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Gail S. Williams
Leadership administrator

Gail S. Williams

Gail S. Williams directs the Leadership Alchemy Program at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Over-promising and under-delivering

Q: President Obama finally meets this week with BP chief Tony Hayward on the Gulf oil spill. From a leadership perspective, which man has been the less effective in his handling of the crisis? What should he have done differently?

Tony Hayward's leadership of the oil spill crisis is notably less effective than the president's.

Leadership is built on a foundation of trust. Unfortunately, trust was never established due to his over-promising results and under-delivering accomplishments. Trust further eroded through finger pointing. Had Hayward stated that determining the cause of the spill is complex and that, first and foremost, BP's attention must be focused on stopping the spill and minimizing the environmental impact, later turning attention to a thorough review of the causes, he'd earned more of my trust. The situation was exacerbated by markedly underestimating the magnitude oil leaking every day.

Reasonable people appreciate that stopping the leak at this depth presents enormous technological challenges. Mr. Hayward would have been more credible had he set reasonable expectations on many fronts - ranging from how and when BP would stop the leak to reimbursing individuals and businesses for lost income and environmental damage.

This disaster offers many leadership lessons and will continue to do so for many years to come, I fear.

By Gail S. Williams

 |  June 16, 2010; 1:37 PM ET
Category:  Crisis leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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