A soul in Harmony? Carl-Henrik Svanberg on ”Leadership in Challenging Times!”

13 mar 2012

”Do your job well. Work abroad and learn languages…. Obviously!” Carl-Henrik Svanberg.

Project manager, Mirelle, and I had the pleasure of attending the BSCC event at Handelsbanken’s head office yesterday evening; Leadership in Challenging Times! The speaker was Carl-Henrik Svanberg. If you recognise the name, but can’t think why, think BP… Mexican Gulf… disaster. Carl-Henrik, a Swede, is Chairman of the Board at BP. He has an impressive career behind him (and no doubt in front of him), and after handling the aforementioned crisis fully hands-on in 2010, is the perfect man to talk on this subject!
Carl-Henrik’s talk was fascinating. He is an eloquent speaker with a deep voice and excellent grasp of English vocabulary and nuance, despite strong remains of his Swedish accent. It all adds to the charm! He gave some general advice about running large companies, stating how big business is no different from running  a grocery store really; ”If tomatoes are selling well, you buy in more tomatoes”. It seems he climbed the corporate ladder through a passion for people and a simple aim to work hard.
As Carl-Henrik pointed out, the press seemed to love covering the Gulf oil disaster as it unfolded. But on a worldwide level, coverage of the cleanup and rescue work, as well as the ensuing settlements (one just last week, for billions of dollars), seemed to dwindle. The US is actually pleased with the outcome of the rescue and cleanup work (the fight against the oil, spearheaded by Svanberg and some of Obama’s aids, was the biggest mission in peace-time US history).
Carl-Henrik Svanberg spoke frankly and in some detail about that crisis. He talked about how he and BP handled it and about the necessary changes that have come as a consequence. It seems that they are extremely well prepared for an accident, but that nothing on that scale will ever happen again; not to BP. He answered questions openly and with humility and humour. And he told us about BPs future plans. About how when it comes to fossil fuels, supplies are not dwindling as rapidly as we think. Demand will run out before supply. Other fuel-types (bio) will take over. ”The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stone!” joked Svanberg.
To be a good leader of others, you need to be at one with yourself. His closing words were along the lines of ”A good leader needs to have a soul in harmony, balanced with a burning flame.” Wise words from an ever-wiser Swedish leader.

/Miles Avison