Is BP CEO An Effective Communicator?

Effective communication is one of the core competencies of a skillful leader, and some management gurus say it is the main responsibility of a leader. Good communication skills center on understanding the audience’s top concerns and needs and addressing those effectively. Without the ability to do that, how can a CEO, for example, ever hope to win support and commitment for his/her vision from key stakeholders and others affected by an organization’s actions?

With that in mind, it’s difficult to comprehend the comments of BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward in an interview with a British newspaper. Asked to address the worldwide impact of the disastrous break in the company’s Gulf of Mexico oil pipeline, Hayward said, “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”

It’s hard to imagine he could make matters worse, but Hayward did. He followed up by assuring the The Guardian that BP would “fix” the disaster, but “the only question is, we do not know when.”

He apparently sees no need to worry about an event that may turn out to be the biggest ecological disaster in U.S. history. An estimated 5,000 barrels of oil per day (more than 100,000 to date) are leaking from the pipeline, which was damaged more than three weeks ago by an explosion that killed 11 workers.

Does he inspire confidence in you? An understanding of people’s concerns? A sense of urgency in solving the problem? I’d love to hear what you think.

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