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Leadership Theory and Practice a Case BP’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Essay (Critical Writing)


Moral Accountability Issue

In the mid of the year twenty ten, one of the largest leading petroleum companies, BP experienced one of the worst oil spills at the Gulf of Mexico. This incident made the company’s image seem smeared. Many issues arose as to what was the cause of this massive spill that was threatening the aquatic lifestyle.

A lot of questions were raised and there was a lot of blame game going on. BP was drilling the world’s deepest oil well in partnership with Transocean contractors. But when the spill happened, BP received major blows and their top brass was summoned to explain the catastrophic and dangerous accident (Walsh 2010).

One of the first damage control measures BP had tried to put in place was to make their drilling contractors take the blame but the media and the U.S. government were already on their neck. They had opted to pump huge amounts of mud into the leakage trying to make the mud subsidize the oil flow from the fractured pump.

They even considered injecting mud into the busted area to try and reduce the flow of the fluid (Balleisen & Eisner 2009). Most of the people who blamed BP were fishermen, owners of restaurants, residents who lived along the coastline, politicians and the public in general. They argued that for such a corporate giant, dealing with this oil spill should not have been a troublesome issue.

Most of these people were of course looking at this from a layman’s point of view and did not take time to understand that in order to stop the spillage from continuing, a lot had to come into play. Moreover, it was a professional job that was also as risky and life threatening as the spill itself.

It had been the assumption of the regulating bodies in the petroleum industry that the oil companies would regulate themselves. It was also expected that they would be closely watched for the good of the citizens and to promote a healthy free market economic steady structure.

Looking at other oil spills around the world, especially around the ‘Niger delta, Venezuela, Gabon, Chad, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan and Uganda’, there have been major pollutions caused by the world’s leading petroleum companies and all combined would face multi-billion law suits.

But these spills in these areas have gone unheard of and they are left to ruin the ecosystems in these parts of the world due to the ignorance and self belief that they are mighty corporations who probably should not answer to anyone (Lee et al 2001). On the contrary, these companies continue to have positive airplay in the media as they wreck the world due to the kind of profits they command and the amount of taxes they pay (Wilson 2010).

However, BP this time came under pressure because this oil had a direct effect on the American people and it was highly publicized on the news, giving the company a bad image. The Chairman Carl-Henric Slavberg seemed to admit that they were to blame when he met President Barrack Obama and agreed to a settlement for around twenty billion U.S dollars (BP n.d).

This in the eyes of the public made BP seems like they were trying to buy their way out and make the problems go away unresolved. Others viewed it as a positive thing that the company had admitted liability and was willing to compensate those who had been directly affected by the oil spill. This was regarded as an excellent way to redeem their image and restore public confidence (Robertson & Fountain 2010).

Major Leadership Issues Faced by BP

BP should not have suffered this kind of ruinous disaster if they had good corporate governance in place. Structural changes were in serious need and it was only a matter of time before they got to implement them if the leadership of the company was more accommodating to the junior employees.

People process change was really wanting in this organization and if the BP organization had taken time to appreciate their employees and also give incentives in form of promotions, the employees would have felt a sense of belonging and they would have been safeguarding the interests of the company (Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, n.d).

They also seemed to lack in the area of technology because a company of their stature should have proper equipment and mechanisms in place that will detect even the slightest leakages and act on them before they become disastrous.

The management should have stressed the need for state of the art technology no matter the cost as this would have solved this spillage problem and also saved them millions of dollars in form of compensations (Etkin 2009).

BP did not come up with ways to calm the employees when the company shares started going down. They would have had a committee that included the union or the employee representatives and also some leaders from the top management. This would have worked out well for the management but they seemed to be hiding up in the offices and just demanding for results.

In any organization, communication is quite key be it in an upward or downward situation or even horizontally or vertical situation. This makes the employer get to understand what the employees need and their perspective of the organization and the employee gets to understand first class the organization’s goals and what is expected of them.

Two changes that are vital for BP as a way forward are structural change and people process change. They need to bring in new talent and instill in them a sense of belonging. They need to restructure the entire organization and make some radical change and also promote the long serving employees. This gives morale to the other staff members that should they get to work smart they will also be in recognized and rewarded.

Coaching of the Management and Leadership Issues in BP

As a way of teaching the management of British Petroleum moral accountability and leadership, I would first make sure that before promoting an individual to management; they know the company’s mission statement and that they understand it to the fullest.

The next step would be to make sure that they understand the organizational structure of British Petroleum and how it works. Understanding of core values is also of importance (Bruce 2006).

Introduction of an employee reward scheme would be one of the initiatives that I would put in place and make sure that the prizes are of a competitive nature. Introduction of a non biased communications policy would also work well (Bruce 2006). This would be followed by the introduction of an open door policy where the managers are not shut in their offices where they become unreachable.

