Chapter 16 of 29 from Chris Hadfield

Leadership: Commanding the ISS


Chris describes the great honor and responsibility of commanding the ISS, ranks the commander’s priorities, and outlines what it takes to reach and fulfill such an elite and difficult leadership position.

Topics include: Protect the Crew, the Ship, and the Science • Create Strong Relationships Through Leadership • Keep Preparing, Learning, and Improving

Chris describes the great honor and responsibility of commanding the ISS, ranks the commander’s priorities, and outlines what it takes to reach and fulfill such an elite and difficult leadership position.

Topics include: Protect the Crew, the Ship, and the Science • Create Strong Relationships Through Leadership • Keep Preparing, Learning, and Improving

Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield Teaches Space Exploration

In 28+ lessons, the former commander of the International Space Station teaches you the science of space exploration and what the future holds.

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Explore the unknown

Impossible things happen. At age nine, Chris Hadfield knew he wanted to go to space. He eventually went there three times, becoming a commander of the International Space Station. In his MasterClass, Chris teaches you what it takes to explore space and what the future holds for humans in the final frontier. Learn about the science of space travel, life as an astronaut, and how flying in space will forever change the way you think about living on Earth.

Learn about the past, present, and future of space exploration with astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Download the workbook for lesson recaps, assignments, and photocopies of handwritten notes that Chris took to space.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Chris will also answer select student questions.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This was a really inspiring course which made me one step closer to my dream of going to space.

I love how chris was able to explain ‘Rocket Science’ in layman terms for someone like me who has a fascination for Space but never thought i would understand it.... So Big Thanks Chris for your Gift..... chris mabee xoxoxoxo

I wish I could articulate into words how I feel after completing this masterclass... I have learned so much.

The only way to learn is to learn from the best


Rich C.

Hadfield is a natural. I'm sure many if not most of us look at things in similar ways. The details here, as always, are fascinating --and I wish I'd taken leadership (what it means, and skills) more seriously than I did at an early age. But there's always hope I guess (wink). Nice lesson, CH!

Pedro C.

It would have been especially important to discuss some cases of crisis and leadership. It would be wonderful to discuss cases of crisis where leadership made the difference for good; and for bad.

Pedro C.

This has been a very inspiring session. Thank you Chris for these words of wisdom to "protect the crew, the ship and the science"!!! Great!!! If we all do just the same at industry, politics, academia, etc. the world would be a much better place!!!


I really like where this is going. Several times I've stopped to ponder what he just said. It's very true. You can learn how not to be a leader by the ones who do not know how to lead and you can become a great leader with the ones who care enough to teach you the correct direction to leadership. Stellar advice.

Sonya B.

Sonya Leadership as an ART. Think how world relations would change if this approach was taken by all. I also loved the comment regarding thinking and preparing for possible future situations because you have to do something this afternoon! Relates to one of my favorite quotes by the Roman philosopher Seneca, "Luck is what happens when Preparation meets Opportunity".

Justin S.

This was such a good session, I wish it was longer and more detailed. I was most looking forward to this module as the parallels with my profession as an airline captain are very strong. I'll take many of Commander Hadfield's lessons to heart the next time I enter my aircraft for flight.

John M.

Great session but I would like to have had a lot more instruction on navigation in space.

Terry W.

Leadership. The best lessons are from observing "bad" leadership - couldn't agree more. And Air Cadets? Recalling the lesson from the leadership course Cmdr. Hadfield took at 14...that was golden! Leadership, when all is functioning well is hardly noticeable. Leadership is crisis? Glad you were the commander, Chris!


This session have so many down-to-earth lessons. It's the basics on how to be a good leader.

Warren D.

Chris presents an excellent description of leadership in a way that makes you evaluate your own leadership and the skills and methods that you use to influence behavior. As he says, there is always something new that you can learn. The future is not there for casual coasting. It is there so that you can prepare as best you can for the role you would like to play in your life.


Commanding the world's spaceship was a huge privilege. It's a huge responsibility. I'm here talking to you right now about it because I think the experience is rare enough and interesting enough and deep enough that it has value to other people's thinking, that you should consider what's going on right on the edge of the human experience. What does it mean, not only to us as a group of people, but what, individually, does it mean for one of us to be able to do that? How did you get to be a commander? What type of person do you need to be to do the things you're dreaming of? I think those lessons go beyond just the few months that I was commanding the spaceship. And I feel like there's an absolute necessity to share all those lessons as well as I possibly can, as just part of the natural follow on of the huge privilege of commanding the space station. The world only has one International Space Station. It's the world's spaceship. And so you take that part very seriously as an astronaut, but even more so when you're the commander of it. But you also have the lives of the people onboard. You're there with five other people. And it is a dangerous place to be, just by the very nature of being away from the planet. So you have that added responsibility, not only of the structure and the cost and the complexity of the ship, but of the health and, ultimately, the lives of the other five people on board. Takes a lot more work to be a commander than to be a crew member, but I think it's also more rewarding. I thought about it for a lot of years. How can I be a useful commander? How can I do this job as well as possible? What is it we're actually trying to accomplish together? What are the measures of success? If you're going to lead properly, you have to know what victory looks like. In our case, we defined victory-- number one, we are all going to live. Pretty simple. None of us are going to die doing this. If one of us dies, then nothing else really matters. So we agreed collectively that we would sacrifice everything to keep the six of us alive. Ship doesn't matter. Assuming that the six of us were going to live, then the next priority for me as commander, and to try and instill in the behaviors and thoughts of my crew, was, assuming all of us are going to live, then the ship is going to live. We're going to keep care of this extremely precious resource. We will, in fact, not only try and keep the ship alive, but the sub-agenda is, we want to hand a ship over to the next crew that's in better shape than when it was given to us. We're not the builders of this ship. We're not the owners of the ship. We're just taking care of it for a little while and passing it on to the next generation of astronauts that are on board. And then our third objective was the prime purpose of being there, and that is to get as many things done as possible, to try and make that as productive a spaceship, a science platform, a research station, to do all the things...