service schools.  Their talents are also used in the CAPSTONE Course and in senior-level joint war fighting exercises.

  As I said in the beginning, I do not know of any institution that puts more into the training of its leaders, or any institution that produces better leaders.  This is only fitting, considering that the responsibility for preserving our freedom rests squarely on the shoulders of our armed forces. It is indeed a most worthy and essential national investment.”

What better source to look to for proven leadership principles in action!  What better example for anyone seeking to effectively implement competent leadership!  Where could one better obtain proven key elements for effective leadership?  General Stiner is a personal example of exemplary leadership.  General Stiner embodies the principles, has internalized the behaviors and demonstrates the values of truly disciplined and continually successful leadership practices both in the heat of battle and in all other aspects of his life. We will do well to emulate his example and to heed the guidance provided in the above set of leadership principles “A leader is…” from Appendix II of “Shadow Warriors" by Tom Clancy and Carl Stiner - David Ray Smith





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