The following includes excerpts from Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture, Greg Bustin’s latest must-read book for leaders that will be published February 2014 by McGraw-Hill.
There are days and dates we’ll always remember.
For our parents’ generation, the date is December 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor.
For our kids and for us, the date is September 11, 2001. Terrorist attacks on American soil.
Another tragedy 50 years ago this month — November 22, 1963 — struck down a president but could not diminish his legacy.
Regardless of what you think of the man or his policies, there’s no denying that President John F. Kennedy inspired a nation to dream big and then turn those dreams into reality.
Fourteen months before that fateful day in Dallas, Kennedy was visiting another Texas city — Houston, birthplace of the fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA.
Standing before 40,000 men, women and school children at Rice University Stadium on a warm, sunny September day in 1962, JFK declared, “We choose to go to the moon.”
A series of events — played out on the world stage like a high-stakes game of chicken — had led to this moment.
On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space when he orbited the earth. The Space Race was on. Space leadership had become a measure of world leadership. And America was already behind.
So eight days after Gagari’s orbit, Kennedy responded to the Soviet achievement by doing what the best chief executives do. He posed the key question to his leaders who were overseeing America’s budding space program: “Is there any…. space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win? ”
Experts scrambled and eight days later advised Kennedy that putting a man on the moon was seen as a race where the U.S. “may be able to be first. ”
Armed with this assessment, Kennedy weighed the costs, the risks and the benefits of overtaking the Soviets and made the first of many “hard decisions ” related to America’s space program. On May 25, 1961, speaking before a joint session of Congress, President Kennedy challenged America with the goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. ” He wanted it done “before this decade is out. ” And he wanted to beat the Russians.
Kennedy’s competition was the Soviet Union. The American-Soviet Cold War battle was for preeminence in space. The stakes were enormous.
You and your organization battle for preeminence with customers, suppliers and employees. Are you playing to win?
Here are four steps JFK took to galvanize a nation, the teams at NASA and individual contributors to win the Space Race.
The power of Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the Moon” speech resonates today, providing a blueprint for any leader seeking to unify a group of people in order to accomplish a difficult task.
What are you doing to move from success to significance?
What legacy are you leaving?
Questions to Unify Your Team
My new book includes powerful concepts and practical examples you can apply in your organization, plus exercises and dozens of provocative questions to help you create and sustain a high-performance culture in your organization that’s based on purpose, trust and accountability.
You can download for free “Questions about Unity” at www.bustin.com/resources
To accomplish great things, the employees of an organization must be unified around a common goal, and each person in the organization must believe that what they do will determine whether or not that goal is reached.
“In a very real sense,” said John Kennedy, “it will not be one man going to the moon it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.”
To dive even deeper into the topic of accountability, I invite you to purchase a copy of my bestselling book, “Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture.”
Business schools teach case studies. Hollywood blockbusters are inspired by true events.
Exceptional leaders are students of history. Decision-making comes with the territory.