Aloha Goddard Space Flight Center,Aloha NASA

This will be short and sweet…so here it is.  Today, September 26, 2009, is my last official day as the CIO of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  I leave an organization that marked the start of my Federal career. 

I graduated from Howard University on a hot Saturday in May of 1980.  I started at NASA/Goddard the following Monday as a dreamy 21-year old Mathematician.  I left about 18 months later.  I returned a quarter of a century later and now a leave again a Center that made amazing contributions to our nation’s space program.  Tomorrow, I will be the CIO of NASA.  This is a humbling and exciting experience.

After only having a week to prepare, I find that I haven’t had time to cry, to hug, say good-bye, or even to pack.  It’s funny how change doesn’t wait for us to get ready.  Change simply happens.  I’m not sure even if I’m saying good-bye or hello.  Perhaps it is merely Aloha. 

So, this is it.  I’ll continue to blog for the same reasons as stated in earlier posts.  I was hired with a charge to participate on an executive leadership team that not only fulfills the mission of our nation’s space program, but inspires a world.  Perhaps a universe. 

The change I lead will start with me.  A quote by Anatole France says:

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.

No time to mourn.  Just enough time to resurrect.  Procurements, cloud computing, innovation, security, team building … oh, and launch vehicles, manned space flight, tight budgets … inspiration to the world.  Aloha dreamy mathematician.  Aloha NASA.

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA

p.s. Don’t paint my orange office!

Transparency and Naked Leadership

There is much discussion about transparency in government especially as it relates to Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, twitter, and various social networking applications.  Transparency in a literal sense simply means to be able to see right through something.  Definitions and common understanding in a government context varies.  But it is generally understood to suggest doing things in such a way that citizens know what’s going on.  Thus, accountability is increased and corruption is decreased.  Scantily clothed emperor admiring his new clothes


But, this means more than just putting data up on static websites.  Leading in a transparent way has the atomic advantage of being able to be exposed to a huge set of diverse ideas thus hastening innovation and creativity.  However, the cultural challenges associated with leading in this environment requires a new kind of personal leadership – Naked Leadership. 


Topless at NASA/JPL Explorer Island – Maybe Some Things Should Not Be Seen


I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on virtual worlds for the FOSE 2009 Conference. This panel was going to be conducted in the virtual world Second Life.  I had to get an avatar and learn some basic things like walking, sitting, flying, and dressing. 


While practicing and setting some things up in the familiar venue of NASA/JPL Explorer Island, I decided that I wanted my avatar to look like me – African American non-skinny female with brown hair, etc. I was surprised to find out that up to that point, I was a man and not a woman.  I fixed that.  I thickened up my body and lips.  Then I had to decide what to wear. I struggled with basic things like the difference between a blouse and a jacket, etc.  To make a long story short, I took off more than I planned to take off and ended up topless in a surprisingly anatomically accurate way. I was mortified. Fortunately, there were only deer around.


The point here is that as we operate and lead in transparent ways, you might be exposed in non-complementary ways.  It may also mean, especially in this day and age of increased risks associated with data security, some stuff just should not be exposed.  And finally, what does what you’re hiding expose about you as a leader?


“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

 Oscar Wilde


Naked Leadership means that you may make a few mistakes…but you’ll have to take it on the chin. Some could be knock out blows. However, managing the risks appropriately can lead to championship results.


The Emperor’s New Clothes – Don’t Believe the Hype


So this guy decides that he will don a new transparent wardrobe.  Everyone wrote comments in the Emperor’s blog about how great his transparent threads were.  A courageous follower told him he had no clothes.


You may find a lot of people with varying levels of sincerity who tell you that you’re doing a heck-of-a-job.  Similarly, you may even find some people in a mean-spirited way tell you that you are awful.  So, brace for impact, get prepared to have your feelings hurt and immunize yourself against flattery.


But I, as Emperor, was OVERPOWERINGLY stupid… I, as Emperor, was more stupid than you all, because I was responsible for all this stupidity!

