Liftoff: An Astronaut Commander's Countdown For Purpose Powered Leadership

Liftoff: An Astronaut Commander's Countdown For Purpose Powered Leadership

by Rick Searfoss


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Learn and apply scores of practical, empowering, and career-boosting leadership keys from a truly out-of-this-world leader and astronaut.

You should feel the “need to lead!” In today’s business world, our teams face daunting challenges in producing real results supporting a greater purpose. Your company, team, community, and family count on you to exercise meaningful, execution-oriented leadership. If you do, you will succeed in your Missions that Matter.

As a leader in the dynamic, stressful, and sometimes dangerous endeavor of human space exploration, Astronaut Rick Searfoss has had many unique experiences. However, the success principles he applied in commanding the most complex and successful human space research mission ever are universal. They apply to any venture.

The inspiration for "Liftoff" came when Colonel Searfoss met Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, who counseled, “You’ve got over twenty-five years of experience in what American businesses need more than anything else: leadership and teamwork. Share it.” Since then, Colonel Searfoss has done just that, as a noted leadership speaker and consultant.

"Liftoff" shares the keen insights of an astronaut commander leading the way. It will enable you to:

Employ a proven, balanced-leadership model in support of a greater purpose.

Drive stellar operational results with a comprehensive, objective-centric execution system.

Apply a countdown of twelve purposeful performance principles for outstanding outcomes.

Strengthen your ability to lead and perform at the front lines to achieve mission success.

The author also shares a myriad of thrilling, inspiring, and relevant stories, told from the extraordinary perspective of one of a mere handful of humans who’ve ever been in space.
Should you launch your leadership to the highest level possible? Absolutely, so let’s “light this candle” and lift off to success!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781630476649
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Publication date: 03/01/2016
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Colonel Rick Searfoss is one of a select few ever to command a human space mission. Excelling as a leader, he graduated first in his USAF Academy class and served a distinguished military, NASA, and aerospace industry career. He now shares his expertise worldwide as an inspiring, high-content professional speaker.

Read an Excerpt

Staying Alive at Mach 18

3:20 a.m. on March 17, 1996, about 150 miles abeam North Carolina, 360,000 feet high. We’re headed northeast in Space Shuttle Atlantis at over 12,000 miles per hour, approaching eighteen times the speed of sound. I’m a happy rocket man. The three main engines, my responsibility since I’m in the right seat, purr along splendidly. Everything’s great—until instantly it isn’t!

Suddenly the annoyingly loud warning alarm bleats out. A fraction of a second later our ascent CAPCOM, another pilot astronaut in Mission Control, calls, “Atlantis, we show a system-three hydraulic leak. P-L-T, execute Hydraulic Leak procedure.” Sure enough, hydraulic fluid is draining away like an open spillway at Hoover Dam.

Weighing three times my normal weight from the acceleration and wearing bulky multilayer pressure suit gloves, I gingerly reach for the correct switch. Lined up in a row, each of the three isolation switches is only an inch apart. Big glove or not, better grab the correct one, and only one. If I inadvertently shut down the wrong system, we all die. The “power steering” for Atlantis— hydraulically driven engine bells—works fine with two systems, but not with just one. With fluid lost in one system, an incorrect isolation of either remaining system means game over. Corkscrewing through the sky out of control is not how I want to end my day—or my life. After that most critical step, I quickly complete the rest of the procedure.

Though potentially just an inch away from dying, we were in reality a long way from that outcome. I had performed that same procedure hundreds of times in high-fidelity simulators, even wearing the exact same type gloves. It was so ingrained in my mind I could’ve done it in my sleep. I don’t think my heart rate even increased while executing what I’d been so prepared to do. In the heat of that battle, I felt acutely aware of every single thing going on. The preparation had given me vigilant situational awareness.

After we reached main engine cutoff (MECO) a minute later it really struck me what had just transpired. Now weightless, the hydraulic problem handled correctly, and the adrenaline jolt over, my nerves felt free to jangle a bit. My heart rate did go up then as I pondered that this time it was no simulation. I said a short prayer of thanks that I had come through and taken good care of Atlantis when she started “bleeding.” We could all thank an obsessively persistent training philosophy and a commander relentlessly leading his team to operational excellence. I was grateful too for living and working in a team culture of deep personal accountability.

Had I executed incorrectly, the STS-76 crew and I would not be alive today, nor would Atlantis now be on display at Kennedy Space Center. We would’ve all ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, we completed a full mission and returned home safely to our families. The successful resolution of this operational challenge required absolutely perfect execution. It highlights every element of the PAPA Effective Execution System: Preparation, Awareness, Persistence, and Accountability all applied with real urgency toward a focused objective. In this case the objective was a dramatically compelling one: staying alive and preserving a multibillion-dollar national asset.

Anyone, to perform at the very highest level, must resolutely hold themselves accountable for results and continuous improvement. Trials and difficulties are inevitable. Emergencies, or as NASA euphemistically calls them, “off-nominal situations,” happen. True leaders always set the example of how to deal with such challenges. They build awareness and capability through preparation, exercise their willpower in persistence, and model a dedication to accountability. That accountability ethos consolidates effective execution and advances their team to the next level.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Using this Book, Your Flight Data File


12. Choose the Hard

11. Make the Mission Matter


10. Work the Matrix

9. Build Total Trust


8. Balance the Orbit

7. Tether to Principles


6. Create Objective-Centric Operations

5. Pace It Perfectly

4. Prepare Diligently and Constantly

3. Drive Awareness and Learning

2. Persist to Prevail

1. Propel Accountability for Results

Summary: Liftoff to Success

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