Wing commander talks leadership at annual business conference

Air Force photograph by Michelle Thomas

The Antelope Valley Board of Trade held its 46th Annual Business Outlook Conference at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds in Lancaster, Calif., Mar. 2.
This year’s theme, “Small Business, Big Results,” highlighted the plight of small businesses and how they and larger employers impact the Antelope Valley.

Invited speakers talked about improving business in the Antelope Valley, with such topics ranging from the national economy, doing business with aerospace companies and labor law.

One of those speakers was Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, 412th Test Wing commander, at Edwards Air Force Base.

During his opening comments, Schaefer, who was recently nominated for a second star, noted the “typo” on his slides as the words Antelope Valley had been replaced with the words “Aerospace Valley.”

“That’s the way I think of this valley … as the Aerospace Valley,” said Schaefer, who went on to explain how his family considers the A.V. to be home after multiple tours here.

According to Schaefer, Edwards AFB is the largest employer in the Antelope Valley with the mission to continue to modernize and innovate the warfighter with the ultimate goal to remain the most lethal Air Force in the world.

The general noted that the only way he and his leaders can accomplish this mission is through solid leadership.

“First of all, recognize and communicate personal priorities to your folks,” said Schaefer.

He cited faith, family, Air Force and mission as the cornerstones of his personal priorities. Regarding professional priorities, the commander emphasized the importance of creating a “culture of value.”

“Everyone’s of value and deserves to be treated that way. When you recognize that, you have a culture where people have a smile on their face when they come to work… harassment and discrimination cannot exist in a culture of value.”

Communicating an organization’s vision and mission also topped the list of the general’s priorities.

“Avoid falling prey to the ‘culture of assumption,’” Schaefer said. “A cultural of assumption is where as a leader, I think…‘If I tell people my mission and vision once, it’s known down to the lowest employee.’ That is a false assumption. It’s important as leaders to communicate the mission and vision at every opportunity to go over your values to make sure your folks understand.”

Throughout the 20-minute talk, Schaefer highlighted such leadership goals like the importance of maintaining your integrity, being humble and approachable, and most important, “do not walk past a problem without trying to fix it.”

Among the leadership strategies Schaefer most lauded is what he referred to as the inspirational leader.

According to the general, when employees aren’t just engaged, but inspired, that’s when breakthroughs happen.

“You can scare, reward or inspire folks…which leader do you want to be?” asked Schaefer. “I want to be an inspirational leader. And for me, I do this through connecting people to something bigger than themselves.”