 1987 Movie: The Emperor’s New Clothes


With Naked Leadership goes the responsibility of doing honest self-examination and having high emotional intelligence.  It also requires seeking out and nurturing courageous followers who will tell you are indeed you have no clothes.


Who Told You That You Were Naked? – With Knowledge Comes Accountability and Responsibility


I once went to a church where the Pastor would always say … “I wish I didn’t know these things!”  Once you know right from wrong, you have the responsibility to choose right. And once you know, you have to do something and it has to be the right thing.  It might be better to not know.


Knowledge also imposes responsibility

– W.M.L. Jay


Diverse opinions from a diverse set of people may breed conflicts. Naked Leadership will require strong conflict resolution skills.  Some information may not be relevant. Naked Leadership will need to be able to discern that. But, if you ask for perspectives, you better be prepared to actually listen and try to understand. 


Operating in a transparent way helps provides a lot of value.  Expanded perspectives from a diverse set of employees or constituents can produce better end products.  Successful Naked Leadership will need to learn to navigate these waters. 


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center


A CIO in Love with Her PDA: Please Don’t Tell My Husband

A friend gave me a Helen Exley gigglebook for my birthday.  Cellphones: They Drive Us Crazy.  I reflected on a little quip that my husband for some strange reason does NOT think is amusing – I LOVE my Blackberry, and I’m having an affair with the iPhone!  To give you a sense of the book, here’s a teaser:

The cellular phone is today’s must-have technology but, for some, the ear-splitting ringtones, mindless babble and sheer adoration that these tiny tools inspire is beyond comprehension

Funny thing was I didn’t think it was funny.  It seemed like a serious discussion about how we now use these little satanic devices called personal digital assistants.

One of my dear friends, Papa, a devoted old school church man, often refers to the Blackberry Prayer, where several people in a room bow their heads , looking down, all in unison checking their PDA.  Maybe we are all not really addicted but just in deep prayerful thought… about work.   I just found this site, Mind Prison: Internet Addiction Disorder, that probably accurately relays the PDA issues, in general about the Internet, but in particular can refer to this religious digital experience that we all go through.  NASA Goddard CIO expressing appreciation to her PDA

In a world of rapidly advancing technology, it is hard to ignore the Internet which is becoming more and more centric to the lives of users worldwide. Yet the convenience the electronic age provides come with a price. The ugly truth is that the Internet is as addictive as it is useful. Unrestrained or unsupervised, users of the Web will find themselves invariably and unwittingly chained by the shackles of the addictive elements of the Internet.

Our addiction to these seductive technologies are arguable productive, but they can be lethal.  Consider this story of a woman who was sentenced for six years in prison for killing a woman while she was paying a few bills via text messaging while driving.

I do believe that in the always on technological society, we are using PDAs, cellphones, etc. very frequently.  But how do you know when you are addicted? Consider:

·         It is in a different room on a different floor, and you still feel the vibration?

·         You use it as an alarm clock

·         You use it in the bathroom

·         To maintain marital bliss, you and your spouse communicate primarily by text messaging

·         You respond to emails from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Director while on a cruise in the middle of the Caribbean

I better stop, this is getting too personal.  

So, here’s a “prophetic” article circa April 2008 that discusses the effect of the iPhone on the Crackberry:

Thankfully for CrackBerry users, an alternative is looming on the horizon. It’s the new iPhone…

The iPhone gives you new applications to love.  I can get traffic, shake the iPhone to help me decide where to eat, take great pictures and share, surf the internet with ease, and … shazaam … I can name that tune in as many notes as it takes!

Oh, I forgot.  As the CIO, I need to discuss the alignment to mission and the competitive advantage that organizations have when they leverage these amazing technologies.  Deep breaths.  Ok, I feel better now. Yes indeed, I love my PDA.

