Senior Leader Profile: Respect, flexibility guide AFNWC director’s leadership

  • Published
  • By Aimee Malone
  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center
Respect for others and flexibility are two guiding principles of leadership for Kevin Daul, director of the Nuclear Technology and Integration Directorate at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.

Daul has served in the Air Force throughout his career in both active-duty military and civilian positions. He has worked in a variety of fields, including nuclear satellite survivability, nuclear nonproliferation treaty monitoring and nuclear forensics. He started at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons center in 2009 and became director of the Nuclear Technology and Integration Directorate in 2020.

“I have been very fortunate throughout my career, whether it was active duty or as a government civilian, to have a diverse and varied career,” Daul said. “I was fortunate enough to lead many early phase acquisition efforts, to include the analysis of alternatives for the ground-based strategic deterrent, now called the Sentinel program. I would consider that a very major achievement and one of the highlights of my career.”

His career has allowed him to interact with a diverse group of people. He said he has learned a lot from those leaders, coworkers and employees, including the leaders he has worked with at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.

“I have been very fortunate to know and work with tremendous people, tremendous leaders,” he said. “I think a consistent theme throughout all of these folks is to be fair to people, be professional and live by the Air Force core values. Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do are critically important…and not just in how we live our professional lives at work, but also how we live our lives in general.”

However, he said, his earliest role models were his parents.

“I have learned a lot from many, many people in my life, but I would start with my parents,” he said. “My parents allowed me the opportunity to learn and grow and do things on my own. They allowed me to fail, but also were close by if I really needed them to help.”

His parents also taught him to respect others, he said, a lesson that was reinforced throughout his time in the Air Force.

“I think it is very important to really be fair to folks and treat them with respect, dignity and fairness,” he said. “That is one of the most important aspects, not just in my work but in my personal life as well.”

The principles his parents taught him are reflected in Daul’s leadership style. He emphasizes the importance of understanding employees and coworkers and respecting them as individuals. 

“When you think about and distill leadership, it is really about people and how we, as leaders, motivate and get people to work together to achieve an end state or objective,” he said. “You need to really understand people. You need to understand what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, what motivates them, and bring the best people forward and put them in a position to succeed.”

He said flexibility and adaptation are also important aspects of leadership.

“Leadership is much more art than science,” he said. “There’s not a single style that works in all situations and all circumstances. I think you have to be very flexible as a leader.”

One of his most important roles as both a leader and an AFNWC director is mentoring his employees.

“I believe fundamentally one of the things that we’re all responsible for is developing the next generation of leaders for the center, for the Air Force and for the nation,” he said.

At the same time, he stressed the importance of his directorate’s role to AFNWC’s mission to deliver nuclear capabilities warfighters use every day to deter and assure.

“My organization is responsible for being independent, unbiased, impartial assessors of whether our Air Force nuclear weapons systems are safe, secure and effective, so that we, as a nation, have a credible nuclear deterrence,” he said. “That independent assessment of our capabilities is critically important to the nation’s nuclear deterrence. We are fortunate to be allowed to have that mission for the nation and be able to make sure that our systems are safe, secure and effective.”

The directorate is responsible for providing intelligence support to AFNWC, analyzing the full spectrum of weapons effects to support acquisition programs and inform tactics and procedures, and assess current and future nuclear systems to identify and mitigate potential vulnerabilities. 

The directorate is also responsible for managing the Air Force’s Nuclear Certification Program and leading the capability development initiatives for all pre-Milestone A/B activities within the center.

While his team’s role is important, Daul also made it clear that he considers them part of a much larger picture.

“Maybe it is a little cliché, but what we do really is about people,” he said. “You know, it is not a single person. It is not a small team. It is usually a large team from across many different organizations that are needed to really be successful.”