#PRQuote: Effective Communication & Leadership

The days keep running fast and as the Yorubas say, we do not know where it is racing to. However, we have the opportunity to maximise every day so that we can be delighted that the times past was not wasted.

I will want to start today’s discourse with the story of Tony Hayward, the Chief Executive of BP. In 2010,  the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had exploded and killed 11 persons, injuring dozens and beginning a gusher that in 100 days pumped 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf waters. Hayward, clearly beleaguered and sleep-deprived, seems frustrated with suggestions by the media and others that BP and its leadership were not doing enough to stop the flow.

He spoke in front of heavy equipment being readied to be deployed for the cleanup. In a tone of frustration, Hayward tried to show that he cared. He attempted an apology, tried to show that massive disruption it’s caused their lives. And you know we’re- there’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I’d like my life back”

Hayward’s statement had the opposite effect. The last part of the statement sounded like self-pity. Critics pounced. There were 11 rig workers who would never get their lives back, dozens of injured whose lives would never be the same amongst others. It was a verbal blunder. Six weeks later, he was removed as the CEO. It should be a wake-up call to leaders to inspire trust and confidence verbally. Communication has power and it needs to be harnessed effectively or it can often backfire.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Riggle, Jnr, “if you can’t communicate effectively, you will not lead.” A leader is judged from 3 fundamental public leadership attributes:

  1. The Leader’s bearing: how the leader carries himself
  2. The words that the leader uses to engage others
  3. The manner in which the leader engages others

Effective communicators need to adapt when they recognise that they are not being understood. They need to adapt based on how their audience reacts to the initial engagement, based on what critics or adversaries say. Adapting to change is not a sign of weakness or of indecision.

Olutayo Irantiola writes #PRQuotes weekly

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