I really believe in servant leadership. You have to put the welfare of your people above your own. Good leaders care for their people. Leaders don’t say, “I did it.” They give credit to the team. Leaders also need to get down onto the floor and talk with the people that you work with. Ask them what they’re doing. They want to tell you about the things that they’re working on. You’ll learn more from walking around on the floor than you’ll ever learn sitting in some conference room up on the top floor.
What other leadership qualities are important?
You have to have integrity. Nothing can cause you to lose respect of your people and not be a good leader if you don’t have integrity. They know when you’re not telling the truth. Charting a clear path for the future is essential. And never stop learning. You’ve got to be open to new things. As we grow older change is hard. Learning new things is hard.
How does NASA attract and motivate young scientists and engineers?
I’m so impressed with the new hires who are coming out of college. They have computer skills that are just phenomenal. They have so many tools that we never had. We allow them to use some of those tools. We give them a challenging task, let them learn and give them the opportunity to be innovative. We listen to what they have to say, and are amazed at what they come up with. We’re fortunate at NASA. Young people want to be part of this program. How many people can come to work every day and know that they’re making the difference not just in the future of our nation, but of our planet?
Who are your top leadership role models and what have you learned from them?
I’ve been fortunate to serve under so many good leaders, I would hate to single one out as better than the rest. From my vantage point, what made me respect them and want to follow them, was that they were technically excellent in their field, they excelled at what they did. They challenged me and I didn’t want to let them down. They had integrity and could be trusted. They clearly communicated what they wanted accomplished and held people accountable. They genuinely cared for the people that worked for them, and helped them to be successful.