Monday, October 19, 2009

Are you a real leader?

You should concentrate on reading this article emailed to me. So no picture for this post.

A leader should know how to manage failure

(Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at Wharton India Economic forum,
Philadelphia , March 22, 2008)

Question: Could you give an example, from your own experience, of how
leaders should manage failure?

Kalam: Let me tell you about my experience. In 1973 I became the project
director of India 's satellite launch vehicle program, commonly called the
SLV-3. Our goal was to put India 's 'Rohini' satellite into orbit by 1980. I
was given funds and human resources -- but was told clearly that by 1980 we
had to launch the satellite into space. Thousands of people worked together
in scientific and technical teams towards that goal.

By 1979 -- I think the month was August -- we thought we were ready. As the
project director, I went to the control center for the launch. At four
minutes before the satellite launch, the computer began to go through the
checklist of items that needed to be checked. One minute later, the computer
program put the launch on hold; the display showed that some control
components were not in order. My experts -- I had four or five of them with
me -- told me not to worry; they had done their calculations and there was
enough reserve fuel. So I bypassed the computer, switched to manual mode,
and launched the rocket. In the first stage, everything worked fine. In the
second stage, a problem developed. Instead of the satellite going into
orbit, the whole rocket system plunged into the Bay of Bengal . It was a big

That day, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Prof.
Satish D hawan, had called a press conference. The launch was at 7:00 am,
and the press conference -- where journalists from around the world were
present -- was at 7:45 am at ISRO's satellite launch range in Sriharikota
[in Andhra Pradesh in southern India ]. Prof. Dhawan, the leader of the
organization, conducted the press conference himself. He took responsibility
for the failure -- he said that the team had worked very hard, but that it
needed more technological support. He assured the media that in another
year, the team would definitely succeed. Now, I was the project director,
and it was my failure, but instead, he took responsibility for the failure
as chairman of the organization.

The next year, in July 1980, we tried again to launch the satellite -- and
this time we succeeded. The whole nation was jubilant. Again, there was a
press conference. Prof. Dhawan called me aside and told me, 'You conduct the
press conference today.'

I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occurred, the
leader of the organization owned that failure. When success came, he gave it
to his team. The best management lesson I have learned did not come to me
from reading a book; it came from that experience


romerz said...

Good post. This is so unlike our present leadership in government!

romerz said...

I found your post so inspiring that I had to reproduce it in my blog but with a political twist to our Malaysian context.

Hope you don't mind but I did give due credit to you and a reverse link back here.

Justin Choo said...

You can copy anthing you like. Not a problem.


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