Saturday, October 19, 2013

Leadership Lessons from Mission Control

Leadership Lessons from Mission Control

In 1969 Gene Kranz was the leader of one of history's most successful teams. He led a team of hundreds of individuals including Charlie Duke as they planned, built and executed one of the most famous events in history-the first landing on the moon. Without the leadership, diligence, expertise and dedication of these individuals and more, Neil Armstrong would not be one of the most famous humans in history. Armstrong's "One small step for man one giant leap for mankind." quote reflects the efforts and work of thousands of individuals before the scene and work of one man. Armstrong may have been the person who took the step but Duke was the voice of mission control and Kranz was the Flight Director of the entire Apollo and Gemini rocket program.

Armstrong and his crew experienced the biggest event of their lives, a mountain top experience. They were thrust not only into the spotlight but into the collective memory of the world. Kranz and his crew, while popular with the science and engineering crowd, remain somewhat unknown to this day. Yet Kranz did not take offense at the lack of spotlight, he didn't pack it in or complain. He continued to lead his team through many more launches and missions.

When Apollo 13 was crippled on its way to the moon in 1970, Kranz's leadership was tested more than ever. His undaunted work through that crisis put him in the history books alongside the astronauts that stood on the moon; his story retold in the movie Apollo 13.

Mountain top experiences get the press but all the hard work is the preparation, the climb up, the climb down, the packing away of the gear and then prepping for the next adventure. The times between mountain top experiences are critical to any venture, to any group.

What are you doing as the leader between the mountaintops? When things go wrong...are you prepared to lead through the challenges? Are you meeting your team members where they are? Are you taking time to check in, unpack, prep and repack? How are you creating leaders from within the organization? How are you enabling the stars on the team to shine?


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