Posts from June 2012

Lessons on the Anniversary of “I’d like my life back…”

Posted on Friday June 1, 2012 in | 6306 Comment(s)

Two years ago yesterday BP CEO Tony Hayward inadvertently got his wish when, in the thick of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, he told a press conference, “I want my life back.”   He was sacked soon thereafter.  In the battle for public opinion – for trust, support, the benefit of the doubt – Hayward lost.  It was a failure of leadership on a massive scale.  And it began with a failure of communication.  And that failure, in turn, was a failure of discipline.

Hayward’s blunder is not unique to him.  It should be a wakeup call to CEOs and other leaders, to all whose leadership responsibilities require inspiring trust and confidence verbally. 

Whatever else leadership may be, it is experienced publicly. While it may emanate from within, it is a public phenomenon.  And however technically proficient someone may be, if her or she does not communicate effectively, he or she will not lead well. Communication has power.  But as with any form of power, it needs to be harnessed effectively or it can all too often backfire. 

In 33 years of advising leaders on the actions and communication needed to win, keep, or restore public confidence, I have concluded that many leaders, much of the time, fundamentally misunderstand communication. This misunderstanding has consequences: corporations lose competitive advantage; NGOs find it harder to fulfill their mission; religious denominations lose the trust and confidence of their followers; nations diminish their ability to protect citizens and achieve national security goals.

 

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