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A Powerful Lesson on Leadership

Abdul Kalam, former President of India, once shared this powerful example of a vital quality of good leadership. In 1979, he was the Project Director of a mission to launch a satellite into orbit. Preparations for the event had gone on for nearly 10 years with much anticipation of a successful launch.

The satellite launch vehicle went into orbit, but after a while, it started malfunctioning and eventually crashed. As Abdul Kalam said, "The satellite that should have landed in orbit, landed in the Bay of Bengal!"

Abdul Kalam says that he was dreading the press conference as he would have to give answers for the massive failure. At that difficult moment however, his Chairman, Satish Dhawan, went with him to the press conference and took the responsibility and the criticism, for the failure. He went on to affirm and support the hard work done by his team with an assurance that they would succeed the next time around.

Sure enough, the following year, the satellite was launched successfully as predicted. However, at that moment of resounding success, this time around, Satish Dhawan requested Abdul Kalam to handle the press conference that was to follow.

In a moment of failure, Satish Dhawan stood by his team and took the blame for the failure. In the moment of success however, he stepped back and let his team receive the credit for the effort. It was a lesson Abdul Kalam would never forget. A good leader stands by his team in times of failure but lets them receive due credit in times of success!

The Bible says, "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act" (Proverbs 3:27)

You can watch the video conference here.


President Abdul Kalam, “Speech on Leadership and Motivation,” YouTube One Channel India (7-24-13)

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