Make-Or-Break Leadership Lessons From The Apprentice

Sure, it's "reality" TV. But smart viewers of NBC's hit show learned important rules of business success. Here are four, for starters.

Lesson 2: To Get What You Want, Focus On What They Want

A major key to negotiating, whether with colleagues, customers, subordinates, or superiors, is the sincere willingness to gain a clear understanding of what the other party wants. It sounds simple enough. Never assume that what’s important to you is what’s most important to those with whom you must deal. In business, you have to give to get.

Who got it wrong: When contestant Nick Warnock approached a potential buyer, determined to show off his prowess as a salesman, he focused on his own goal: to lead the Versacorp team to victory by single-handedly selling a truckload of Trump Ice. The target of the sales pitch was obviously insulted by Warnock’s hard sell. He had to be thinking: “Where am I supposed to store all of this water? Who does this guy think he is?” Clearly, the needs of the customer were secondary, at best, to Warnock’s desire to make the big sale. Warnock couldn’t convince the client to buy even a case of bottled water, much less a truckload.

Who got it right: Contrast Warnock’s approach with the pitch of another job candidate, Troy McClain. He focused on addressing the customers’ problem of limited inventory space. Instead of trying to get customers to buy, say, 80 cases of Trump Ice at once, he and his Protégé teammates convinced them to order 80 cases, but to take delivery on 20 cases a week, over a four-week period. As a result, Protégé was able to place large orders with two distributors for a total of $3,400, earning them a victory over Versacorp.

Conclusion: The cornerstone of all successful careers and profitable businesses is a sincere interest in solving problems and meeting the needs of others — whether they are customers, employers, or colleagues. Those who can achieve this feat will reap huge rewards.

Lesson 3: If You Have To Say You’re A Leader, You’re Probably Not

Too many people believe that all it takes to be a leader is a superior position: a bigger title, more experience, better credentials, a higher I.Q. — or simply being louder, tougher, and more aggressive than the rest of the group. But without the ability to get people to follow you, all the official authority and superior qualifications in the world won’t make you an effective leader. As the often repeated adage goes: If you think you are leading, but no one is following, then you are simply taking a walk.

Who got it wrong: All during the competition, would-be apprentices Stallworth, Sam Solovey, Jason Curis, Erika Vetrini, and Heidi Bressler proclaimed they were born leaders — some most loudly and persistently right before Trump dropped the ax on them.

Having to say that you’re the leader is usually the first sign that you are not one. It usually means that you can’t get people to follow you without some form of coercion. On The Apprentice, the reasons were varied. Solovey was a basket case who freaked out under pressure. Vetrini was an emotional wreck prone to crying and

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