When the former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was speaking at Wharton India Economic Forum, Philadelphia, on March 22, 2008, he was requested to cite an example of how leaders should manage failure.Dr. Kalam mentioned, in 1979 when “Rohini” satellite went haywire, though Dr. Kalam was the project director and morally owned this failure, Prof. Satish Dhawan, the leader of the organization, as Chairman, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization), in a press conference at 7.45am, 45 minutes after the faulty satellite-launch, in ISRO’s satellite launch range in Sriharikota (in Andhra Pradesh) where journalists from around the world were present, took responsibility for the failure saying that the team had worked assiduously, but needed more technological support, assuring the media that in another year, the team will surely succeed. The following year, in July 1980, when the satellite lauch was successful and the whole nation was in a celebration mood, Prof. Dhawan told, Dr.Kalam,”You conduct the press conference today”. Thus the management lesson from the above was, when failure occurred, the leader of the organization owned the failure; when success came, he gave it to his team.
Prof. D. P. Chattopadhyay
(Globsyn Business School)