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

CIO Time

I must admit that I’ve always had a problem with time. I hate time actually. Colleagues who know me well will laugh out loud when they realize that I had the audacity to write about Time Management. I guess those who can … do; those who can’t … well, they blog about it.

I noticed a phenomenon when I first came to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center called Goddard Time. I thought maybe I came to a place of kindred spirits, but what it actually referred to was the outcome of the pesky habit of scheduling back-to-back meetings not recognizing that many folks have to jump in a car and race (while safely obeying speed and traffic rules and avoiding pedestrians and bikes) across the Center. Then I lost my last shred of hope when I heard the then Center Director, Dr. Ed Weiler, admonish those proposing innovative solutions to not give him a power point on time travel or warp speed. Rats!

As a fan of the John C. Maxwell books on leadership, I recognize the important of self-management in dispensing my duties of a leader. I’ve taken just about every time management class I could.  I even have an unused Franklin Planners to help me.  I love watches – I have a ton of them; several Movados which don’t even have numbers on the faces. But, I think of watches as fashion accessories and not as anything of value to me. And people keep giving me devices to measure the passage of time, but hardly any of them operate. I counted them one day – I have nine (see them for yourself here) – but only three of them work (pictured here). A calendar, an hour glass, and a working clock

A friend of mine told me that my problem is that I don’t believe in time and I don’t like it.  Well, she is right I don’t.  Time Management is an oxymoron.  Time is finite and constant; it doesn’t grow when you manage it well or compress when you don’t (though time travel and traveling around the speed of light sounds like it might have potential). Here are some more attributes of time that are irritating to me:

Time is Never On Your Side. The Rolling Stones tune was wrong by saying “time is on your side”.  As the song ends, it emphasizes this over and over, then … repeat and fade.  Finally it ends and you are out of time. Good leaders should not delay decisions. They just make their decisions and move on.  Furthermore, these difficult times call for making decisions with incomplete information and with ambiguity. The need for rapid decision-making while battling your enemy called time is a critical leadership attribute. And you’ve got to do it before the music stops.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun. There’s an old joke that says something like … scientific studies show that married men live longer. But it’s not really true, it just seems that way. So does this mean the secret to having more time is to have less fun? Well, some scientists suggest that this is the case.  A study by two scientists Chaston and Kingstone may have scientifically proven that time indeed appears to speed up when you are having fun … or at least when your attention is engaged. One of Maxwell’s key leadership qualities is focus.

To have passion, to have a dream, to have a purpose in life. And there are three components to that purpose, one is to find out who you really are, to discover God, the second is to serve other human beings, because we are here to do that and the third is to express your unique talents and when you are expressing your unique talents you lose track of time. – Deepak Chopra

When compared to focus, passion, and purpose, time is an irrelevant artifact. The sharper your focus is the sharper you are as a leader.

Time in a Bottle. What if you could time in a bottle and save it? Then you could go back and do the things you never got a chance to do.  Jim Croce sang it best:

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

Well, you can’t put time in a bottle, but what you can do is do the things that are most important … once you find them. You make your decisions, focus on the outcomes, and get those most important things done first. Then as the song goes, you repeat and fade … until time’s up and the music stops.

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

More Things My Mother Taught Me About Being a CIO

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center turned 50 this year and so did I.  One of Goddard’s commemorative activities was a town hall meeting moderated by Center Director Rob Strain with former Center Directors Tom Young, Noel Hinners, Joe Rothenberg, John Townsend, and Al Diaz.  We often learn so much about our future by looking at our past.

It’s appropriate as we enter Mother’s Day weekend for me to reflect that I don’t have to look back too far in the past to learn from my mother.  I’ve blogged about this topic before and the calendar warrants further reflections on some more of those learning moments. Young Harriette holding newborn CIO Linda

As the oldest of four children and as one who probably remembers most what it might have been like for Harriette as a young divorced mother, I marvel at her abilities in the area of teamwork, leadership, business acumen, and project management.  This may sound like CIO competencies but they are clearly also maternal competencies.

