In the early 1970’s, India started it’s first space program with the intent to launch India’s first satellite into space, called SLV-3. Their goal was launch a satellite into orbit by 1980.
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was appointed as the project director, and by late 1979 they had everything ready and were a go for launch. At four minutes to launch, the computer went through a checklist of items and put the launch on hold after the display showed that some control components were not working properly.
Mr. Kalam had a team of experts on hand who told him not to worry, they had done their calculations and it will still be fine. So he switched it to manual mode and launched the rocket.
In the first stage, everything worked fine, but in the second stage, the whole rocket and satellite plunged into the Bay of Bengal. Later that day, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Prof. Satish Dhawan called a press conference where he took full responsibility for the failure and assured the media that the team would succeed next year.
Dr. Kalam was the project director and it was in-fact, his failure, but instead the chairman of the organization took full ownership for the failure.
The next year, in July 1980, they tried another launch which ended up being successful and caused a massive celebration across all of India. When they organized a press conference, Prof. Dhawan called Dr. Kalam aside and told him to conduct the press conference that day.
Dr. Kalam later ended up becoming the 11th President of India and cited this as the single most influential management lesson he ever learned in his life. That when failure occurs, the leader of the organization should own the failure, but when success occurs, they should give it to the team.
🍺 to a great week ahead!