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. By now, the format is familiar: Each week the contestants, divided into two teams, must complete a business task. The winning team is rewarded; the losing team must report to the infamous boardroom, where one member will be fired by Trump, who is assisted by his children and Trump organization executives Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. The 2010 version of The Apprentice returns to its original premise of a competition of business professionals and entrepreneurs, eschewing the celebrity competition of the past three installments of the reality TV show. The common thread connecting the 16 candidates for this season is that all of them are trying to jump-start careers stalled or disrupted by our nation’s most recent recession. The 2010 edition of The Apprentice features three African American job candidates:
Kelly Beaty, 30, holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Spelman College and a master’s in public communication from American University. A former intern at Black Enterprise, she established a career as a rising star in the high-profile public relations industry before losing her job.
Gene Folkes, 46, earned a bachelor of science degree in business from Morris Brown College and served in the U.S. Air Force before launching a career as a financial advisor. The Jamaican-born Folkes has been living off of his savings and trying to launch an assisted living facility since being laid off.
Liza Mucheru-Wisner, 30, founder of an educational technology company who was born in Kenya and, as part of the Kenyan National Golf Team, was recruited to play golf at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
With each task of The Apprentice 2010, I will post performance reviews of the candidates, their teams and their project managers. In addition, I will assess the performances of Kelly, Gene and Liza for as long as they remain in The Apprentice talent pool. You can also follow and discuss my commentary on Twitter and Facebook.
Leadership Lesson: The best leader is not necessarily the person who knows the most or has the most expertise. Smart leaders correctly utilize people who are smarter and more talented than they are in their respective areas of expertise. (For more read my post “To Be the Best, Recruit the Best.”)
TASK 2: Set up competing ice cream cart locations in Manhattan. The team that delivers the most cash profit wins.
The all-female team, Fortitude, is led by Stanford University graduate Poppy Carlig, the youngest candidate for The Apprentice job at age 23, as project manager. David Johnson, the unemployed sales professional, confidently steps up to lead the male team, Octane. An experienced sales professional, David confidently predicts an easy victory for Octane. As Fortitude’s project manager, Poppy readily admits she’s “never sold anything.” So of course, Fortitude pretty much wipes the floor with Octane.
While Poppy has no sales experience, she’s smart enough to give the most confident salesperson on her team, financial executive Stephanie Castagnier, the authority to lead in that area. She also assigns real estate agent Tyana Alvarado and attorney-turned-entrepreneur Brandy Kuentzel, also experienced salespeople, to Stephanie’s group. And though she gives Stephanie plenty of latitude (at the risk of seeming to surrender her authority as project manager–the mistake which got Nicole Chiu fired on Task 1), Poppy is smart enough to remain engaged by including herself on the sales team. She also makes the effort to assign the rest of her Fortitude teammates, with varying degrees of success (Liza accepts accounting duties despite not being “an accounting kind of person”), to roles best suited to their talents and comfort zones.
By contrast, Octane project manager David’s leadership of his team amounts to two words: just sell. He provides his team with no strategy or action plan, basically charging them to use their imaginations and be aggressive–to get people to buy their ice cream by any means necessary. With the exception of attorney James Weir, who took the initiative to go out to get “uniforms” (red-and-white striped vests, straw hats, and various wigs and props) for the team, the rest of Octane rolls with David’s program (or lack thereof) as best they can, despite the lack of direction.