History People Space

50 Years since Apollo 13 – Lessons in leadership and planning


In approaching this crisis, their delegation of authority and deference to expertise is almost total. In the face of high-stakes scenarios, it is tempting to wrest control from more junior colleagues. But in 1970 the approach of mission control was quite different. They empowered their most junior team members, giving them total ownership of their specialist stations. They would interrogate their recommendations but not second-guess them. It is a lesson that industry and wider society has largely failed to heed.

Also, they had already planned, tested and created procedures for several of the scenarios they now had to face. Improvisation was kept to minimum, because plans made in the heat of the moment are often flawed.