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BP Oil Disaster: Poor Management or Poor Leadership?

Written by on 07 January 2011

Finally, the report regarding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig disaster that saw 11 people killed and the worst ecological industrial oil spill in history has been published. If you are a senior BP oil executive, it doesn’t make pleasant reading!

BP - Systemic failings

BP LogoThe report points out a number of managerial failures that lead to poor operating procedures in turn lead to the catastrophic chain of events that caused the disaster. A number of organisations have been highlighted as demonstrating “systemic failings” of management.

Was management to blame?

Management is the operational articulation of leadership. Leadership is exercised through the combination of legitimised power (power invested in the individual by the organisation) and management function. The key to effective management is good quality leadership.

Was it all about the money?

The report highlights that a number of companies cut corners in operating safety procedures in order to save money, however a wider context exists. The culture of the organisation promotes the pursuit of profit at all costs. Companies operating in the rapidly changing global context need to have a wider outlook for sustainable growth and longevity.

Selecting the right leaders

By the time individuals reach senior employment age, they have well developed views on values, decision-making and leadership. They either believe in an ethical, holistic role of the leader or they believe that expediency and political manipulation is acceptable. Where an individual feels that the roll of the leader is one that simply implements procedures and policy they run the risk of eroding critical standards that in themselves may not be significant but combined may prove to be critical!

Preventing further disasters

All organisations, and not just BP, need to consider the kind of leaders they require. Leaders set the standard and implement management practices, therefore it is a critical requirement of organisations to select the right leaders and set them within the right organisational context, develop a culture that has wider aims and real values that stand behind the role of the leader, that legitimises both their decisions but also their actions.

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