Taking credit ..... and blame
During the Wharton India Economic Forum held in Philadelphia on 22 March 2008, former President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was asked a question based on his own experience on how leaders should manage failure.
Dr. Abdul Kalam responded:
In 1973, I was appointed project director of India's satellite launch program. Our goal was to put the 'Rohini' satellite into orbit by 1980. I was given all the necessary funds and the talented people I needed.
Several thousand people were involved in this ambitious target and in 1979 we made the launch. Unfortunately the satellite plunged into the Bay of Bengal soon after launch. Professor Satish Dhawan the head of ISRO, (Indian Space Research Organisation) had called a press conference. Through the media he made known to the world that the failure was his responsibility and by the next year they would have the problems solved.
The following year in July of 1980 the satellite was successfully launched, much to the joy of all Indians. Again there was a press conference but this time Prof. Satish Dhawan took Dr. Abdul Kalam aside and said "You conduct the press conference today".
That day Dr. Abdul Kalam learnt the most important management lesson of his life. When failure occurs the man at the top should take responsibility and when there is success let it be that of your team.
Professor Satish Dhawan
Only people who attempt to do anything make mistakes.
Many people gaming the system somehow reach positions of authority and responsibility without possessing the moral fibre or the technical and managerial competency. Such people look for a scapegoat any time something goes wrong. Such institutions become so politicised that accepting blame can be potentially fatal for an innocent person's career.
On the contrary in this case Professor Dhawan demonstrated true leadership, the kind that builds great institutions and communities. The hall mark of great people is their confidence in their capabilities and humility in their manner.
We salute and thank you Professor Satish Dhawan.