5 Leadership Lessons from a Space Station Commander

By Jessica Gray

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Chris Hadfield is an accomplished person. He has been the representative of Mission Control to communicate with the astronauts in space and served as the director of operations for NASA at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia.

More importantly, he is the first Canadian to perform spacewalks and command the International Space Station.

He has a wealth of leadership experience. So here are five lessons you can learn from him:

1. Possessing Attitude Control is Crucial

Hadfield believes that controlling your attitude is similar to setting your goal in that you need to stay on course to attain your goals. Compared to not reaching your final destination, straying away from your intended course and eventually drifting alone in space is worse.

In his opinion, a leader is supposed to lay down the vision for the team, set clear goals, and ensure all the team members are on course to reach them.

2. Aim to be Zero

Hadfield thinks that being part of a team, you can either be classified as a ‘plus-one’, a ‘zero’, or a ‘minus-one’. A plus-one is anyone who is an asset, performing and adding value to the team. Zero is one who is generally competent and stays out of the way. A minus-one, however, is one who is a liability and brings down the team.

He feels that anyone who believes that they are a plus-one in a new environment and behaves by showing how good they are can quickly plunge from a plus-one to a minus-one. Such people will be seen as brash, arrogant, and annoying to the team. Ultimately, this harms the team dynamics. Instead, Hadfield recommends that one should aim for zero. Understand your role and do your job well. People will know you are a plus-one without you going around telling people if you deliver your task well.

Building a common consensus creates strong leadership. People will follow you by choice, not by force.

3. Lead by Proving

Rather than leading by intimidation, Hadfield feels the superior way to lead is to prove the best course of action and set the correct example.

4. Put the Team Before Yourself

Putting the team before yourself is important for success. Always remember the team is more essential than just you. To bring the team members together, you have to define success. If you have to influence others and bring change to something you believe in, you would have to convince other people and align everyone. 

5. Criticize the Issue, Not the Person

If there is a need to deliver strong criticism, it is more important to criticize the issue itself rather than to personally attack the person. Even though you can be affected by someone who created the problem, it is counter-productive to scold or insult a colleague over it.

Which Space Station Lessons Help You?

If you have ideas for Space Station leadership lessons that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Jessica Gray
Jessica Gray
Jessica Grey is currently a writer and has published numerous articles in wide-ranging fields such as education, health-care, technology, travel, and more.
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