Military News

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

NCLS 2015: AFGSC commander encourages cadets to be bold officers

By Amber Baillie
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

3/3/2015 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The commander of Air Force Global Strike Command shared stories about Airmen and public leaders to inspire cadets to be innovative Feb. 26 during the 22nd annual National Character and Leadership Symposium.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson spoke to cadets in Arnold Hall on the achievements of basketball star Michael Jordan, former Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs and others to outline essential qualities needed of Air Force leaders.

"Today we need bold leaders," he said. "We need leaders with vision who dare to push the boundaries. Real leaders are those who see something and say, 'I'm going to make a difference.' It starts with initiative."

Wilson said real leaders continue to learn every day.

"When I was a wing commander at a pilot training base, I used to laugh when cadets would graduate and say, 'Yay, learning is finally over,"' he said. "In reality, it had just begun. I encourage you to read every day. It can be fiction, non-fiction or anything. Diversity of thought is important. Expand your horizon. Don't let yourself get pigeonholed into groupthink. Reading expands your world view and if you don't continue to read and learn, you will become irrelevant to those you lead."

Communication is foundational in leadership success, Wilson said. He noted Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president, as one of the greatest communicators of all time, changing the course of history with his Gettysburg Address on equality during the Civil War.

"Your ability to communicate will separate the good from the great," he said. "We have some great examples now, such as the chief of staff of the Air Force, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. He is one of the most gifted communicators I've ever heard. He has a way of powerfully connecting to every audience. Leaders who can communicate their ideas, beliefs, passions and reason will inspire others."

When leaders empower their Airmen, they remove obstacles and barriers to their success.

"We have some really talented and capable young Airmen today," Wilson said. "You need to let them do their job. Delegate levels of responsibility and don't micromanage them. They're continuing to stretch and grow and the Air Force will be better because of it."

Wilson emphasized small wins produce big victories.

"It's okay to strike out," he said. "It's okay to fail. We're going to learn something from it. If we're not pushing the envelope on how we do things, we're not trying hard enough. That's what we've learned on our journey at AFGSC."

As the commander of AFGSC, Wilson is responsible for organizing, training and maintaining all U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear-capable bomber forces.

"Innovation is in our DNA - it's in our lifeblood," he said. "It is how we continue to move the world forward, by being bold and innovative leaders willing to challenge the status quo, think differently and make the Air Force what it needs to be."

Real leaders identify and develop real talent, Wilson said.

"Michael Jordan went home crying to his dad in high school because he was cut from the basketball team because he wasn't good enough," he said. "I've talked to a lot of people who were told, 'I couldn't do this.' They proved them wrong. Most of the time, they had a mentor, someone to listen to, someone they respected and who pushed, motivated and inspired them to become who they are."

Wilson's father and grandfather attended the U.S. Military Academy. His grandfather was aide to Army Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright during the Allied surrender at Bataan April 9, 1942.

"It was the largest surrender in U.S. history," Wilson said. "You learn so many things from your family growing up and in my case, I learned about duty, honor and country, sitting around the dining room table. I was blessed to grow up in a family with strong military tradition who live their core values. Those are a couple of my heroes and role models--who are yours?"

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