As I replay the tapes in my mind, I see how some of her clichés and sayings have relevance today in my role as a CIO.

The best way to make a friend is be a friend

My mother raised three introverted children plus a rather sociable baby sister.  When we invited kids to our party, we could barely muster 5 guests – and 4 of them were our cousins.  Baby Sister Lisa was so sociable, she was coached by my now experienced mother to invite her entire class of 21 girls to a slumber party so that a decent number would attend —  22 showed up. 

But the bottom line, is that friendship and customer fulfillment are built on pillars of servanthood, partnership, service, teamwork, leadership, and commitment.  Delivering mission value to your customers is the foundation of a credible relationship.

Make your bed and lie in it

Sometimes growing up, it’s very difficult to grapple with the concept of accountability.  Often excuses like “the dog ate my homework” or “but I forgot” substitute for adolescent responsibility. 

As CIOs, not only do we have to articulate an IT strategy, but we have to implement it and achieve our organizations goals.  And we need to hold ourselves accountable for delivering those results.

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you

Any true native Washington, DC resident will recall the graceful branches of the plentiful Weeping Willow trees.  Sadly, as some of us “old school” folks will remember, they make formidable switches for poorly behaving kids.  I can’t say that I actually remember getting a spanking from a branch of that scary tree, but the thought of the possibility hurts just the same.

A friend of mine recently challenged me about whether or not I actually liked being a CIO.  The TRUTH is that this gig, like most leadership gigs, is not very easy.  Sometimes, it hurts and often every day is like getting a whipping for something that went wrong or for something you did wrong.  Regardless, we must press forward, leading and managing a credible and capable IT organization to achieve what our organizations have asked of us.

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.

Alex Haley makes a good point here.  As we live in the PRESENT and strengthen the links to the PAST, our FUTURE offers us infinite channels to success.

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Leadership Lessons from a CIO’s Hairdresser

Just before I started working as the Deputy CIO at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), I had to get a security clearance.  The special agent doing my background investigation called me up and asked for the phone number of my hairdresser, Peggy Marshall.  I paused … and told him … that’s a low blow dude.  He said you’d be surprised what you can learn from a person’s hairdresser.  You’d be surprised indeed – even leadership lessons. 

She is a hardworking business woman who learned her work ethic from a farm in what used to be rural Clinton, Maryland.  As the farms disappeared and the Washington, DC suburbs began to expand, she started her own business and hair salon, Peggy’s Beauty World.  After many successful years, she sold her business and maintains a very small loyal clientele in her semi-retirement. 

Two weeks ago, she asked me about how things were going at work and what’s the job of a CIO is like.  As she stood over my head, she said, she probably wouldn’t understand because after all, she’s “just a hairdresser”.  Startled, I turned around and looked at her and began to tell her what she already understood.

Here are some of the lessons.

Customer Service

After retirement, she established a small licensed set up in her home.  It was her goal to keep a small subset of her faithful clients and offer them flexible personalized service.  I have been in to see her 10:00 pm on Sunday night; or 5:00 am Monday morning before work; a few hours before I leave town; or even in 911-hair emergencies.  If you don’t like your hair, she will do it again.  She’s even been known to make house calls on her clients that are not mobile.  I’ve often asked her how things are going during these difficult financial times.  So far, things are going well for her.

Mark Cummuta, in a CIO.COM blog “How to Avoid a Layoff” advises CIOs that to get through these difficult financial times, one should focus on customer service to avoid layoffs.  By doing so, your customers will become your strongest advocates during times of trouble.  He goes on to say:

Let me explain. No matter what job or position you have, you always have customers – whether they be internal managers, peers, business units, branch offices, downstream partners, QA teams, PMOs, sales teams, etc. – that rely on what you produce. They may not even know it, but in today’s economic turmoil, it’s to your benefit to know who they are and to make sure they know what you can and do, in fact, do for them!

