In hindsight it’s obvious that Tony Hayward was the wrong public face for BP. His lack of awareness and empathy was so startling, he almost made Michael “Brownie” Brown look like he was doing a heckuva job.
As the recent disclosures of internal emails and memos and records of disciplinary actions and fines show, the bigger problem with BP is its corporate culture. Its focus on the bottom line at the expense of the safety of its own employees, explains how a leader like Tony Hayward is allowed to thrive and prosper.
In the BP bubble where “greed is good” no one thinks twice about the boss going to the yacht races off the Isle of Wight while the shores of the Gulf turn brown. Had BP been the kind of company that acknowledged its transgressions and tried to make whole the people who lost their livelihoods, customers, supplies, jobs, or property values, Mr. Hayward could be seen as a leader instead of a loser. But then, if BP were a different company, the Gulf Coast wouldn’t be in this mess.
As for Mel Gibson… maybe there was never any way his agents, entourage, friends, or family could have intervened to avoid the actor’s latest public crisis. Despite the growing “b–ch set me up defense,” at this point, the public has no sympathy.
Clearly, the man harbors deep-seated prejudices that may or may not be fueled by alcohol, but someone close to him should have stepped in after his arrest a few years ago when he berated police officers and anyone within earshot with sexist and racial slurs.
Mr. Gibson’s agents have dropped him and currently he seems to be unemployable as an actor. Meanwhile, the root of his problems aren’t being addressed. And these roots apparently run deep. Very deep.
So. Lesson One: own up to your mistakes and don’t take even a New York minute to decide whether or not your victims need reparations. Just – as Nike might urge – Do It. Your short-term profit may suffer, but – unlike BP – your long-term prospects will most likely improve and your stock price will most likely stabilize quickly.
Lesson Two: smart leaders have people around them who will tell them what they may not want to hear. You should too. You should have someone on your staff in your inner circle, whom you trust enough to deliver honest assessments of your business practices. Also, don’t be afraid to ask a close friend or family member who understands your business for an objective view of your company’s – or your own – day-to-day ethics, culture, and public image.
Lesson Three: be honest with your clients and your employees. Treat them both with respect – unless, of course, you’re Mel Gibson.
Felicia Knight is President of Knight Vision International, LLC: www.KnightVisionInternational.com