Hayward continued BP's global expansion earlier this year by shepherding his biggest deal as CEO: the $7 billion purchase of assets, including off-shore oil blocks in Brazil, from a U.S. energy company in March.
Hayward knows that BP can gain an edge over smaller energy companies through big, complex international projects, said David Aron, the managing director of London-based Petroleum Development Consultants.
Aron, who has worked with BP in the past, said that Hayward's willingness to admit shortcomings may ultimately hurt him the eyes of the American public, particularly those accustomed to hearing from less modest CEOs. Hayward recently admitted that BP "did not have the tools you would want in your tool kit" to cope with the Gulf disaster.
"It's actually true, but maybe it's not the thing to say to an American audience," Aron said.
Hayward made enemies in the United States a month before the Deepwater Horizon explosion, when he criticized the continued construction of coal plants in a speech before a D.C. think tank. Hayward said Congress should promote natural gas use, which emits less carbon than coal.
In response, the United Mine Workers of America called for a boycott of BP, which is one of the world's largest natural gas producers. In a message sent to its members, the labor union said Hayward was "advocating putting an end to coal, the jobs that go with it and the retiree pensions and health care that coal pays for."
Today, the adversity Hayward faces is wider-ranging and, from his family's point of view, more frightening. The British media has reported that local police have launched an operation to protect the Haywards after the family was targeted with hate mail and upsetting phone calls.
"Members of my family have had nasty phone calls and we have also had mail from groups," Hayward's wife, Maureen, told The Daily Telegraph. "Tony is obviously away and we are miles away from him so it's upsetting."
It's unclear whether Hayward will be able to weather the fallout from the Gulf disaster with his job intact.
Phil Weiss, a senior energy analyst at Argus Research, said he believes Hayward will be shown the door once the spill is contained.
"One of the things people thought he was going to do was to help clean up the company's operations and make it safer," Weiss said. "And yet here we have the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history under his watch. ... It doesn't sound to me like he's done what he was expected to do."
ABC News' Alice Maggin, Andrew Miller and John Parkinson contributed to this report.