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.

throwing tantrums. Curis ignored the input and expertise of his troops. And Stallworth assumed an air of unearned superiority, constantly pointing to her résumé while denigrating those she would lead. All tended to blame others for their failures and evaluate others based on their personalities as opposed to their performance. These are not attributes that inspire loyalty and respect.

Who got it right: Versacorp’s Troy McClain and Protégé’s Amy Henry provided great examples of leading by action, not by proclamation. In fact, they often demonstrated leadership even when they were not the designated project managers of their teams, proving that leadership is about more than having the title.

The most telling demonstration of this was Henry and McClain’s respective roles in raising money for the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation by negotiating with celebrities for donations. For example, when Jackson and project manager Stallworth’s negotiations with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons were going up in flames, McClain saved the day by “keeping it real” (as in real country), delighting Simmons with his hick-from-the-sticks persona. Henry was just as impressive: Despite the constant disruption of teammate Tammy Lee, Henry stayed focused on coming up with ideas that were enthusiastically received by celebrities, such as television personalities Regis Philbin and Carson Daly.

Conclusion: Henry’s Versacorp team defeated McClain’s Protégé team, raising $40,000 against Protégé’s $35,000, in the most tightly contested of The Apprentice assignments. Even though Rancic and Stallworth were the project managers of the respective teams on this project, the leadership skills of Henry and McClain were the keys to these successful campaigns.

Lesson 4: Don’t Make Enemies Of Opponents — Or Allies

Like her or not, Stallworth was always clear on where she stood in relation to her fellow would-be apprentices: “I didn’t come here to make friends.” True, but you don’t want to make enemies either, unless it’s absolutely unavoidable. Good leaders don’t think in terms of friends and enemies; they operate in a world of allies and opponents, knowing that anyone they encounter can be one or the other on any given day, and sometimes both at the same time.

Who got it wrong: Think about the way Stallworth treated her colleagues, in victory and in defeat, during her tenure on The Apprentice. Did she say one positive thing, publicly or privately, about anyone on either team? Had she deemed any person she met worthy of her respect, and treated them thusly? Is she the type of person you’d want as a boss or colleague?

One of the most memorable examples of Stallworth’s persistent negativity toward her teammates occurred as she (as project leader), Bressler, and another contestant, Jessie Connors, faced Trump’s firing squad after their defeat in the competition to raise money for the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation. “Heidi was fantastic,” she responded when Trump asked her to assess Bressler’s performance. But Stallworth didn’t stop there: “And I will tell you that I haven’t always been a fan of Heidi. I haven’t always felt that she was professional, nor does she have much class or finesse.” And that was intended as a compliment.

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