Leading and Managing People

As a beauty shop owner, she has hired, trained, and mentored many young women.  She has employed a diverse set of people, from urban divas to seasoned professionals.  She has hired, fired, dealt with tears, fears, and jeers.  Yet, through all of this, she maintained a high quality business that was known for ethical, family-oriented, and high-quality services.

The CIO has a challenging problem of motivating her employees.  The organization spends a lot of time managing projects, justifying IT budgets, and delivering service.  Many times, in service delivery, it is difficult to be noticed unless something goes wrong.   The Maytag repairman has the challenge of being forgotten because of the high quality of his product. 

Career Passion

Peggy is passionate about hair.  She absolutely loves doing her job.  In her youth, as she tried to figure out what she would do for a living, her mother admonished her asking her why does she need to figure this out? She already loved doing hair, just do that.  Before she sold her business, I can recall days where she was extremely busy and had to be on her feet for nearly 10 hours.  Still smiling at the end of the day, she said, you never get tired when you are doing something that you love.  It gives you energy. 

Passion and hard work are keys to success.  Martha Beck, in Finding Your Own North Star, describes The Hero’s Saga where ordinary people, take pragmatic steps to create the magic of turning their longing and intention into reality.  I absolutely love the TV show Heroes.  My idea of a dream vacation will be to catch up on whole seasons of this show.  The show is about the lives of ordinary people who discover that they have extraordinary talents and gifts.  Gifts + passion = magic

Without passion, you don’t have energy; without energy, you have nothing. Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion
     – Donald Trump –

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe.
     – Anatole France –

I couldn’t believe that Peggy told me that she was just a hairdresser.   Approximately every two weeks she doesn’t just turn this bird’s nest on top of my head into pretty curls, but she gives me a little extra bit of inspiration that helps me create the magic of being a CIO. 

I love my hairdresser.

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

California Dreaming NASA-Style

I left my safe and warm place at NASA HQ to visit three NASA Centers in three days in California – Dryden, JPL, and Ames.  It’s been three weeks since my last post.  No time for blogging – need to spend time drinking from a fire hose … or drinking from 3,000 Dixie cups. 

I knew I was going to blog about the trip, but couldn’t really decide what to write about and didn’t have much time to think about it.  Perhaps I can talk about being at Dryden  and learning of the hope of aeronautics research or flying the flight simulator and safely taking off, landing, out maneuvering my Deputy CIO for IT Security without ejecting myself or hitting the ground.  Perhaps I can talk about my feelings of gratitude that JPL and its legacy of planetary exploration was spared from the unforgiving brush fires.  Perhaps I can talk about the courageous innovators of Ames, their technology contributions, their hyperwalls, or their hypervisors. 

I almost forgot why I blog in the first place — leadership, learning, transparency.  Now I know what to blog about – the Joshua Tree.  A Joshua Tree

I need to tell you that I didn’t see too many Joshua Trees growing up in Washington, DC and I was curious about them.  Dryden CIO Rob Binkley told me that the important thing to remember if you get into a disagreement with a Joshua Tree and your car, it will win.  Its deep root system makes it strong and resilient.  Those are pretty convenient qualities of leadership.

The tree got its name from Mormon settlers thought the shape of its branches reminded them the Biblical story where Joshua reaches his arms up to heaven in prayer.  As the story goes, this was essential in his early success.  Furthermore, the tree was a valuable resource used for fencing and for fuel. 

Finally, it’s Joshua himself and how he personifies transitional leadership.  With a tough act to follow, his faith, resilience, and resourcefulness provide valuable lessons to leaders as they assume new leadership roles.

California Dreamin’ on such a winter day.  I always liked that song, but I never really understood the lyrics until now.  It’s really about transition and the inevitability of leaving your warm place and moving forward to the coldness of future leadership challenges.   

