All the NASA-verse is a-Twitter with speculation about a new NASA Administrator. Social media allows us to spread rumors beyond the traditional NASA hall-talk and space media club to every-day-man, who picks up the buzz on blogs and Twitter. With Twitterfall, Tweetgrid,Tweetmeme and others trending agents, we can easily track the chatter.
A recent tweet that caught my attention. The writer wondered why the space community seemed so pleased with the rumored selection of former astronaut Charlie Bolden. Here’s my answer: Charlie Bolden is a known quantity.
NASA engineers and scientists, though forever searching for the answers to the unknown, like to deal in ‘knowns’ whenever possible. What, you say? It’s logical, really. We seek what we don’t know by leveraging what we know.
We pride ourselves at NASA in thoroughly mapping strategy to address every contingency that could EVER conceivably happen, then rethink it over and again. We have contingency procedures for every step along the way. We want to manage the risk and operate in a world of known quantities. If we don’t know, we test and test and test again until we build up a database of knowns.
Same with leadership. We find comfort in the known – even if we don’t like what is presented to us. At least we know what to expect and can adjust accordingly. Known=good, unknown=bad. That simple.
Charlie Bolden comes from the human spaceflight world. Heck, he flew in space. He’s one of us. Known=good.
The President will make a choice for the next Administrator of NASA. Whoever that man or woman may be, we desperately need a natural born leader with humility, integrity and good sense.
Here’s my definition of leadership:
A leader is NOT the one who steps to the front of the line, but one who INSPIRES a long line of followers.