Failure Is Not an Option

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- Gene Kranz‟s leadership in movie < Apollo 13>

INTRODUCTION Apollo 13, the 1995 motion picture directed by Ron Howard, is the true story of Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert, a team of astronauts reassigned to a space flight with diminished preparation time. Apollo 13 Mission in 1970 was planning to land on the moon as a routine, but after astronauts found oxygen tank‟s explosion and leaking, this routine mission to the moon suddenly became a survival mission to safely return to Earth. The rescue mission was ultimately successful, and there were many reasons that led to its success. One of the reasons was that Gene Kranz, the flight director, insisted on having real time factual information on which he and his team could make life and death decisions. The movie has forever contributed two phrases to our everyday cultural vocabulary, “Houston we have a problem”, communicated by Jim Lovell, and “Failure is not an option”, voiced by Gene Kranz. Many of Gene‟s quotes in the movie indicated the leadership skills of him, such as intelligence, technical proficiency, ability to quickly adapt, and decision making etc. This essay is trying to analyze the leadership skills that Gene has applied in the movie < Apollo 13 >.



LEADERSHIP SKILLS ANALYSIS According to the report of Time magazine: “ The response from Mission Control this way: Kranz, a crew-cut and clip-voiced former test pilot, was just winding up his tenhour stint with his „white team‟ of flight controllers when the first hint of trouble came from 205,000 miles away in space. Quickly responding, he made the first of the long night‟s many important decisions, ordering the astronauts to turn off a fuel cell, check their thruster rockets, and power down the guidance and navigation systems. Though he may well have anticipated the worst, Kranz never faltered or showed signs of panic. ” (“The Masters of Mission Control.” Time, 27 April 1970, 18.) In the movie, we have seen a successful demonstration of leadership that Gene applied in an unbelievable crisis, with teamwork between “headquarters” in Houston and the “field” in the spacecraft. Gene‟s leadership skills reflected in three aspects: Leading self; Leading Team and Ability to quickly adapt. Leadership SkillⅠ--- Leading Self ⅢⅣ Gene Kranz’s Quote: “Let's work the problem people. Let's not make things worse by guessing.” Leading self is a foundational leadership skill. In the movie, three days later on April 13th, while Jack performing a routine stir on the O2 tank; the Apollo 13 mission suddenly suffered a terrible electrical malfunction. When heard about the explosion, Gene‟s reaction was Calming down, never show nervousness and discouragement. When something wrong was happening, he didn‟t allow any thoughts of failure to enter his



mind or the minds of anyone in his team. He set an example and a tone for all members with conviction, in doing so, Gene ensured that all team members was following him in order to adjust the original mission to a new one. Gene was a leader who was accountable and trustworthy. Leadership Skill Ⅱ--- Leading Team Gene Kranz’s Quote: “We’ve never lost an American in space, we're sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option.”  Clarify the Goal: The goals of Apollo 13 were complicated: Originally the goal was landing on the moon, however, it suddenly changed to get the crew home safely, in the meantime, there were some goals inside the new mission such as using the lunar modules as lifeboat, solving the CO2 problem, and developing the re-entry procedure etc. Those goals were never set and never practiced before, but Gene set those goals step by step in order to lead the team to conquer difficulties continuously and accomplish the new mission.  Build a High Quality Team: When leaders don‟t assign the right people for the job, everyone...
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