NASA chief sets leadership example, report says

Federal managers could learn a lot from the example set by Daniel Goldin, NASA's longest-serving administrator, according to a new report. Goldin has guided the agency through major reform and into the 21st century by adapting his management style to suit the needs of the organization, the report, "Transforming Government: Dan Goldin and the Remaking of NASA," said. The report was published by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government.

Goldin, who was appointed in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush and is still at the helm, "shook up the agency" when he came aboard, according to report author W. Henry Lambright, a professor of political science and public administration at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. "In the history of NASA, Goldin will likely stand out as a man who preserved the agency by forcing it to change," said Lambright. While his tenure has been marked by both successes and failures, Goldin's legacy will be his ability to capitalize on accomplishments, learn from failures and adapt his management style accordingly, the report said. "He worked intensely, was quite intelligent, learned quickly about Washington politics, and was utterly relentless in pursuit of his aims," said Lambright. "He has lasted a long time in office, outlasting many of his adversaries." According to the report, Goldin's success as an agency leader is due to his ability to:

  • Align a long-term mission with short-term goals: Goldin viewed space exploration as NASA's primary mission, but knew that maintaining NASA's management and technological innovations would be the means to that end.
  • Use adversity and crisis as opportunities for change: Budget cuts and the fate of the international space station were some of the trials Goldin used to build a constituency of support for his leadership and NASA, and to reform the agency.
  • Identify agency weaknesses: Goldin used independent panels to assess NASA's problems and solutions, and eventually used that strategy to modify his own administrative style, which had contributed to communication problems within the agency.
Lambright emphasized that Goldin's ability to implement change, but also to learn how to wield that power wisely, is, ultimately, Goldin's legacy as a leader. "There are limits to change imposed from the top, and Goldin found those limits," said Lambright. The report credited Goldin with saving the international space station, revamping the unmanned space science program and pursuing an aggressive management reform agenda that helped steer the agency into the next century. Goldin's "faster, better, cheaper" approach to unmanned space flight proved successful with 1997's Pathfinder mission to Mars, and his emphasis on space exploration as NASA's primary mission helped focus the agency on a specific long-term goal. His strong-willed, aggressive personality also helped reorganize NASA and build support in the administration and Congress for NASA initiatives. But, sometimes Goldin pushed too hard for change and the "faster, better, cheaper" approach was not always the best tack to take with the Mars program, the report said. Goldin also failed to solve NASA's access to space problem and alienated many employees inside NASA with what his critics saw as insensitive tactics and an abrasive personality, the report said.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.