I recently finished reading Gene Krantz’s book “Failure Is Not an Option” and was struck by its impact on my thinking and approach to leadership. Krantz, the flight director for NASA’s Apollo program, is known for his iconic phrase, “failure is not an option.” But as I learned from Krantz’s story and philosophies, this phrase is more than just a catchy slogan – it’s an essential aspect of effective leadership. In this blog post, I’ll explore how “failure is not an option” encompasses a clear mission and vision, adaptability and resilience, confidence and determination, and how incorporating these qualities can improve your leadership skills.

The importance of a clear mission and vision in leadership

As the flight director for NASA’s Apollo program, Gene Krantz understood the importance of setting clear goals and expectations for his team. In his book, he discusses the importance of having a clear mission and vision for a team and how this can motivate and focus team members towards a common goal.

“I learned that the key to success is to have a clear mission, a shared vision, and a commitment to excellence. It is also important to foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement, and to be open to new ideas and approaches.”

A clear mission and vision are a guiding light for a team, providing direction and purpose. It helps team members understand what they are working towards and why their efforts are essential. This can be incredibly motivating in times of uncertainty or challenges, giving team members something to hold onto and work towards.

A clear mission and vision can also help to focus a team’s efforts and resources. By knowing what is essential and what is not, team members can prioritise their tasks and efficiently use their time and energy. This can lead to better results and more successful outcomes.

Other successful leaders have also demonstrated the importance of a clear mission and vision. For example, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was known for his clear vision and mission for the company, which he communicated to his team and stakeholders. This clarity helped to guide the company’s strategy and product development and contributed to its success.

The role of adaptability and resilience in leadership

One of the essential qualities that made Gene Krantz such an effective leader was his ability to think on his feet and come up with creative solutions to unexpected problems. As the flight director for NASA’s Apollo program, Krantz faced numerous challenges and setbacks that required quick thinking and adaptability.

“One of the keys to our success was our ability to adapt and improvise. We never let setbacks or challenges derail us. We always found a way to work through them and get back on track.”

In today’s rapidly changing world, the ability to adapt and pivot in the face of challenges or setbacks is becoming increasingly important for leaders. Flexibility and the willingness to embrace change are essential skills for leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve and lead their teams to success.

So how can leaders cultivate adaptability and resilience in themselves and their teams? Here are a few strategies:

  • Embrace change: Rather than resisting change, try to see it as an opportunity for growth and learning. Encourage your team to embrace change and view it as a chance to try new things and improve.

  • Be open to new ideas: Encourage your team to bring forward new ideas and approaches, and be open to considering different perspectives. This can help your team stay fresh and innovative.

  • Encourage risk-taking: Encourage your team to take calculated risks and try new things, even if there is a chance of failure. This can help your team develop a growth mindset and become more adaptable and resilient.

The value of confidence and determination in leadership

Gene Krantz was known for his unwavering belief in the ability of his team to succeed, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. As he writes in his book:

“I had confidence in my team, and I had confidence in our ability to solve problems. I believed that we could accomplish anything we set our minds to, as long as we worked together and stayed focused on the mission. I never let doubt creep in, and I never allowed myself or my team to consider the possibility of failure.”

Krantz’s confidence and determination were not just personality traits but were also instrumental in inspiring and motivating his team. When leaders believe in their team and their ability to succeed, it can help build team members' confidence and motivation and encourage them to give their best effort.

However, leaders need to strike a balance between confidence and humility. Overconfidence can lead to complacency and poor decision-making, while too much humility can undermine a leader’s ability to inspire and motivate their team. Striking a balance between the two is key to effective leadership.


In conclusion, “failure is not an option” is more than just a catchy slogan – it is a crucial aspect of effective leadership. Throughout this blog post, we have explored how this phrase encompasses a clear mission and vision, adaptability and resilience, and confidence and determination. By incorporating these qualities into their leadership style, leaders can inspire and motivate their teams to achieve great things.

It is worth noting that the principles of “failure is not an option” are not just relevant to the high-stakes world of space exploration but can be applied to a wide range of leadership contexts. Whether you are leading a small team or a large organisation, these principles can help you set clear goals and expectations, adapt to change, and inspire and motivate your team.

As we have seen through the example of Gene Krantz, the mindset of “failure is not an option” can lead to incredible achievements and success. By adopting this mindset and incorporating it into your leadership style, you can help your team achieve great things and positively impact your field.