Is there any way we can beg Chris Hadfield to lead our nation to full its full potential? That was the overwhelming feeling I had recently after leaving an intimate event featuring Commander Hadfield hosted by Elevate – https://elevatefestival.ca.
I had no idea what to expect when the invitation arrived. How often does one get to have dinner with an astronaut? Let alone the first astronaut from the British Commonwealth to go into space? Let alone an astronaut who is also a musician, an author, and social media savant?
The first thing I need to mention, and please hold your rolled eyes, is that Hadfield truly has an aura around him. While my colleague Giuliana duly pointed out that Hadfield did go to space, when I shared this comment with her, the aura I experienced was generated entirely by this amazing earthling. This man has a presence that is hard to define. I am unsure whether it is his enrapturing voice, his magnetic gaze, or how he seems to orchestrate the air around him, but it is present and powerful.
His uncanny ability to talk to everyone at a dinner table as if they were the only person alive while retelling his story is remarkable. Indeed you feel that he is sharing a secret with you for the first time before you pause to estimate how often he has shared this soundbite.
No matter what profession Hadfield had chosen, his life lessons for a dinner audience would be the same. His emphasis on preparation for the best and worst in life by having an open dialogue about it was a new approach for me. How many want to discuss what we would do before losing a loved one or discovering that a health issue curtailed our career? This point stuck with me because Hadfield and his colleagues were technically well-trained to tackle the dangers of their roles. But this openness to the mental part of facing disaster is a new bent for me. I like the idea of discussing the worst case, so my head and heart are as ready to respond to crises as my hands.
Commander Hadfield also talked about his objective for leading space crews. He knew he was a successful leader when crew members wanted to get right back in line for the next mission. In management, we call this retention. In marketing, we call this loyalty. In relationships, we call this commitment. It’s a powerful black-and-white, little-to-quibble test. Do people want to sign up for another adventure with you? If yes, you know your leadership – regardless of your style – is the right stuff. (Yep, I went there with that astronaut pun.)
Many people talk of chasing one’s dreams, but how many of us have chased them out of orbit? As I walked home from that dinner, I made a short list of things I have spent years discussing but have never done. If the young boy version of Chris Hadfield can dream of flying into space after seeing a lunar launch on television and make it happen, an adult MH3 can get down to fulfilling a few simple acts on earth.
PS. A day after the dinner, my Mom told me she and Chris Hadfield’s mother graduated from nursing school together. So if I didn’t believe in six degrees of separation before (and the use of the PS for an additional name drop), I do now.