This would give a chance to initiate communication which in turn makes the junior employees feel a sense of belonging since there is communication between management and employees. One thing the managers need to understand is that they are humans too and they also can make mistakes. Moral accountability is important as it also helps the juniors not feel pressurized to match up to the manager.

A manager who humbles him/herself and is always open to correction and has an interest to learn from the juniors is more respected that one who feels that he/she knows it all and does not need to be taught anything due to pride and prestige of being the manager.

Restructuring the entire organization would have yielded some piece of mind to the stakeholders. Understanding the stakeholders concerns is important for they are the employers in an indirect manner (Bruce 2006).

BP should have also made an effort to call in for an emergency general meeting and offer information on the cause of the spillage and what they had done so far to make sure that the problem had been arrested. This is not a form of PR but moral accountability. They would have explained what led to the spillage and who was to blame and why he/she was still in office.

One of the noble things a leader investigation does should such a disaster occur in their organization, if they are the people in charge of the affected area, is to resign pending the outcome of the and also explain themselves and avoid any form of interference in the whole saga unless they are summoned by the relevant authorities.

As a leading organization, putting in a handsome pension in place would enable long service of employees and loyalty. This makes the employees want to reserve their jobs by adhering to the set guidelines thus enhancing the company’s mission statement in all they do.

Going through the types of changes that would be required in the BP corporation structural change, people processing, strategic management change and technological change would really service the entire organization, transforming it into a new yet well seasoned and experienced organization. Of all these changes, people process and technological changes would be the most important.

The managers in these respective departments failed in their duties and would be required to take responsibility. Being in the Chairman’s position, I would relieve them off their duties and start searching for younger yet experienced people to fill these positions.

In order to restore employee morale, these positions would be advertised internally and would make sure that they are filled by already serving employees unless we miss what we are looking for. That way, we would now advertise externally.

Communicating with the stakeholders through mail to keep them posted on what is happening would be also important. This would have to happen in a bid to restore their faith in the company’s management.

BP have resolved to clean up their mess and the President of the United States of America H.E. Barrack Obama has come clean on his expectations of the Giant Oil Corporation that this time round they would pay all the necessary payments that ought to be paid. They were expected to come up with new measures to make sure that such a disaster does not happen in future.

Regardless of the one who was to blame in all this, all that the American people wanted was that BP takes care of its mess and make sure that well is capped and that they would help in the clean up of the shores that had been damaged by the oil spillage.

Inside the company, the board made a hastened impromptu meeting to try and come up with strategies to avert this catastrophic disaster from spreading and contain the damage and also protect the company’s image both locally and abroad (Balleisen & Eisner 2009). They also wanted to discuss the company’s forward strategies including ways of making new monies in new technological fronts.

It is not easy to pinpoint who is to blame for the oil spill as the British Petroleum company will say that Transocean was in charge of the drilling and that they were only facilitators or maybe financiers. But Transocean does not seem to be under any pressure from the American government or the American people. This may have caused some ripples between the two organizations as to who was to blame.

British Petroleum was well recognized being the main drillers due to their publicizing of the project. They had it flashed around as the world’s deepest well ever drilled and this now came back to slap them. However their admittance to this entire spillage saga may have been a start for them to redeem themselves and work forward.

It however would be a fundamental strategy for them to also come up with some compensation for any other spills that might have been caused by them all over the world even though they will not engage in financial compensations to the affected communities.

This in itself would be regarded as moral accountability and it would be an amazing journey and also a new strategy of corporate social responsibility for them to offer to rehabilitate the affected ecosystems (The NewsRoom 2008). British Petroleum is a worldwide Oil Giant Company and they probably need to come up with ways of protecting their image both at home and also in the entire world.

It is very vital that the management of the British Petroleum Organization needs to realize that the changes that they introduce in the organization should be long term and also that they are for the good of the company in all aspects. Technological changes are also very important in an organization considering that we are in a world where technology has been embraced as a core fundamental aspect in moving organizations ahead (BP 2011).

These changes must been in line with how the management learns to handle the innovative process. The management needs to also have a capability to coin new products while making amendments to existing ones as well.

Embracing technology is very critical in creating unique and good durable products and services and when restructuring the organization, it is of importance that we consider the technological changes as well (Evans 2001). This, most likely, is the backbone of the organization in support to human capital. This in turn seemed to push away brilliant minds that would have wanted to join and work with a reputable company of the stature of British Petroleum (Rees 1996).

This would have in turn pushed these brilliant potential employees off to work with the competition, leaving British Petroleum with the same old stagnant working ideas instead of getting new graduates.

New graduates would come in and inject new fresh ideas in terms of economic revolution, financial stability and also the level of the corporate autonomy that would indeed take British Petroleum to the next step and maintain their position as the world’s leading Petroleum Company. Hopefully with British Petroleum’s new strategy they will be able to savor any further catastrophic damages that might come their way.

