Leadership and Going to the Moon

This past week, we acknowledged the 50 year anniversary of Apollo 11’s successful landing on the moon.

When John F. Kennedy stated the promise in 1961 to put a man on the moon and safely return him to earth by the end of that decade, the USA did not yet possess the capabilities to do so.

What does this have to do with leadership, you ask? Does it make sense to publicly make a commitment that you’re not sure will be successful?

The Russians had already launched space craft by 1961. The threat of nuclear war was strong and the Americans were losing ground. Kennedy knew that the Americans needed to demonstrate their superiority in space to gain an advantage in the Cold War.

Kennedy had a goal: to gain military superiority over the Russians by landing a man on the moon and returning them safely.

Kennedy also knew the Americans had the potential. They had the resources: people, money. Lots and lots of money. And Kennedy knew the power of a deadline.

Leadership isn’t rocket science.

Leadership is about stating a goal, building a team, giving the team the resources and authority to do what they needed, and supporting success while holding people accountable for results.

Moon photos - Photo by Phil Symchych
Moon photos by Phil Symchych.

Kennedy got the rocket scientists to work together, to communicate, to plan, to build prototypes and test rockets that failed, to learn from failures, to have more failures that increased learning, and to ultimately succeed.

Moon photos - Photo by Phil Symchych

As a business leader, are your goals really big goals? Or are they small tasks that need to be done within a short timeline?

What if, as the leader, you figured out what big goals would significantly improve your growth, economic performance, and shareholder rewards? What would the impact be? What would those goals look like?

Special thanks to Terry Oehler and her great weekly newsletter for giving me the idea of this newsletter.

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