Breakthrough Leadership

I’m almost glad that the month of July is ending.  It’s been a rough month.  I’ve had two pretty bad colds and gained five pounds.  Yet, after a grueling week with the NASA CIOs, it’s clear that we’ve turned a corner as we prepare for our uphill trek. 

Turning corners and climbing hills requires Breakthrough Leadership.  It gives us the ability to have a positive expectation for what has yet to materialize; to recognize results when they become visible; and to be grateful to ourselves and to others for those results.

Expecting results requires positive thinking but Breakthrough Leadership needs that and more.  It means clearing ourselves of the clutter and barriers that block the breakthroughs that we seek.  Furthermore, if we make no plans to actually reach the top of the hill, we will be unprepared for the uphill trek. Similarly, our uphill climb can be made impossible if we are carrying excess baggage that needs to be shed.  We must not only be prepared to reach the top but we must also expect to reach the top.

Acknowledging results requires the ability to recognize and measure outcomes.  We must also look for the specific actions that produced those outcomes.  Too often weak leaders behave like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise.  Breakthrough Leaders need know what they did to produce the desired outcomes.  If you successfully navigated through a risky situation, did you apply sound risk mitigation actions or did you just get lucky? Breakthrough Leadership does not rely on luck. 

Finally, and most importantly, breakthrough leadership requires being grateful for results.  This means not only being grateful to those we lead, but being grateful to ourselves as leaders.  Breakthrough Leadership requires a lot of stamina.  The leader that takes the time to focus inward with gratitude gets significant benefits.  First, there is research to substantiate that it is beneficial for your health.  Second, when the Breakthrough Leader expresses gratitude, it results in improvement.  Finally, the gratitude you show yourself will be reflected back in others – and vice versa. 

These are indeed interesting times for NASA IT leadership.  There are tremendous uphill challenges in an environment of uncertainty and doubt.  Yet, I know the NASA CIOs as a leadership team will reach the top of this hill.  So now I’m grateful for July, for my runny nose, and for my low grade fever.  I know why now.  I saw it this month.  I saw it this week.  And I saw its reflection in my mirror this morning.  It looked like Breakthrough Leadership. 

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA

4 thoughts on “Breakthrough Leadership”

  1. Wise words. Unfortunately it is not easy. It’s always hard to hit. I believe it is essential to have a good team leader that the leader always remember his words, Ms Linda Cureton. Innovate, keep on innovation (with much training), and continue innovating, not easy. But it is essential to human life an innovative leadership, because we have many issues to address current and future. And are new, while not resolved.

    We really can not believe much in luck, we just can not believe his luck when we can evolve from conception in the womb, until only God knows where. We can choose paths, and they can always be innovative if they are better.

    I want improvements to their health.

  2. I do not know about the hills that NASA IT leaders are facing, but I do know that as a user at the bottom rung, I have seen enough issues at my level that tells me they need some “breakthroughs”. Here is one example that I experienced this morning. I got an email that tells me my Access Launchpad password expires in 3 days. I logged into the Access Launchpad account to change my password, and lo and behold, see on the screen the words “Password expires in: 10days:” So I called the support number and was told that they are not sure why there is a discrepancy, but to believe the email’s “3 days” instead of the website’s “10 days”. I asked if there is a mechanism for me to log this issue, and was very politely told no. To add insult to this, I had to log in twice to change my password. So in one little experience, I get the following perceptions:
    – Users cannot trust the information they see on these websites
    – Poor website design
    – IT (or Access Launchpad perhaps) do not care about providing the best service to their customers
    – Leadership is lacking
    I would hope it can only go up from here.

  3. Dear Guest who commented On Jul 30, 2010 10:44:50 AM:

    Well, at least one person in IT Leadership is not pleased with your experience or the response you got. I will forward it to someone to get a better answer.

    You shouldn’t have been given a “no” there’s no better way to log the issue. I do read and moderate my blog comments, but I am slow and often don’t get to them until late at night or on the weekends.

    I’m sending your comment to someone to get answers. I’d like to ask you to send me an email so that I can give you a direct response. The blog comment did not log your email address.


  4. Dear Guest,

    Linda forwarded your message to me. Please contact me directly so that we can figure out why the help desk wasn’t helpful, and also why you saw two different expiration dates on your password. I agree, that should not happen, and we can fix that. Getting more details from you would help me to ensure we’re fixing the problem.

    We are getting ready to do a usability test of the next version of the Launchpad. If you could help us test, that would help us know whether our planned design meets the mark. (This would take an hour or less of your time.) We try to design with the typical end-user in mind, but we sometimes miss the obvious because we are so involved in the details of what we’re doing. Your feedback on our planned design would be greatly appreciated.


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