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How Not to Lead a Business, As Taught by Tony Hayward

A recent opinion piece by Rosabeth Moss Kanter for the Harvard Business Review reflects on soon-to-be-departing CEO Tony Hayward’s conduct during BP’s Gulf oil spill crises. Moss Kanter considers Hayward’s leadership during the trying time for the company as well as the country-at-large, and from her reflections she crafts “a set of anti-rules for bad leadership.”

She posits that Hayward must have learned his management skills in a parallel universe where up is down and night is day, but says that students of business can gain from Hayward a “how-not-to-do-it guide” for being a good leader during a crises involving their business. Anyone seeking to form a new business might consider consulting Moss Kanter’s anti-guide.

Moss Kanter says that good leaders need to “face facts, prepare for the worst case scenario, draw on the whole team, show constant concern for stakeholders, acknowledge mistakes and not make the same ones twice, and do the honorable thing if getting in the way of company progress.”

In contrast, Hayward did the opposite by denying the full scope and depth of the crises and by deflecting blame or blaming others. He also failed to acknowledge the hard work of those below him in BP working diligently on clean-up and recovery efforts, and he talked about his own discomfort rather than acknowledging the true victims of the environmental catastrophe. Hayward also stayed too long at BP, only handing in his resignation this week. In the end, he detracted from the business’ recovery, argues Moss Kanter, by not bowing out sooner.


Leadership Tips from Tony Hayward (or Not) (Bloomberg)

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