President of India A.P.J Abdul Kalam was asked:
Q] Could you give an example from your own experience, of how leaders should manage failure?
A] In 1973 I became the project director of India’s satelite launch vehicle program. Our goal was to put India’s “ROHINI”satelite into the orbit bu 1980. I was given funds and human resources. But I was told clearly that by 1980 we had to launch the satelite into space. Thousands of people worked together in scientific and technical teams towards that goal. By 1979 we thought we were ready. But unfortunately the satelite plunged into Bay of Bengal after the launch.
That day the Chairman of the India Space Research Organisation, Professor Satish Dhawan had called a press conference. He took the responsibility of the failure and assured the media that next year the team would definitely succeed.
The next year in 1980 we tried again and we succeeded. The hole nation was happy. Again there was a press conference and Professor Dhawan called me aside and told me “You conduct the press conference today”. I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occured the leader of the organisation owned the failure. When success came, he gave it to his team. It was the best management lesson I have ever learned through my experience.