The United States has a path to energy independence through the economic development of domestic unconventional resources. At the same time, the oil and gas industry faces a generation gap as many baby boomers in leadership retire. Compounding the generation gap is the industry's general trend to promote people to leadership positions based on technical ability, assuming technical acumen will translate to leadership acumen. This paper puts forth a military-influenced model for leadership in the industry and provides analysis of the results of a survey regarding front line leadership.
Leadership is the art of influencing not only one's subordinates, but also one's peers and superiors in the accomplishment of a common objective. This paper proposes a model for effective front line oilfield leadership as the embodiment of five traits—self-awareness, humility, honesty, courage, and persistence—and the adoption of five habits— leading by example from the front, knowing your people, treating people as they can and should be, communicating effectively, and being decisive (but not in a vacuum). The focus is on leadership at the front line, where technical staff interacts with field staff to accomplish the mission. The oilfield relationship between technical staff and field staff is similar to that in the military, which is central to the author's argument for the proposed leadership model. The paper also summarizes a survey conducted of approximately 100 oilfield personnel, ranging in age, experience, job function, and organization type. The survey results provide insights into the current state of leadership in the industry, using the proposed leadership model as a guide for the assessment.
These findings support the author's three primary conclusions. First, there is a need for collective focus on core leadership principles to obtain the best, safest performance from a generationally lopsided workforce. Second, the survey offers multiple perspectives across a broad demographic regarding the relative importance of the leadership model's traits and habits and how they relate to one another. Finally, an analysis of survey data provides perspective on the conflicting perceptions regarding leadership between different industry demographics, most notably between executives, management, technical staff and field staff.
Should the industry continue on its growth trajectory, the lack of adequately trained leaders has profound ramifications, ranging from decreased capital efficiency to increased accident rates. Focus on the leadership ability of tomorrow's leaders should not wait until tomorrow.