Dave Williams: Leadership Moments from NASA
Dave is an astronaut, aquanaut, jet pilot, emergency physician, scientist, CEO, and bestselling author. He is the former Director of Space & Life Sciences at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and has flown in space twice on Space Shuttles Columbia and Endeavour.
Dave holds the Canadian spacewalking record and was the first Canadian to live on the world’s only undersea research habitat. He is the recipient of six honorary degrees, the Order of Canada, and the Order of Ontario. Along with Elizabeth Howell, he is the author of Leadership Moments from NASA: Achieving the Impossible*.
In this conversation, Dave and I discuss some of the key events from NASA’s history since its inception. We highlight three principles that Dave has uncovered in his research of interviews with NASA leaders over the years. Plus, a few practical tips that can help all of us lead teams more effectively.
- Introspection is a key and necessary practice for all leaders to hold — and often pays off in unexpected ways.
- Speaking up and listening up are critical values that helped support many of the NASA successes over the years.
- Cultural norms, such as senior leaders showing up regularly at all levels of the organization, can help ensure that communication is actually happening.
- NASA is an example of the movement away from a single, heroic leader and towards leadership, followership, and teamwork.
- Leadership Moments from NASA: Achieving the Impossible* by Dave Williams and Elizabeth Howell
Download my interview notes in PDF format (free membership required).
- An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth, with Chris Hadfield (episode 149)
- Leadership Lessons from Space Shuttle Challenger, with Allan McDonald (episode 229)
- The Path Towards Trusting Relationships, with Edgar Schein and Peter Schein (episode 539)
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