APL Colloquium

February 22, 2019

Colloquium Topic: Lessons Learned From Leading NASA

Leading NASA – a highly motivated workforce from government, industry, and academia attempting complex missions – was an amazing and fulfilling experience.  Throughout this time, numerous leadership lessons and “scar tissue” were formed.  The discussion will focus on personal stories pertaining to leadership moments related to leading change, leading people, understanding the environment, management versus leadership, and dealing with risk.  These lessons and the subsequent learning, while focused on my NASA experience, will be applicable to anyone leading a team today or thinking about taking on a leadership role in the future.

Colloquium Speaker: Robert Lightfoot Jr.

Robert Lightfoot is President of LSINC Corporation. He is responsible for leading innovative strategy assurance and product development to help clients achieve mission success.

His extensive knowledge in managing a federal agency through times of significant change allows him to develop strategies and eliminate barriers that can impact necessary change for any organization.

Lightfoot is the former Acting Administrator of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA). His permanent position at NASA Headquarters was Associate Administrator, the agency’s highest-ranking civil service position. He previously was director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, one of NASA’s largest field installations, which plays a critical role in NASA’s space operations, exploration and science missions. He spent much of his Marshall career in rocket engine testing and space shuttle propulsion office. He also served as director of the Propulsion Test Directorate at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. After Stennis, two years were spent at NASA Headquarters focused on strategies for the shuttle return to flight following the Columbia tragedy, then initial transition and retirement efforts for shuttle infrastructure.

Lightfoot received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama where he is a Distinguished Departmental Fellow for the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a College of Engineering fellow, and served on the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board. He was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2010. He received numerous awards during his NASA career, including the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Executives, the highest honors attainable for federal government work, in 2006, 2010 and 2016. Lightfoot was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science in 2018 from the University of Alabama Huntsville.