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA


A CIO Thanksgiving

This is the time of year when we reflect on the things that we are thankful for in our lives.  The CIO Leader needs to lead with thanksgiving 365 days per year.

CIOs should give thanks to their geeks. 

We as leaders always say that “people are #1”.  But what do we actually do?  Saying it is one thing, but acting on it is another.  We should do things that demonstrate our gratitude.  It doesn’t mean giving them everything they want.  But it does mean giving them everything they need.    Cornucopia filled with fruit and grain

Paul Glen in his book “Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology”, characterizes several ways leaders can motivate Geeks.  One thing that we can do is projectize as much as possible.  People don’t like working day-in and day-out on tasks with no objective and with no end.  Creating projects (when appropriate) helps to focus energy on specific outcomes and fosters an environment of accomplishment.

Glen also goes on to say that another thing IT leaders should do for their Geeks is to occasionally bring free food.  I do recall during my happier days as a Systems Programmer I got a call at home from my boss around 7pm.  She asked me what I was doing.  I said to myself … uh-oh.  I was looking at Wheel of Fortune, what’s up? She asked me if I could come into the office and help her, there was a problem.  Well, almost two days later and with very little sleep, we finally fixed the little problem.  I recall sleeping on the floor using my purse for a pillow.  After we had been up all night (the first night), her boss came in at lunch time with food! It must have been nearly 25 years ago, but I still remember how it tasted and how it helped me make it through another night.

CIOs should share the powers of their Cornucopia. 

In Greek mythology, the Cornucopia was associated with magic powers.  Those who possessed it got anything they wished for.  Later, the horn of plenty was associated with food and abundance.  The leadership significance here is two-fold.

First, you must wish for something.  For leaders, this means having a vision.  They have to be able to share a dream and direction that people want to follow.  It kills me when we go through annual strategic planning processes and we start getting hung up on mere words.  Leadership vision is not a statement.  It is an intrinsic characteristic of leadership that helps people see that they are part of something big.  It inspires loyalty and commitment and motivates them to stretch and grow.

Finally, a CIO needs to be prepared to feed those she serves with the resources that she is given.  You have to have an empty cornucopia and a plan for that empty cornucopia because once it fills with food and abundance, you will have rot and waste if you don’t prepare to give back.  CIOs need to deliver a return on investment and produce results.

CIOs should plant seeds for harvest.

Time and money are such scarce resources.  CIOs need to use those resources wisely and nurture them to produce results.

One of my favorite no-nonsense leaders is Lt. General Al Edmonds (USAF, retired).  He was Director of Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), VP and GM of EDS Public Sector, and is currently CEO of Logistics Applications, Inc.  I always look forward to benefiting from the advice and council of his leadership wisdom.  He told me once, “Don’t forget about your seeds, young lady!”  Of course I pretended I knew what the heck he was talking about.  “Don’t forget to sprinkle your seeds around and water them and watch them grow”.  He was talking about people who you mentor and invest time in helping them increase their leadership potential. 

John C. Maxwell talks about this in his 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership in the Law of Explosive Growth.  He goes on to say,

“Leaders who develop followers grow their organization only one person at a time.  But leaders who develop leaders multiply their growth, because for every leader they develop, they also receive all of that leader’s followers. 

We leaders need to change our thinking not about spending scarce time with people, but rather how to invest time in the right people.  This is how we produce an abundant harvest.

CIOs need to also plant seeds for innovation.  I believe that with a mustard seed of innovation, CIOs can move mountains.  I hear so often that we can’t afford to spend money on innovation.  I wonder how we can afford NOT to invest in it.

Judy Estrin in Closing the Innovation Gap challenges us to nurture the innovative environment. 

“Just as plants require water and sunlight if they are to grow, sustaining innovation requires the right leadership, funding, policy, education, and culture.”

A CIO Thanksgiving means planting seeds of leadership.  It also means having a vision, a plan, and a cornucopia of results.  Finally, but most important, we need to give thanks for the people who help us deliver the harvest to the organizations we serve.

