Former NASA director speaks in Carson City
Leadership requires vision and ability to excite others while instilling an excellent team to succeed at a mission, according to Paul F. Dye, former NASA flight controller and director.
Dye, who has four decades aviation experience, spent more than a quarter century with NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and finished the Shuttle program as the longest-serving flight director there with 39 missions. On nine of those, he was the lead director. He now resides in Dayton and spoke Tuesday at the Carson City Rotary Club. He made it his mission to excite the luncheon audience, instilling listeners with counsel good leadership, management and mission-oriented teams work on trust and in pursuit of simple yet high goals based on sound data and thoughtful decision-making.
“Good leadership took us off this planet,” said the Minnesota native who spent much of his life in Houston before moving to the area a couple of years ago. He said vision and leadership require you get excited, get your people excited and then “get the heck out of the way.” He said management skills are important, but aren’t necessarily leadership.
As an example, he said organizations can get weighed down as they grow by some managers who look up to their leaders and don’t nurture their team members, as well as some who have invested more in turf than the mission or missions they are charged with carrying out. “Trust is a two-way street,” he said, so the team needs to trust the leader and vice versa.
Dye also explained during missions, particularly the type in which he was involved as a controller or director, data was crucial and making decisions under fire often required proper pacing rather than abrupt action. In an emergency situation, he said, crucial points are to determine how long you have until a solution is required and the patience to use that time to formulate the best response.
“The first answer is always wrong,” he said, adding: “The more data you get, the more you’re going to know about the problem.” He stressed that point about data.
“In God we trust; all others must bring data,” he said is the operative approach at NASA.
Another aspect of leadership and sound management is striving for excellence. As he put it: “The last one is: expect excellence in order to get it.” He said if a leader doesn’t expect and require excellence from a team, it isn’t likely to be available when needed.
Dye builds and flies his own airplanes. He moved to this area after retiring from NASA in 2013. He remains active in his field not only as an aviator, but also as a writer and editor. After retiring, he became editor-in-chief of Kitplanes Magazine, a publication for those supporting the experimental aircraft industry.