BP’s Tony Hayward: Worst Leader of the Year

Posted 06.09.2010

Bp-tony I’ll acknowledge that it’s just too easy to nominate BP CEO Tony Hayward as the worst leader of the year. Granted, he’s got some stiff competition, but he deserves every inch of the big target on his back. Like a lot of people, I’ve got a crick in my neck from shaking my head after all of the stupid things he’s said and feckless things he’s done.

If you Google  the phrase “Tony Hayward quotes”, the first result you’ll get back will be a link to a helpful compilation of them at a website called NowPublic.com. They’re all sourced. Here are some of my favorites:

  • "We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused to their lives," Hayward said."There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I'd like my life back.”
  • "The oil is on the surface," Hayward said. "There aren't any plumes."
  • And here’s Hayward on workers getting ill after cleaning up the spill, "I am sure they were genuinely ill, but whether it was anything to do with dispersants and oil, whether it was food poisoning or some other reason for them being ill, you know, there's a—food poisoning is surely a big issue when you've got a concentration of this number of people in temporary camps, temporary accommodations."

And then, of course, there’s this gem from May 19, three weeks after the Deepwater Horizon Rig exploded:

And, we haven’t even gotten to the $50 million ad campaign with Hayward to tell us how BP’s going to make it all right or the series of obfuscations early on about how much oil was being released.

What criteria do you have to meet to become worst leader of the year? Still working on the complete list, but here’s what we have so far based on Hayward’s performance:

  • Lie to people
  • Take no accountability
  • Over promise and under deliver
  • Feel sorry for yourself while others are really hurting

And, let’s not forget, setting up the culture and the systems that lead to huge disasters in the first place.  I touched on that last month in this blog, the Washington Post documented it in some solid reporting this week and Hayward himself gave a preview in this talk last year at the Stanford Graduate School of Business:

Yeah, that’s it. They had too many people working on saving the world and weren’t doing enough for their shareholders. How are things working out for your shareholders now, Tony?

Congratulations on being the worst leader in the clubhouse Tony. You’ve taught us all a lot.