A few weeks on from the sad passing of Neil Armstrong and I wonder whether we comprehend the significance of who and what we've lost.
Neil's passing took with it a semblance of great vision and courage. He was one of the last people on Earth to remind us of the importance of having the courage to make your vision a reality. Getting to the moon was the world's priority and he stepped up to lead a team of people to etch this moment in the history books forever.
I was given the rare and humbling privilege to meet and interview Neil late last year. In a situation like that you can't help but hope the man will live up to the legend; he most certainly did. Neil left an indelible impression, not just on me, but on the people he met during the few days he spent in Australia. I found him to be an incredibly sincere and humble person with a wonderful twinkle in his eyes and a boyish grin when discussing topics he was passionate about.
A spontaneous idea during his stay was to have him meet with twenty young Australians so he could not only share his experiences, but hear what was on the minds of the next generation. It wasn't part of his planned itinerary, he didn't have to do it, but he fervently agreed. This act really spoke volumes about him as a person and what he deemed most important; exciting today's youth about space travel, working towards a dream and the importance of team work. It was quite a scene to behold.
So what can today's leaders learn from this?
Landing man on the moon was achieved in 1969 because the necessary people believed they could do it. It was a moment that the world rallied around. Whether they were directly involved or not, most people believed accomplishing this mission would be something great for mankind. And of course it was.
Fast-forward to today and it's hard to see the same thinking in action. It seems we're more inclined to listen to risk managers who are paid to tell us why we can't do things. It has become too easy to salute the status quo, to do what's safe and not push the boundaries.
Of course, things have changed since 1969, but I do think the principles and essence of what Neil and his team demonstrated should be applied to today's leadership because, as it stands, there's a lot that needs to be learned.
Let's look at Australian political leadership. It's rife with one-upping and self-preservation. Where's the vision? I can't think of one shared objective that has pushed the limits or brought the country together. To be honest, I'd have much more respect for a political leader that failed in the pursuit of a vision that he or she believed would benefit the country rather than running with populist ideas dictated by opinion polls. It is the job of leaders to get the people they represent to believe in their vision, back it, and be accountable if it doesn't work.
I'm a realist; I understand landing on the moon or achievements of that ilk occur very few times in a lifetime, but I do feel it is possible and important to take the essence of what Neil achieved and apply it to today's leadership. Courage, vision and humility are now needed more than ever.
I wonder whether a leader of Neil Armstrong's quality will exist again? I sincerely hope so.
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