Thursday, 1 May 2008

The Apprentice - exemplary leadership or tragic soap opera ?

The Apprentice – exemplary leadership or tragic soap opera?

I suspect that many of you will join me in watching the BBC series The Apprentice in a mixture of astonishment, awe and horror. The basic premise of a group of would-be leaders competing each week on different task to demonstrate their skills seems a sound one. The fact that they have given up jobs to be there and that Alan Sugar makes the decision could be seen to be a combination of confidence and risk taking. What though does the programme say about effective leadership?
If you review the behaviours demonstrated each week you may conclude that a leader
- Is the dominant member of a team and uses directive behaviours to get their way
- Is astute at team “ politics “ and ensuring others get they blame
- Is talkative (beyond belief) and unaware of what ears are for!
Alan Sugars Boardroom behaviours – being positive - could be said to be decisive, clear and emotional. Or simply idiosyncratic.
Let’s compare this to other views of Leadership. According to Bolden and Gosling (2003) some of the key qualities of Leadership are
- Integrity and moral courage
- Self-awareness and humility
- Empathy and emotional engagement
- Transparency and openness
- Clarity of vision
I believe (based on over twenty years of experience) that leadership comes from within us and is concerned with releasing the energy of the team. High performance leadership involves engaging mentally, emotionally and spiritually with your team. Focussed high energy leads to action and results.
So does The Apprentice showcase exemplary leadership behaviour or is it a soap opera?
In my view
- let’s remember the context – it is a TV show ( involving entertainment and editing )
- it is highly competitive – in the end there will be only one !
And to quote Kellerman (2004) “Leaders are like the rest of us: trustworthy and deceitful, cowardly and brave, greedy and generous “