What can we learn about leadership from BP’s handling of theDeepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico? Last week leadership expert John Baldoni, author of Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up, was interviewed by Mark Kelley for his show “Connect” on the CBC network. Kelley asked Baldoni (minute 30 of show) about the leadership effectiveness of BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward. Baldoni said that in a crisis, people need their leaders to “be seen, be heard, and be there.” In other words, leaders should be visible to the people being affected by the crisis, they should communicate clearly and often, and they should show that they care and are listening to concerns. Unfortunately for BP and the people of the Gulf coast, Hayward failed on all three counts.
Kelley compared the BP CEO to Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, who, during the worst part of Toyota’s recent recall crisis, was apologetic, contrite, willing to acknowledge mistakes, take responsibility, and communicate what the company was doing to resolve the situation. Even with his limited English, the Japanese leader was more believable to Americans than BP’s British leader. And the Toyota president appeared to learn from his own mistakes, becoming more responsive as time went on. Not so with the BP CEO. He is still not seen enough (except on his yacht), not heard enough, and not there enough.