Linda Cureton, Thankful CIO of NASA


Freckles and Fruit Trees: Things My Mother Taught Me About Being a CIO

I was reading an email that a friend sent to me the other day.  He told me of an amazing tale of his grandfather and his diminutive pony named Freckles.  My pal, encouraged by his grandpa, saw the greatness in this miniscule stallion; knew he had to hold on to his mane or fall; and had the courage to command this ill-tempered animal.  It was an important memory that shaped his manhood.


Well, as a city girl, I rode Washington’s Metro and not horses.  But the story of Freckles made me think of my own freckles.  I used to hate them.  My baby sister and I, who don’t worry about the results of too much sun, do worry about sun exposure and the possibility of one additional freckle.  Then I started to notice the beauty of my mother’s freckled face and imagined her as a young girl playing in my grandmother’s yard, tucked away in Northeast Washington, DC, going from fruit tree to fruit tree eating cherries, grapes, and mulberries. 


My mother lives with us now here in a Maryland suburb, not too far from our childhood home.  One of the pleasures that I have as a Linda's Mother as young nurse at Georgetown University Hospitalresult of this is the enjoyment of looking at her, and perhaps seeing the future and observing the woman I might become.  Or maybe looking back in time and seeing the woman that she was.  Am I this CIO  as a result of learning and experience? Good CIO genes? Or did my mother raise me to be a CIO? I love my freckles, now.


Believe you can fly.


I have a memory when I was probably around 4 years old.  I had a tricycle.  I thought I could fly.  I performed several scientific experiments on the Northeast Washington, DC porch of my childhood.  I ran and pushed the tricycle off the edge of the porch.  It sailed in a parabolic path then landed safely on the ground.  After several trials, I was ready for my maiden voyage.  I peddled fast and then sailed off the edge of the porch and went straight down.  I cried.


My mother ran out to see what the commotion was.  There she found her oldest child in a heap on the ground with the tricycle on top.  She asked me what happened.  I was inconsolable, not because of the injury, but because I couldn’t fly.  She consoled me and told me I could surely fly, but just not on this bike.  Not sure if this was a foreshadowing of a NASA gig, but I believed her.


As a leader, sometimes, you have to have a big vision for what might seem to be the impossible.  And you’ve got to believe it to achieve it.  If you can visualize it in your head, it can happen.  I know this, because my mother told me.


You made your bed, now lie in it.


This was the charge that often went to my rascally baby brother.  Seems like baby brothers are always causing some mess.  If you caused a bad situation for yourself, you had to suffer the consequences of your actions. 


As a CIO leader, I have to be accountable to that which is entrusted to me.  A lot of times, people want to be leaders … or perhaps more accurately, want to be in charge … but not accept responsibility for outcomes good or bad. 


Reminds me of another thing my mother used to say, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die”.  So, being a leader means that you have to face the possibility of death by the actions you take, of death by the decisions that you make, or death by the mistakes that you make. 


Sometimes you have to be with a group, but not of a group.


Took me a while to figure this one out.  After all, I’m the same introverted little girl that never wanted to go outside and play with the other kids in the first place.  But I came to realize the true meaning of this as I got older.  Leadership is lonely.  Some have said, it’s lonely at the top.  Consider this from Mary Lou Anderson:


Leaders are called to stand
in that lonely place
between the no longer and the not yet
and intentionally make decisions
that will bind, forge, move
and create history.

We are not called to be popular,
we are not called to be safe,
we are not called to follow,
we are the ones called to take risks,
we are the ones called to change attitudes;
to risk displeasures,
we are the ones called to gamble our lives,
for a better world.


I guess I love my freckles.  It’s what my mother gave me.  And what I have – the total of my experiences, learning, DNA, and heritage – make me the freckled CIO that I am.


Linda Cureton, CIO Goddard Space Flight Center and Daughter of Harriette Yvonne Dodson