The man who skipped 'Leadership 101'
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?
In the midst of what might turn out to be the worst environmental disaster in history, we have observed two very different approaches to leadership and communication during times of crisis.
On the one hand, President Obama had until recently kept himself in the background of the disaster and declined to make public prescriptions about how best to address the disaster. We will never know how much Obama was doing in the background to push, pull or aid BP, and now after calls for more direct government intervention, Obama is making his way to the front lines of crisis response.
We may have wanted Obama to be a more active, public force earlier, but again, we really have no way of knowing how much pressure he was applying to BP behind the scenes. If the answer is none at all, then yes, he failed us as a leader. But if he was leveraging his power as president to enable BP to more effectively address the disaster while recognizing that his public criticism of BP could interfere with those efforts, then I applaud his leadership.
In stark contrast, we have Mr. Hayward. The only reliable thing about the CEO of BP has been his uncanny ability to show how little empathy and concern he has for the people who are most directly affected or for the long-term implications of this disaster. In addition, he continues to provide completely unreliable statements about how effectively BP has been in stopping the outflow of oil. Eugene Robinson recently provided a wonderful analysis of Mr. Hayward's actions, and like many others, has called for his dismissal.
When Hayward looks back on all of this, I hope he learns three things about leadership in times of crisis:
First, you must acknowledge the gravity of the situation and take responsibility for your actions (or lack thereof).
Second, you must provide a vision of hope for the future and make it very clear that every resource available to you will be applied to addressing the crisis. Third, you must show concern for those involved and engage them in the solution.
Unfortunately, for all of us who will be impacted by this disaster for many years to come, Mr. Hayward forgot to take Leadership 101.
Posted by: bruce18 | June 15, 2010 11:42 AM
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Posted by: 11OAKHAM | June 15, 2010 8:58 AM
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