Mark Schmidt grew up as a farm kid, and credits his journey into the Air Force to God who provided him with opportunities to become a commander of a fighter squadron—a role he uses to demonstrate the faith-based leadership he learned from his parents growing up. Mark lives out his faith in his everyday life, and exudes a Gospel that people under his influence witness in the way that he leads.
I preach the Gospel always, and sometimes use words.
“Endorsement of one religion as a commander would get me fired,” said Mark. “How I carry myself and how I treat others is how I witness. I ‘preach the Gospel always, and sometimes use words.’ As a leader, people will remember very little of what you say; they will remember how they felt about you and how they felt around you.”
Focusing on others’ needs.
Mark strives to focus on the needs of others as a way to share his faith. It’s not just about the Air Force, it’s about individual lives. “We still have a very challenging mission to accomplish,” Mark says. “But I’ve learned to focus efforts on development of the entire person to make us better at instructing.” Developing the entire person involves life outside the Air Force as well. He also fully recognizes and understands that one of the greatest resources they have are the families back home. “Military spouses are the most undervalued resource we have,” Mark explains. “Their level of sacrifice brings me to my knees. I have families who have missed the birth of their children because of combat duties. Children who were undergoing cancer treatment did not have both parents at home because of deployments. THIS IS NUTS. The military spouse is asked to do so much and gets very little credit or recognition.”
The difference in Mark’s squadron comes back to leadership and faith.
There is an obvious difference in Mark’s squadron as a result of his leadership, and it all comes back to his faith. Mark feels that God has been leading him to take his instruction to another level. “We are calling our new initiative ‘Next Level Instruction’. We are changing the way we instruct—we are focused on coaching vs. evaluation and what we need to change to reach a younger generation of fighter pilots.”
Higher ranking officials are taking notice. Leaders have recognized something different in Mark’s squadron —so much so that they have been asked to present an exportable model. “Let me be clear,” says Mark. “This never happens. I really feel like this happened because someone greater than all of us is in control of the situation.”
Mark explains that being an exemplary squadron is not always an easy feat. He continues to remind his team what the squadron is all about, how they act as instructors and who they are as leaders. When bad habits show up and linger in the culture of the squadron, Mark strives to address them before they infect the entire team. He leads a squadron that positively impacts the culture. “Our objective is to have a squadron that is so passionate about our mission and vision that it spreads outside of our building,” says Mark. “We desire a squadron that is peer led, where people are empowered to lead. From our squadron, our wingman graduates carry the vision and mission to other squadrons and we positively impact our climate and culture in ways that can only be labeled as ‘supernatural.’”
The Global Leadership Summit has been instrumental.
“Whenever I need inspiration, I play a GLS video,” says Mark. “When new instructors come into the squadron, we have them watch videos from the GLS and discuss.”
The GLS sessions help him and his squadron grow to be better leaders, and lead ‘from here to there.’ With all that Mark has learned, he hopes to raise up empowered leaders who change the culture, and prays for the next generation of leaders behind him.
“My biggest prayer right now is that I will humbly pass the torch to the next commander.”
Enjoy Mark Schmidt’s grander vision video featured at the 2016 GLS:
We are grateful for leaders like Mark who live out their faith in the workplace, and spread the Gospel in ways that show up in their everyday life.