Fodder, the stuff of bloggers and reporters, and thanks to BP and Afghanistan, we are awash in material. It would be easy to pile-on with some witty observations thanks to the multitude of missteps flowing from the Gulf and Afghanistan. However, BP CEO Tony Hayward and General Stanley McChrystal also offer a reminder that leadership is not just viewed from inside the organization.
Both men are very accomplished leaders – they have achieved great success within their respected organizations. Though it is easy to bash someone when they stumble, there is no denying that both men possess a track record of superior performance. One does not become a CEO or 4 Star General by accident. The above said, both have stumbled recently; quite publically and quite badly. There is no need to rehash the missteps – most are well-known to even the casual observer. Let’s just leave it with the fact that both have not exactly made savvy public relations moves of late.
It is a phrase most have heard somewhere along the way – “would you want to see it on the front page of the New York Times”. Maybe it is a little melodramatic, and it does seem so quaint, a newspaper reference, but the message is applicable to anyone in leadership. There is more to being a leader than just taking care of your team. There are stakeholders inside the organization, superiors, external customers, shareholders, and there is the greater community. There is an exterior component to leadership and how you are viewed as a leader.
Taking care of your people, hitting the number, and following through on the deliverables are all important, but so is how you do it and how it is viewed from the outside. It is easy to forget sometimes – especially when the pressure is on. One has to wonder if Tony Hayward or General McChrystal would have acted differently if they would have considered the exterior view of leadership.