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Leadership Perspectives: 50th CONS

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Maj. Neal Wall is the commander of the 50th Contracting Squadron, he took command of the squadron almost two years ago and has served 14 years in the Air Force. He took a few minutes out of his day to share some of his leadership insights.

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Maj. Neal Wall is the commander of the 50th Contracting Squadron, he took command of the squadron almost two years ago and has served 14 years in the Air Force. He took a few minutes out of his day to share some of his leadership insights.

  1. What was your motivation for joining the Air Force and where did you start your career?

    I wanted to join the Air Force ever since I was a kid. I was born in Miami, Florida and lived near Homestead Air Force Base, Florida until I was 10 years old. My dad used to take me to a spot outside of Homestead AFB and we would watch the F-16s land. I was fascinated with these fighter jets and knew that was what I wanted to do when I grew up. Unfortunately, my vision didn’t allow me to follow through on this dream, but I still knew I wanted to join the Air Force. My dad, two of his brothers and one of his sisters all joined the Air Force in the 1960s and served varying amounts of time. My grandfather, a pilot during World War II, was shot down, became a POW and then escaped from a prison camp. Service to our country runs in our family and I knew I wanted to follow this path of ‘service before self’. 

     

    My Air Force journey started in high school when I volunteered as a member of the local Civil Air Patrol squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. After high school, I attended The Citadel Military College and participated in AFROTC. My official active duty Air Force career began in July 2004 when I arrived as a brand new second lieutenant to 50th CONS at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The 50th CONS consists of a truly incredible team of Airmen. It’s an honor and a privilege to come full circle and have the opportunity to lead 50th CONS. 

     

  2. What do you feel your strengths and weaknesses are?

    My biggest strength is my attention to detail.  In the contracting career field, attention to detail is critical to ensure we award contracts in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation and make business decisions that are the best value for our customers and the taxpayers.  Attention to detail is also an important part of both written and spoken communication.  It is this attention to detail that we all must continuously strive to improve as part of our profession as Airmen and to be effective leaders. 

     

    On the other hand, my high attention to detail can also be a weakness in the sense that I want to ensure I know every detail before making a decision or providing guidance on how to move forward. This is a weakness because it slows down the decision making process. There are many times when all the details will not be known, but a decision is required. In these cases, where speed is more important than having all the details, you have to make a decision based on what is known at the time. You may have heard that sometimes it’s better to move forward with the 80% solution now versus waiting for the 100 percent solution later. In the end, you have to balance the amount of details you need to make an informed decision with the urgency of when a decision is needed while also taking into account the risks you are willing to and have the authority to accept.       

     

  3. How do you handle stress or challenges?

    I like challenges, and I find that I work better and I am more productive, when under stress. That’s one of the reasons I attended The Citadel in South Carolina. I wanted a stressful environment to challenge myself. When faced with a stressful challenge, I break the overall end-state into smaller more manageable pieces. This allows me to focus on the various components of the challenge and tasks at hand. For example, the Fitness Assessment is stressful to me.  Specifically, the aerobic component. To deal with this, during the test, I only think about two laps at a time.  Breaking the test down into two laps a time makes the challenge less stressful and more achievable. This is a simplistic example, but you can use a similar method for any stressful challenge. Look at the path required to get to the end state, and then break down that path into small and manageable pieces. This will provide you with small wins along the path to your end state and give you the motivation required to reach your final objective.       

     

  4. What common trait do you think all successful leaders have?

    There are many traits that successful leaders have in common, but honesty, loyalty, caring and high standards are a few that come to mind. Leaders need to be honest in everything they do.  There is a reason integrity first is one of our core values. Honesty builds trust, and trust is crucial between a leader and those they lead. If you lose your subordinate’s trust, then you are no longer an effective leader. It is also important for a leader to have loyalty up and down the chain of command. This loyalty is built upon trust and honesty. It’s crucial for leaders to be loyal to those they serve and lead and to the Air Force mission. At the same time, leaders must genuinely care about their people and attend to their needs so they can focus on the mission. Finally, leaders have to set high standards. It is not enough for leaders to meet minimum standards; leaders should strive to significantly exceed minimum standards.

     

  5. Is there anything else you would like to add about leadership?

You don’t have to be in a formal leadership position to lead.  Find those base or community event-opportunities and go lead one of them.  If you wait until you are in a formal leadership position to lead, then you won’t have those previous leadership experiences to draw upon.  Take advantage of every leadership opportunity you can.  Leadership opportunities aren’t always going to find you.  Early in your career, you have to find leadership opportunities and own them.  If you do a good job and are successful, then bigger leadership opportunities will come your way.  In whatever capacity you lead, take care of your people and hold yourself and those you lead accountable.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but learn from your mistakes and don’t make the same ones twice.