Are there speed bumps on your career path?

Are there speed bumps on your career path?

Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, who recently complained about wanting his life back, recently got his wish. He has had the responsibility for managing the clean-up operation taken away from him, and returned to the UK no doubt looking forward to the relative calm. However, one of Hayward’s first decisions after setting foot on home soil was to go pleasure cruising on his private yacht, making him an easy target for journalists and the paparazzi. No doubt he has been under immense stress since the spill occurred, and no caring person would deny him a moment of rest and recuperation with his family. One might question, though, his choice of activity, which only served to throw the spotlight right back onto him.

Without being privy to Hayward’s decision-making process, it does seem that he is struggling to lead BP through this crisis. What I find interesting about this situation is that it gives us an opportunity to observe in real time the concept of leadership derailment.

UPDATE: BP confirmed Hayward will be replaced by Bob Dudley on 1 October 2010.

Derailment is of particular interest to the publishing team at HRDQ, as we are currently working on a new online assessment tool on this very topic.

The Leadership Unlimited Profile, created by a team of leadership development consultants led by Roger Pearman of Archetype Learning LLC and, assesses the degree to which a leader’s skills and behaviors are likely to block, stall or accelerate their career. The skills and behaviors that fall into the block category are the ones most likely to cause derailment if left unattended.

Some leaders derail over time. Others get found wanting by a specific situation or crises, as appears to be the case with Hayward. However, the research tells us that the speed at which derailment occurs doesn’t seem to affect the eventual outcome: demotion and/or termination.

While no one is immune to derailment, there are a number of personality traits and skills—what Pearman calls themes—that make it less likely a leader will fail. These themes, six in all, are supported by extensive research into leadership effectiveness, and form the basis for The Leadership Unlimited Profile:

1, Diversity of Experience

  1. Emotional Stability and Composure

  2. Handling Mistakes

  3. Interpersonal Skills

  4. Integrity

  5. Technical and Cognitive Skills.

Any one of these has the potential to derail a leader. Themes 2, 3, 4, 5, and possibly 6 would seem particularly relevant to the situation at BP.

The Leadership Unlimited Profile is scheduled to publish in early October. Testing will begin in July. If you or your organization would like to participate in the test, send an email to Please include your full name, organization, and a day-time telephone number.

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