A highlight from 543: Leadership Lessons from NASA, with Dave Williams


Today a look at one of the most iconic organizations in our life certainly my lifetime and in the lifetime of many of you listening and what we can learn from nasa an organization that's had so many spectacular successes and also of course a number of failures over the years the leadership lessons that we can discover. I'm so glad to welcome today. Dave williams dave is an astronaut. Aqua jet pilot emergency physician scientists. Ceo and selling author. He is the former director of space and life. Sciences at nasr's johnson space center and has flown into space twice on space shuttles columbia and endeavour. He 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. He is the author with elizabeth. How of leadership moments from nasa achieving the impossible dave such a pleasure to have you on the show. We'll thanks so much for having me. I'm absolutely thrilled to be able to talk to you about. Some of the leadership challenges that nasa has had in some of the fantastic leadership moments enabled it to achieve the impossible. I enjoyed the book so much. I've been a space geek. Almost my entire life. And so i just loved reading about the stories That you you researched in the book and clearly. A lot of work went into this book and i. I'm curious before we get into some of the lessons. What motivated elizabeth and you to do the research and to get this out into the world. Well it came from a conversation started when i wrote the foreword for one of elizabeth's books called candid arm in collaboration and after My input to that book were chatting and she had no idea about doing a book on space medicine. Were actually working on right now. And i said well. I've got an idea for a book on leadership at nasa so a our stories we went to the publisher and said what do you think about these two ideas. They were very excited that he. Cw press about Bringing this book to reality and it was a lot of fun. It was a tremendous honor in fact for me as a former nasa senior executive to be able to speak the former nasa administrators and some of the flight controllers involved in moments like apollo thirteen. It was just amazing. One of the key lessons that comes up throughout the book and you mentioned it in the afterward. Detail is the value of introspection in leadership. And there's there's so many places that that comes up in nasa history. But i'm actually really interested in a bit of your story around this and you've course went to space twice and did a ton of training for the missions but also for the spacewalks that you did and you share a story in the book about some early spacewalk training and technically achieving the goals. But not quite getting there as far as a team. And i'm wondering if you could share a bit about what you learned early on in training for spacewalks. You know one of the things. Nasa does really well that we talk about in the book is developing performing teams in. It's about leadership followership and working together to achieve complex objectives for my spacewalks that we did on the international space station. We had just been brought together as a crew ric Nastro nods was going to be going outside. Doing a spacewalk with may and tracy caldwell another astronaut. Who was metaphorically. What you might call the orchestra conductor of the spacewalk and this was our first time coming together as a crew. The first time that we were doing our spacewalk training. They put us under water. In the world's largest indoor swimming pool this neutral buoyancy laboratory we used to train to do spacewalks and rick and i thought we were doing a spectacular job. Rick was off doing his thing. I was off doing my thing. We get out of the water six and a half hours later. We come up to the debriefing room. And the instructor who is monitoring everything that went on during the whole training session. Sorta smiled in. So dave rick. How did you guys think with went. And of course we debrief and say well. We thought it went really really well. And then he smiled. And turn to tracey or tracy. What's your perspective. Tracy was fantastic. She said you know guys if we do in space what we did today. It's not gonna work. And both rick. And i were kinda suppressive with what do you mean. We did all the objectives civil dave. You went out the airlock and you're doing your thing. You didn't let me know when you were starting a procedure in rick. You're off some worksite. We're going on a procedure. When i was trying to work with dave and it was learning how to come together as a team. That was what tracy was calling us out on yes. Technically what recognized done was fine but from a team perspective it was not okay and that was the beginning of our coming together as a fantastic team when we ultimately did the space walks in on. Sds one eighteen a building the space station. Everything worked out flawlessly. Because we came together

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