As Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Brig. General Robert C. Nolan II commands 16,000 men and women who develop, test, and evaluate manned and unmanned aircraft systems in both experimental and proven aerospace vehicles.
That’s no small job, especially when you consider that Gen. Nolan’s work supports the conduct of test and evaluation programs for the Department of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps.
Gen. Nolan assumed command of AFFTC on October 5, 2010, coming to Edwards from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., where he served as director of Standing Joint Force Headquarters, U.S. Northern Command.
Among the more innovative initiatives he’s overseeing – efforts to bring new technology to the forefront to help the nation meet its many challenges overseas including hydrogen powered unmanned aerial vehicle that can loiter over a location for a week at a time.
Gen. Nolan was named one of the 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and Chase Bank. We asked about how he overcomes obstacles and approaches innovation.
Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.
The last organization I commanded was called on to support the earthquake relief effort in Haiti. We were asked to fill a gap in staffing capability in a regional combatant command. We were trained and ready to respond within hours but were used in a manner that we did not foresee. We used high-end communications equipment and social media technology to create a virtual office and meeting place to gather specifics on the disaster, exchange real time information and target relief supplies.
In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?
Innovation is simply trusting and enabling people in your organization. Innovation comes from fostering an environment of trust and allowing people to take risk without penalty. We are currently supporting several innovative efforts to bring new technology to the forefront to help the nation meet its many challenges overseas, including hydrogen-powered, unmanned aerial vehicle that can loiter over a location for a week at a time.
How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?
I am currently the commander of an organization that employs or supports the employment of 16,000. Many of these people serve in high-end engineering and science jobs working on cutting edge technology for the Department of Defense.
How to reach: Edwards Air Force Base, http://www.edwards.af.mil/
The Smart Leaders Class of 2010
In November 2010, Smart Business and Chase Bank recognized 10 business leaders for their commitment to business excellence and the impact their organizations make on the regional community. Treated to a keynote address by MemorialCare Health System CEO Dr. Barry Arbuckle, these 10 leaders composed the honor roll: