MSgt Brian P. Kennedy
Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy
5 May 2014
Instructor: SMSgt Sheddrick Simpson
Franz Stigler’s actions not only saved a crew of a B-17, the enemy, but saved his humanity. From the day he was drafted into service as a flight instructor, Franz was entrusted with visionary leadership. He also reflected ethical leadership on 20 December 1943. As with many from that generation, Franz approached war from the point of view of his country and his belief that what he was doing was just. It was his job to train pilots well, and when his turn to fight, do just that, kill the enemy.
Franz Stigler was initially a glider pilot in his youth. His father and parish priest started a club for young men and the joy of watching flight captured his imagination. After high school and some college, he was trained to be an airline pilot with Lufthansa. Since it was the rebuilding of Germany, the government paid for this training. In turn, Franz was pressed into civilian service with the German air force as a flight instructor. It was here that his natural leadership abilities shined.
One notable student was Gerhard Barkhorn. This was during B school where pilots learned more advanced skills in flying such as distance flying, navigation, and the handling of emergencies. During one extra training session, Franz noted that bark horn was a horrible pilot and should be washed out. This would no doubt place the cadet into the infantry and yet, not at war, Germany was heading that way. Franz executed transformational leadership during this flight. Barkhorn felt defeated again when Franz took over the controls, but instead of landing the plane he continued north. Here he distracted Barkhorn with the buzzing of a nudist camp. This allowed Barkhorn to think less and fly more naturally. It was this realization from the student that his brain was getting in the way thus enabled him to improve his skills and overcome his own worry and doubt and become a fighter pilot (Makos, p.74). It was Franz who executed an individualized consideration and intellectual stimulation on Barkhorn showing he understood his subordinate and the challenges he was facing. The next student of interest was a Captain.
Franz had positional authority however he did not hold a military rank. This was fine when his students were cadets and not yet officers, but sometimes students showed up already experienced officers. While giving a lecture this Captain sat in the back of the class and read his newspaper. When Franz challenged him about this the response was Franz had no authority over him (p.75). Franz knew this to be correct so he brought this up the chain to the General in charge of the flight school. The General enlisted Franz there on the spot and in turn gave him the military authority with the position. This allowed Franz to expel the Captain. When the Captain tracked him down, Franz noted to the Captain that if he...