During the crisis, many differing accounts of leadership emerged – US Covet, BP Execs, and the OIC provide 3 contrasting portrayals of leadership in crisis taxation that illustrate the importance and impacts of preparation, perception, communication, and courage. The US gobo demonstrated a mixed-bag of leadership attributes and failings amidst the crisis, highlighted on one hand by its quick decisive action and its desire to learn from the situation (Carroll & Hatcheck, 2001). However, on the other hand, it showed lack of preparation and poor damage containment (James & Wooden, 2005).
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Within hours of the accident, the president had heard the news, rescue personnel dispatched, and plan to establish a command center was put forth. On-scene coordinator was promptly named and inter-agency operations and planning structure was set up within days. However, the responsive actions were offset by the lack of a clear plan and process for critical communications, lack of structure allowing efficient inter-agency cooperation, lack of proper staffing protocol, and mishandling of BP as it failed to quickly stem the oil leak, while millions of gallons leaked into the gulf over a 3 months period.
US gobo should have been better prepared. Safety issues and accidents aboard an off-shore drilling rig is not an unforeseen situation. In fact, recent events similar in consequence (Exxon Valued) and location (Hurricane Strain) provided he US gobo opportunities for better preparation & damage control for similar future crisis situations. Proper protocols/plans and perhaps even better technologies for oil collection/clean-up could have been devised. Yet, when the crisis began, the covet was in the midst of planning to actually expand the off- shore drilling in US oceans – without the necessary preparation and protocol (Winner, 2010).
And although on May 22, 2010 the covet ultimately showed its desire to learn from its mistakes by setting up a new commission to investigate the BP spill & prevent/mitigate future spills (Whitehorse. Gob, 2010) – it can also e asserted that such commission should have already been in place. BP execs on the other hand displayed little redeeming qualities in its lack of leadership through the crisis. Although it had a chance to show contrition, accountability, courage, and compassion, it failed to do so. Prior to the incident, the Deep Water Horizon rig operated for seven years without severe injury to its 126 workers.
The rig included safety devices (back flow prevented), which should have circumvented the catastrophic event, but the device failed to activate. Due to these facts, the accident could have been construed as a sudden crisis, not caused by negligence, and thus affording some empathy for BP from the public Names & Wooden, 2005). In fact, BP had the chance to do what Johnson & Johnson did so admirably in its crisis management by showing contrition, taking accountability, being transparent, and demonstrating compassion & commitment to the thousands whose lives were affected by the tragedy.
Unfortunately, BP execs failed to show such leadership. Up’s CEO Tony Hayward was cited as being evasive in his congressional hearings and BP execs in various public settings pointed fingers at others as the key culprit. BP garnered terribly active perception from the public who characterized Up’s too little, too late’ actions as uncompensated, ingenuous, and evasive. Businesses complained about Up’s claim payout – slow or missing – and there were speculations that to date BP only paid out approximately $3. B from the $BIB claim fund it was forced to set up.
There were also several quotes and reports that showed an out-of-touch executive leadership that showed little remorse, accountability, or courage. Meanwhile, amidst the chaos, key personnel at the OIC showed examples of extraordinary leadership in a crisis situation – especially some situations that ere created and exacerbated by the actions of US covet and BP. In a crisis situation, it is imperative to quickly assess the situation, stabilize it, and develop a plan to address it (Carroll & Hatcheck, 2001). It is pivotal for the leader to show the ability think quickly on his feet and take decisive action.
Barbara Vulgar was an example of a leader who walked into a highly fractured situation and showed key signs of leadership in a crisis situation including the ability to think on her feet where there was no recipe, not oversimplifying the situation, openness to learning along the way, all the mean while creating transparency in Lana and action, trying to be proactive, managing perceptions, and finally showing sensitivity and courage (Carroll & Hatcheck). On May 22, 2010, Barbara Vulgar arrived at the OIC to lead the inter-agency task of collecting, processing and disseminating accurate and timely information to the media.
Reporting for her 60 day duty call, she walked into a situation that she described as “chaotic” and “insane”. Lacking structured hand-over or staffing protocols, Vulgar was dumped into the situation without any turn-over of previous process or procedures. She was left to manage a highly charged and notionally stressful environment where recruits from all over the country with differing backgrounds, experiences, maturity, and willingness were thrust at her various times per day.
She skillfully assessed the experience and skillet of the incoming barrage and diverted them to where they would best fit, be most productive, and where they would best represent the USC. Vulgar and fellow OIC members displayed commitment, empathy and compassion in their work. Public Affairs Chief Petty Officer Marguerite Demarcation explained that while she had been part of managing calls and communications urine major crisis situations in the past, this time she was especially sensitive to the voices and plights of the poor people who were on the line making highly emotional calls and pleas.
Not only were there compassion and empathy towards the public, Vulgar also demonstrated commitment to the hardworking people at the OIC. Although she felt chest pains and was ordered to go to the doctor and take a day off, she felt guilty because she thought she was letting someone down. Similarly, working with Halverson, Vulgar raised concerns about the lack of fixed working scheduled and clear organizational structure. They then recorded to create a personnel list and a rotation schedule.
They cared about the overworked staff who were sprinting under high levels of stress and “here for the long haul. ” The brand image of BP was not the only one that was at risk in this high media coverage situation; the USC was also under a watchful eye. “Leaders in a crisis are forced to operate in full public view, with the media and others positioned to report and critique their actions” (James & Whether, 2005). Especially with the widespread propagation of floggers and social media outlets, Vulgar was faced with dealing with a media that was changing with the time.
To manage the perceptions of a changing demographic, she assigned staff to specifically handling the social media circles and she countered rumors and speculation with widespread dissemination of facts and figures via the same media channels. As a leader she was staying agile with the needs and situations, and providing solutions that fit the need. Vulgar was also acutely attuned to the need for her “employees to feel safe in their work environments” (James & Whether, 2005). Vulgar approached a new associate and informed the associate of the need for her to work alone in the facility during the evening to answer the phones.
The reservist appeared panicked, and Vulgar made a mental note to address the situation to create a safe work environment for her team. Vulgar knew that “when management appears to be unresponsive dissatisfaction spreads” (Carroll & Hatcheck, 2001 Vulgar leaned on her ability to “read non-verbal signs” which confirms her leadership ability in a crisis environment (Carroll & Hatcheck, 2001). Nearing the end of her rotation, Vulgar did not want to leave to her successor the same chaotic and insane situation that lacked organization and structure.
Instead, she developed a tankard operating procedure (SOP) that allowed the OIC to gain from her experience and learn from her mistakes/successes. She also showed concerned about the OIC being more proactive with the critical communication rather than constantly being reactive. Vulgar represented an example of an effective leader in a crisis situation whose commitment, courage, and compassion working along side her people skills, capability to think on her feet, and ability to read situations/people – all of which lead to an effective management of a critical function during an emotionally charged environmental catastrophe.