Back to All Events

Leadership in Chaos and Shock — Lessons from the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster

  • Women's Resource Center 628 Summit Avenue Greensboro, NC, 27405 United States (map)

Presenter: Jonathan Ward

On February 1, 2003 the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry over Dallas. Debris from the shuttle – and the remains of the seven crewmembers – rained down over an area of East Texas 250 miles long and 20 miles wide. Over the next three months, more than 150 Federal, state, and local agencies and hundreds of volunteer organizations mounted the largest land search and recovery operation in US history to find Columbia’s crew and locate the physical evidence to determine the cause of the accident. How did more than 25,000 people – astronauts, woodsmen, rocket scientists, bureaucrats, FBI agents, Native American firefighters, widows, students, and more – cooperate to turn tragedy into victory?

OUT OF CHAOS—Teachable moments for coaches:  In this program we’ll explore the real-life lessons of leading in times of chaos, confusion, and grief. How do you get more than 100 Type A personalities representing many agencies to work together seamlessly within hours of a catastrophe? How can you lead a team of people who are in shock, and accomplish results quickly while addressing people’s need to mourn? How can you leverage volunteers in a formal federal investigation? And while NASA repeated some of the leadership failures from the 1986 Challenger disaster in the Columbia accident, how did NASA’s response to Columbia show an evolution in the agency’s ability to learn from catastrophe?

Presenter: Jonathan H. Ward, PCC.   Jonathan is the co-author of “Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew,” published in 2018 by Arcade Press. Jonathan is currently an adjunct coach at the Center for Creative Leadership and has extensive experience in organization development and talent management.

PARKING:  please do NOT park  on the left side of the lot near the building... those spaces are for staff and clients.  You may park on the RIGHT side of the lot or use the gravel lot across the street or go 2 blocks to the Farmer's Market.