British Petroleum needed vital changes in its leadership. Such changes included new ideas which were of importance to the fundamental changes which were to take place. It also has been some kind of a trend that if a company has messed up and they decide to bring in new management, the public starts to have some ray of hope for the new leadership that is taking place.

This would involve resolving any unforeseen or felt tensions between the company and stakeholders and also get new ideas to motivate the employees. Tackling the oil spill issue, first I would have to make sure that those who are directly involved acknowledge that they are responsible for the mishap and order a full report done as to what may have been the cause of the oil spill.

I would in turn call a press conference in order to calm the stakeholder and public at large in a bid to make sure that we have engaged the relevant authorities in trying to contain the spill and avert any more spreading. I would make sure that those responsible are sent on compulsory leave as we investigate the spillage issue and displinary action would be taken upon completion of the investigation.

I would also introduce new training techniques that would be mandatory to all new and existing employees. Introduction of new advanced monitoring systems would be a plus because this would have come in handy in detecting system failures. The misplaced cap would have been detected early enough and all this spillage would have been avoided. Running a multi national corporation is not a simple task (Begg 2011).

The Chairman and the C.E.O have to go through a lot in order to keep tabs on what the company is experiencing while making sure that the stock does not go down for this creates a lot of worries.

The management needs to be well trained in all aspects of public relations and disaster preparedness (Freeman 1999). That way, when a disaster strikes and critiques are all over, they will be in a position to reply confidently and positively answering the critics and all together maintaining a good image of the company.

Looking at the employees who had invested in the shares of the company they were working for, this spill may have indeed caused some a lot of worry and some form of negative anxiety in the organization.

This clearly would have impacted the employees in a negative manner and thus reduction of their productivity level.

The E&P division is particularly on record as being devastated and feeling that they had let the entire corporation down because they were deemed as an elite group of intellectuals who were phenomenon in the field of oil and petroleum based on the level of intelligence combined with the experience they brought on board.

I think that taking safety seriously was to be a first priority. Employees are an ‘organization’s core capital and without them it would be nearly impossible to drive the company forward (Simestad & Cordell 2000). Therefore ensuring their safety would be a very essential priority and then look at other matters according to their importance.

Another key requirement I would consider is slashing cost just like Mr. Hayward is quoted saying that every single dollar is quite important to the organization (Rees 1996).

Risk management is very vital in such organizations that handle this kind of dangerous yet precious commodity. A risk management unit would come in handy in preventing the catastrophic disaster that happened and the deaths that were caused (HSE n.d).

List of References

Balleisen, J. E & Eisner, M. 2009, The promise and pitfalls of co-regulation: How governments can draw private governance for public purpose. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge university press.

Begg, E. 2011, Holcomb station expansion permitting. Shaw’s Environmental & Horticulture Group.

BP. 2011, Supporting oil spill response efforts. Web.

BP. n.d., Gulf of Mexico restoration. Web.

Bruce, A. 2006, How to motivate every employee: 24 proven tactics to spark productivity in the workplace. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

Etkin, D. M. 2009, Analysis of US oil spillage. API Publication 356. Web.

Evans, N. D. 2001, Business innovation and disruptive technology: harnessing the power of breakthrough technology for competitive advantage. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, . Web.

Freeman, J. 1999, Recrafting the rule of law. Toronto: Hart publishing. 1999.

HSE., : 29th May – 10th June 2000. Web.

Lee, M. et al. 2001, Health impacts of deepwater horizon on coastal Louisiana residents. Louisiana State University.

Rees, V. J. 1996, Hostages of each other: the transformation of nuclear safety since three mile island. Chicago: Chicago Printing Press.

Robertson, C. and Fountain, H. 2010, . The New York Times. Web.

Simestad, C. A. and Cordell, J. R. 2000, Ecological assessment criteria for restoring anadromous salmonid habitat in Pacific Northwest estuaries. Ecological Engineering, 15: 283-302.

The News Room. 2008, Minerals Management Service and the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006. Fact Sheet: Energy Security Act. Web.

Walsh, B. 2010, Worst-case scenario: Fighting the Gulf oil spill. Time. Web.

Wilson, A. B. 2010, . CBS News. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, January 17). Leadership Theory and Practice a Case BP’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/leadership-theory-and-practice-a-case-bps-gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-critical-writing/

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"Leadership Theory and Practice a Case BP’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill." IvyPanda, 17 Jan. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/leadership-theory-and-practice-a-case-bps-gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-critical-writing/.

1. IvyPanda. "Leadership Theory and Practice a Case BP’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill." January 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/leadership-theory-and-practice-a-case-bps-gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-critical-writing/.


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IvyPanda. "Leadership Theory and Practice a Case BP’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill." January 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/leadership-theory-and-practice-a-case-bps-gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-critical-writing/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Leadership Theory and Practice a Case BP’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill." January 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/leadership-theory-and-practice-a-case-bps-gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-critical-writing/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Leadership Theory and Practice a Case BP’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill'. 17 January.

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