Leading into the Unknown: Inspiring the Impossible with NASA’s Holly Ridings

This week on World Reimagined, we spoke with NASA’s Chief Flight Director, Holly Ridings, about how to build and inspire strong teams and what it takes to lead under pressure. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.

You can listen to the full-length version here.

Leaders can’t surpass the achievements of the past by sticking to the ways of the past. They must continuously challenge the status quo to inspire teams to break new ground and achieve new possibilities. Few organizations embody this approach to leadership as well as NASA.

In this episode, Host Gautam Mukunda speaks with NASA’s Chief Flight Director, Holly Ridings about how to build a diverse culture of collaboration, innovation and disruption. She also discusses how to lead through insurmountable challenges and inspire teams to reach new heights. Holly was the lead flight director for Expedition 16 and SpaceX Dragon. In her current role, she is responsible for the safety and success of human spaceflight at NASA .  

I’m always pushing the envelope because in my opinion, as leaders of human spaceflight we have to disrupt ourselves in order to stay ahead and be relevant in terms of leadership. If we are not disrupting ourselves then how do we lead the industry through all of the transitions and changes?

Holly Ridings

Follow @GMukunda on Twitter or email us at WorldReimagined@nasdaq.com

Literature Referenced on World Reimagined Season 2 Episode 9:

The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe

Columbia Accident Investigation Report

Guest Information for Intuitive Leadership:

Holly Ridings is the Chief Flight Director at NASA. Holly started her NASA career as an ISS flight controller in the THOR (Thermal Operations and Resources Group).

Holly has served as Lead Flight Director for Expedition 16, STS-127, and the first SpaceX Dragon mission to ISS.  As the Expedition 16 lead, Holly was responsible for the ISS crew during STS-120, STS-122, STS-123, and the first ATV mission.  Expedition 16 also conducted 5 non-Shuttle EVAs primarily for PMA2 ISS construction and recovery from a Solar array failure.  As the STS-127 lead, Holly was responsible for the addition of the Japanese Exposed Facility and the External Platform to the ISS over the course of a 16 day mission that included 5 EVAs. 

As the NASA lead for the Dragon Demo mission to ISS, Holly was responsible for the safety of ISS and the ISS crew during the arrival of the first commercial vehicle at ISS including the final decision for rendezvous and capture.  Holly served as the Flight Director Office Assistant for ISS and Visiting Vehicles before selection as the Deputy Chief of the Flight Director Office in the fall of 2014.  Prior to being selected as a Flight Director, Holly was the lead for the ISS ADCO (Attitude Determination and Control) group.                                            

She has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M, and lives in Texas with her husband and son.