Wednesday, July 25, 2012

To Space and Beyond - A Look at Sally Ride's Leadership

"Sally was a fierce advocate for women in science and technology who worked tirelessly to help girls understand they can succeed in these career paths. I am certain that many young women entering these fields will be able to credit her for inspiration and the role she played in introducing science and engineering to them." ~ NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Charles Elachi 
(Photo credit: NASA)

I have always been fascinated with space and space exploration. As a young girl, I admired the pioneering efforts of Dr. Sally Ride who did not fit the gender stereotype as an astronaut. As a member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, my appreciation for her efforts deepened when I had the unique opportunity to experience first-hand the training our nation's astronaunts go through at the shuttle training facility and mission control located at Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. Unfortunately, Sally lost a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer earlier this week.

When I set out researching this piece, I was sure I would find a plethora of information about how Sally survived in a male-dominated profession and be able to pass along that information to our female leaders. After a few hours of fruitless searching, I determined that Sally approached her career in much the same way as she advocated for her passions to further math and science education in our children--she lead beyond herself and used her position to influence positive results and break through barriers.

Here are a few observations I have concluded about Sally's leadership qualities:
  • Driven. NASA didn’t go looking for her. She went looking for NASA.
  • Committed: She didn’t care if she was the first woman in space as long as she got to space.
  • Strong. Dr. Ride was not afraid to speak her mind.
  • Well-respected by peers and public.
  • Woman of integrity and character.
  • Forward-thinking.
  • Humble.
  • Private.
  • Student.
  • Writer.
  • Mentor.
  • Advocate.

The Washington Post had this to say about her leadership in the days following her death:

  • She challenged people to speak difficult truths, and embraced those who did.
  • Never allowed the attention from her achievement to be focused on herself.
  • Inspired others to dream big and imagine themselves in roles they previously couldn’t.
U. S. News & World Report acknowledged Dr. Ride as one of "America's Best Leaders 2009.” She shared with readers the following qualities that characterize a good leader:
  • Willingness to listen.
  • An appreciation for the importance of teamwork.
  • Knowing when to lead that team and when to listen to the other members of the team.
  • Being decisive when decisions are required but to deliberate appropriately while making those decisions.
References and Resources:

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