“Adversity Introduces You to Yourself”
Cheryl offers: Tony Hayward, the current CEO of BP, has had a lot more media coverage than he likely ever anticipated when he took over as CEO three years ago. His comments have ranged from naïve to crass, possibly plainly offensive. It’s an interesting way to have millions of people get to know you as a leader, which is certainly the role he’s been given and must fulfill for BP at this time. So what kind of leader is he? Judging by some of his off the cuff comments, he’s not one focused on others very often. His comment, “No one wants this over more than me: I want my life back” doesn’t sound like a leader who is high in compassion for others. His more measured and likely media coached comments regarding the spill come across with far more compassionate and concern for the multiple ways damage has been done. My question is, which one is the real Tony? I’d vote for his off the cuff persona myself. How leaders respond to crises is a huge indicator of who they really are at their core. They respond from habit, default, and core values developed over a life time. To me, that’s how each of us creates our true self, with practice, focus and attention to developing ourselves over time. As Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner tell us in A Leader’s Legacy, “Adversity introduces you to yourself.” As the impact of the oil spill moves from weeks to months to years, Hayward builds his legacy each day. I wonder what Hayward is learning about himself and if he can leave a legacy worth admiration.
To draw on another recent current event “slip,” Helen Thomas put a very black mark on her career with her horrible, utterly indefensible, comments. She apologized — but you can’t explain away such language. If it comes out, it reveals the way one thinks – and, to quote another ancient piece of wisdom, “we are what we think about.” What slips out in words is what was in the mind to begin with…
“I want my life back.” Of course he does. — he just needs to resign to get it back. (Except that would be too easy. He has some penance to pay…).