Leadership Lessons From NASA: The Apollo Experience


October 31, 2011

Flanked by colleagues, fellow modern-age explorers of learning, I stepped into the room. An immediate sense of familiarity washed over me like a wave slowly crashing against the beach. The consoles, screens and other items deceptively telling my eyes and brain that I knew this place.  But, a mind can play tricks.

I chose a seat in the top row.  The buttons were no longer glowing, the dials and knobs no longer directing actions.  Suddenly, the large screens ahead flash and come to life, focusing in on the mission as it unfolds.  The three astronauts are desperately trying to get home and we see the torment in their faces.  Then, he appears on the screen, in this very room.  He’s the reason we are here now.  Flight Director Gene Krantz.

Whilt it may sound like fiction, the set up is true.  Attending The Conference Board’s Apollo Leadership Experience , I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn not only about the space exploration program and astronauts, but to focus on the men who led the trek into space by designing the hardware and directing the missions.  Each leader brought a unique approach to the way they handled the numerous stressors, deadlines and potentially catastrophic situations they faced.

I have never found experiential learning at the level that The Conference Board offers.  I have high expectations of learning events and these never disappoint.  In fact, each time I attend, I come back to work with concrete ideas to use to address work issues.  So, when you add the unparalleled, behind-the-scenes access I experienced at NASA from the Neutral Buoyancy Lab and Mission Control for the International Space Station to being able to watch part of the movie Apollo 13 from the actual Apollo Mission Control room, the experience is worth every penny.  You will not find anything like it.

I know I’ll be taking many of the inspirational messages I learned with me and will be writing more over the next few months about innovation, adaptive leadership and research.

To register for the upcoming session in January 23- 25, 2012, click HERE.  If you have any questions, drop them in the comments or email me and I’m happy to share more of my experience.


  • Hi Trish,

    I’m looking forward to reading the posts inspired by this leadership conference. I’ve always been interested in the Apollo missions, particularly how the Houston mission control team worked together during the Apollo 13 crisis. It’s a stunning example of leadership and teamwork under pressure. Great stuff. Looking forward to reading more!

    • @Melissa- Thanks for taking time to comment. Like you, I’m fascinated by some of the leadership learning that comes from missions like Apollo. I keep searching for learning experiences like that to write about.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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