What The Apprentice teaches us about Leadership

*Spolier Alert* Do NOT read this if you don’t know who left The Apprentice last night (10/5/11).

I love the Apprentice. I think we can learn a lot about what makes businesses, and the people who run them, succesful. In theory it is not difficult to come up with a strategy to win The Apprentice. Here’s mine:

  1. Win every task , that way you can’t end up in the boardroom and be fired.
  2. Choose carefully when you decide to be a Project Manager (PM). Try to choose a project that meets your skill set.
  3. Try to avoid making ludicrous claims about yourself. They make good sound bites and excellent TV, but boy are they waiting to bite you on the backside!

So, that’s it. Easy, eh? Well of course it isn’t, and I haven’t been stupid / brave (delete as appropriate) enough to have a go. What makes it such a challenge is the people you have to work with. In this respect we can learn a lot about leadership and communication. So, let’s focus on last night’s episode of The Apprentice . Why did Edward fail with his task, and Melody succeed? It’s probably easier to focus on Edward, who was PM, lost the task and got fired for his troubles. A few small adjustments and he should have won. So, lets look at his performance against my suggested strategy (above):

  1. FAIL – He lost the task, so was guaranteed to be in the Boardroom.
  2. FAIL – It’s not just that he was rash in volunteering for this task (he was) it’s that he never ran it as a proper project, and failed to draw on his own experience as an Accountant (he was in denial) and was a poor leader as well (see below).
  3. FAIL – great quotes, terrible PR, the best of the crop was claiming he had more to overcome than the rest of his team because he is “short”. Brilliant and ludicrous in equal measures.

So, what can we learn about Leadership from Edward? I go back to my favourite leadership model- the Action Centred Leadership Model of John Adair. 

Adair breaks Leadership down to getting the balance right between Task, Team and Individual. Unfortunately, Edward proved what a poor leader he is on all 3 counts.

  1. TASK – Although the overall objective was clear from the brief, Edward failed to scope out HOW the objective was to be achieved and kept a lot of stuff in his head. 
  2. TEAM – This is a challenge on The Apprentice as everyone is competing, but on any given Task, most would prefer to win and avoid the Boardroom, unless they have a particularly Machiavellian strategy! Edward failed to build up team spirit, and though everyone was pulling in the same direction (win the task), because the TASK was not scoped out clearly, roles were not clearly defined. The TASK was lost because of poor planning (if they had used all of their oranges for juice they would have won).
  3. INDIVIDAL – Edward was quite confrontational in style and hid behind telling everyone to remain positive. A case of re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic, which led to resentment.

So, there you have it! If Edward had read Adair, maybe he would have survived the first Task. Possibly, but maybe the fact that he was the apparently (one of ?) the youngest contestants suggests he will learn a lot fom this experience when he (inevitably) goes back to Accounting!

My early favourite for the winner is Jim Westwood from Northern Ireland, who has a good temperament and crucially, life skills and experience.

Watch this space!

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3 Responses to What The Apprentice teaches us about Leadership

  1. Pingback: Young Apprentice Week 5 – Something smelly in the boardroom. « markdecosemo

  2. Pingback: The Apprentice 2012 Week 2 – Girls do a Stirling job of self-destruction « markdecosemo.com

  3. Pingback: Young Apprentice Week 4 – Odyssey blitzed by Tea Party « markdecosemo.com

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