The 2010 edition of The Apprentice, NBC’s business reality show starring and executive produced by real estate mogul Donald Trump, features entrepreneurs and professionals competing for a $250,000 job contract with the Trump organization. Each week the contestants must complete a business task. The winners are rewarded; the losers must report to the infamous boardroom, where at least one candidate will be fired by Trump. Of the three African Americans featured on this edition of The Apprentice, only Liza Mucheru-Wisner remains. With each task of The Apprentice 2010, I will post performance reviews of the candidates, their teams and their project managers.
Leadership Lesson: Great leaders are able to win allies, inspire loyalty and cooperation and win support from those who are ambivalent and even hostile to their ambitions. Ultimately, the test of great leadership is the ability to get people behind them to achieve common goals and objectives.
With the firing of Steuart Martens after Task 11, the final three are Clint Robertson, Brandy Kuentzel and Liza Wisner. To get to his Final Two candidates, Trump fires Liza. His reasoning: Liza’s failure to get any peer support from any of the other candidates during her entire tenure to this point. In fact, both Clint and Brandy named her the weakest remaining candidate when asked by Trump (Liza named Brandy).
I can’t argue with Trump’s logic. However, after reviewing my notes from every task from the first to the last, I can’t see where Brandy has proven herself to be a stronger performer than Liza. In my view, they are equally qualified at best. With the exception of her successful stint as project manager on Task 8, Brandy never stood out beyond being the go-to person for spoken presentations. And she did her best to be neither a help nor a hindrance to her rivals, no matter which team she was on, volunteering no ideas and doing just what she was asked and no more during the past few weeks.
So I stick to my position that Liza was a stronger performer than Brandy, not because Liza is so brilliant, but because Brandy was hardly trying. That said, I weigh task performance far above boardroom strategy in my assessments, and it’s clear that Liza’s inability to gain the support of her peers and her overly emotional conduct in the boardroom in general were consistent problems. By contrast, Brandy’s more low profile approach guaranteed that she’d rarely, if ever, be at risk in the boardroom. She was rarely the key to her teams’ victories, but she could hardly be blamed for their losses. Liza could not get her peers to say anything positive about her in the boardroom, while Brandy made it difficult to find anything negative to point to during boardroom sessions. That’s why Brandy, not Liza, is facing off against Clint on the Final Task.
Final Task, Part 1: Brandy, as the candidate with the most recent project manager victory, gets first choice of either a team composed of previously fired candidates or a task. She decides to make choosing her team the priority, leaving Clint to get first choice of the tasks. Brandy selects Liza, Stephanie Castagnier and Anand Vasudev, leaving Clint with Steuart, Poppy Carlig and Mahsa Saeidi-Azcuy. The obvious flashpoints of potential conflict: Stephanie is still chief spokesperson for the Liza haters club; Mahsa still resents Clint for his role in her being branded a liar after Task 7.
Clint chooses to produce a dinner gala at Trump National Golf Resort in Westchester, N.Y., with a live performance by Liza Minnelli. This leaves Brandy to produce the VIP golf tournament, featuring comedian Kathy Griffin, also at Trump National earlier in the day. Clint is encouraged by Steuart’s experience in the hospitality industry, while Brandy is counting on Liza’s knowledge of the game of golf to give her an edge.
After learning of the special needs of Liza Minnelli, her band, her green room accommodations and other requirements of her contract rider, Clint takes steps to ensure that every detail is attended to. He approves the hiring of an outside caterer, separate from the services provided by the resort, to focus specifically on the needs of Minnelli and her band. His first crisis is when that caterer suddenly backs out of the gig at the last minute. However, Steuart gets on the phone and scrambles to find a replacement—problem solved. But there’s a bigger problem: Mahsa and Poppy discover that Minnelli’s name is misspelled on all of the event posters, as well as the place cards for the dinner. It appears that getting them reprinted and delivered to the resort will require a rush job that will take them far beyond their budget. The person with specific responsibility for the printing: Clint.
Brandy, who admits she knows nothing about golf, Stephanie and Anand make no bones about leaning on Liza for her experience with golf tournaments. When discussing gift bag items for 120-130 golfers and prizes for tournament winners, they conclude that gift certificates are the way to go. However, when Liza and Anand are sent to the pro shop to buy the gift cards (with a budget of $25,000), Liza decides to buy golf equipment as prizes, including complete $1,000 golf sets for tournament winners. Anand doesn’t agree, but defers to Liza. Brandy and Stephanie are livid when they find out, but decide it’s too late to do anything about it. After securing Kathy Griffin to greet and briefly entertain the golfers before starting the tournament, Brandy calls Trump to find out who he wants in his golf foursome and is dismayed when he says he wants to golf with Liza. Brandy sees this as a loss of both manpower and expertise, as Liza is the only person on the team who knows anything about how golf tournaments work. On the morning of the tournament, Anand gets a call from the photographer Brandy hired. Because she wasn’t clear about the location of the tournament, he is at Trump’s golf resort in Bedminster—a full two hours away from the Westchester resort.
Who will be the next apprentice? Next week, we’ll see the outcome of both tasks, and Trump will hire his next apprentice. At this stage of the game, anything can happen. But I still expect Clint to win it all.
What do you think? Did Trump’s rationale for firing Liza make sense to you? Can Brandy upset Clint to become Trump’s newest apprentice? Weigh in with your comments!