Leadership lessons from The Apprentice

The Apprentice well and truly sizzled back onto our TV screens this week with the usual mix of egos, attention-seekers and potential stars.

That wasn’t entirely unpredictable, and neither in many ways was the result once the boys appointed Dan Harris to be their first project manager.

It was an episode filled with lessons in ‘how not to’, but let’s not forget in the furore that followed the result, both teams achieved profit. That was about as good as it got, as neither team overly impressed, though it is fair to say that that isn’t unusual in week one.

Watching the episode with a group of seven women was an interesting place to be, especially as the boys team held their kick-off meeting... or should that have been stag rut?

Things didn’t get any better once the sausage challenge kicked off, with the views in the room going from mild annoyance to outright disgust.

From the moment Dan was appointed project manager, Desperate Dan appeared. Indeed he may have been better eating his cow pies lovingly prepared by Aunt Aggie.

The bumbling fool of The Dandy fame was there, however somewhere along the line, it may have been the kitchen fumes, he morphed into Gordon Ramsey, or certainly his vocabulary did.

Under the pressure of the challenge and the testosterone filled frenzy, Dan ignored almost all the rules of good people management and proceeded to shout, swear and bully his way to a profitable loss.

His team were on edge from the first moment, automatically taking their lead from the project manager. His body language, demeanour and conduct did nothing to calm, reassure and control his charges.

In fact, it’s fair to say we will probably see several of them less macho as the series proceeds, with a different project manager around.

There will be different body language and communication experts that will be able to explain what went on far better than I can, but you certainly didn’t need to be an expert to understand just how wrong the boys and Dan in particular got it.

Respect was, for me, the biggest lesson.

Even the girls team got it wrong a couple of times, almost in a more spectacular way when they left a customer wanting to do a big deal, whilst they proceeded to have an argument over who would close the sale.

Showing no respect to the customer, they were lucky he stayed around; he may not have come back. Equally, the boys may have made a profit, but just who from the team has any respect for Dan?

After all, he showed none to them, and even more astonishingly, none to Lord Sugar in the boardroom.

Disagreements are acceptable in business. Dictatorial leaders and managers are arguably needed in certain situations.

What makes it possible to move on and create lasting relationships with staff, suppliers and customers is having an underlying respect for each and everyone. Be they Lord or sausage maker.

Simon Brooke
Happy Sweet Shop