Astronaut Chris Cassidy: Leadership Under Pressure (and its Value to Risk Management)

Capt. Chris Cassidy, a Navy SEAL, led a number of diverse teams as NASA’s Chief Astronaut and Commander of the International Space Station. He’ll share his views on risk management and leadership under pressure.

I think most of us look up at the stars and wonder what it would be like to travel in space. One of my earliest memories is of being allowed to stay up past my bedtime to see Neil Armstrong take that historic step following the moon landing of Apollo 11.

I didn’t really understand what was happening, but I remember my parents were excited and anxious, and my father told me, “We’re seeing history.” And I will ever forget Armstrong’s famous quote: “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”

Armstrong’s small step/giant leap was the result of years of training, thousands of hours spent researching and documenting risk management protocols and billions of dollars spent on equipment. Despite all of that preparation, malfunctions occur and tragedy can result. There would have been no Apollo 11 or International Space Station had there not been hard lessons learned from other space missions, including Apollo 1, which was destroyed when an electrical fire spread quickly in the pure oxygen atmosphere of the cabin and claimed the lives of all three crew members:  Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee.

The reality is, there aren’t too many “work” environments that are as high risk/high reward as space exploration.

Just ask Capt. Chris Cassidy, a Navy SEAL who has led a number of diverse teams as NASA’s Chief Astronaut and Commander of the International Space Station, who acknowledges risk is part of the job and risk management is a way of life for him and the other members of NASA’s space program.

Cassidy shared one story with me that he likely will explain in more detail during his keynote address at Intelex 30: The User Conference. In 2013, during his time on the Space Station, the space suit of one of other astronauts started rapidly filling with water due to an equipment malfunction. Cassidy, Ground Control and the other astronaut literally had seconds to determine the issue and fix it. There was no precedent for this particular malfunction. It had never happened before. But they were able to troubleshoot the issue and resolve it because their training prepared them for any situation.

Despite his place in the history and future of space exploration, Cassidy is a modest, down-to-earth (pardon the pun!) man. Ask Cassidy if he’s an American hero and he might respond as he did in the documentary series, Among the Stars: “Being an astronaut is a privilege. I’m no one special: it’s just that I’m doing a special job.”

Everyone attending Intelex 30: The User Conference, will have the chance to judge for themselves how special he is when Cassidy delivers the keynote address, “Leadership Under Pressure: An Astro SEAL’s Perspective.” He will share his adrenaline-pumping journey across the sea, air, land and space, demonstrating how it’s in all of us to thrive in clutch moments to achieve our goals. He will focus on the importance of effective leadership along the way, using anecdotes from his experience as an astronaut and a SEAL to illustrate his point.

Chris also sent me this promo video for a Disney+ series, Among the Stars, that premiered last year. In the series, Cassidy and a team of engineers, flight controllers and specialists embark on a journey into space to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The docuseries follows the team members using cameras stationed on both Earth and the International Space Station, using intimate footage, personal video diaries and livestream footage.

At one point, Cassidy says, “Any given mission can end in a catastrophic way.” 

The footage cuts to his parents, waving goodbye to him as he prepares for a return to the International Space Station. “When that rocket goes up and you think, ‘My god, my son is in that,'” said his mom. “It’s a real goodbye,” Cassidy says of leaving his parents. “You just never know.”

Are you an Intelex customer? Thinking about becoming an Intelex customer? There’s still time to register for @Intelex 30: The User Conference.

This entry was posted in Environmental & Sustainability Management, Health & Safety Management and tagged , by Sandy Smith. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the Director of Global Content and Brand for Intelex Technologies. Formerly the Content Director for EHS Today, she has been writing about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990. Her work as a journalist and editor has been recognized with national and international awards. She has been interviewed about occupational safety and health for national business publications, documentaries and television programs; has served as a panelist on roundtables; and has been the keynote speaker for occupational safety and health conferences.

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