The Apprentice Week 4 – Effective and ineffective leadership

So, this week one of the girls was finally fired from The Apprentice. We say goodbye to Felicity, but as usual there is a lot that would-be leaders can learn.

Interestingly, both PMs were appointed by Lord Sugar this week. Zoe was given the job of leading team Venture, and Felicity led team Logic. The choice of Zoe was particularly interesting as she survived the Boardroom last week with a plea to be given a chance to lead. Lord Sugar was happy to oblige.

There was also some movement of individuals between the teams. So, new dynamics and new challenges.

In the end, the success of this task came down to how effective each PM was as a leader. I am a big fan of the Action Centred Leadership model of leadership originated by John Adair (see earlier posts) which says success needs the Leader to get the balance right between the needs of the Task, the Team and the Individual. In this challenge, Zoe did better than Felicity.

In terms of Task, both teams were clear about what would win – selling beauty treatments rather than products – but one leader, Zoe, was far better at keeping her team focused on the strategy that had been agreed. Felicity got embroiled in the detail of the Task, when she would have been better looking in fom the outside. She displayed a lack of urgency when things were clearly going wrong, and abdicated rather than delegated to team members.  Her team, Logic, did not get the products they wanted as they showed less enthusiasm than Venture. They also chose a poor location in the shopping centre, with the treament room 3 floors away from the selling area. In the end they made a financial loss on the task,  and so lost the challenge.

Felicity also hid behind the Team. On the surface she had a very happy ship; supportive and together; until they lost the task, when it was everyone for themselves. In truth, Felicity probably put too much effort into being democratic. She came across as indecisive and unsure. This was most apparent when she couldn’t even decide who to bring into the Boardroom with her. However, perhaps her biggest mistake was to believe that somehow the team would support her in the Boardroom. Felicity chose to take no boys into the boardroom, despite the fact that they were already damaged from previous visits. This was another tactical error.

However, it is in misjudging individuals that ultimately Felicity came a cropper.   She took Natasha and Ellie into the Boardroom ( after much dithering) and saw them gang up on her. She looked completely lost, and couldn’t bring herself to fight her corner. The failure of leadership was seized upon by Lord Sugar and she was fired.

It is interesting that in an interview after the programme, Felicity did not seem to be bothered about losing. Perhaps this lack of drive or urgency was also crucial to her downfall?

Other highlights this week were Natasha’s sales pitch where she lied to a customer about her product, and Susan setting herself up as a  “skincare expert” and failing dismally. Had her team lost, surely she would have gone?

Jim’s  halo slipped just a bit this week, but no other candidate has emerged as better than him, so he is still my favourite to win.

I also find it amazing how certain people are almost completely absent or anonymous is each episode. Is this editing or a true reflection of their contribution?

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!