The Apprentice: On Leadership


Hi people,

Like I said, I’ll be talking from time to time about the Apprentice, pointing out certain principles that I noticed, some things I’m skeptical/confused/glad I learned about. Go watch the episodes and join the fun.

So, this season of the Apprentice is Boys vs. Girls…I’m sorry, Men vs. Women. As in any competition-themed show, leaders needed to be established. It was Nicole for the women and Gene for the men. Both, however, came to be the designated leaders via different avenues. Gene was chosen by the men, because they valued his military experience (plus, the man just looked sharp!) and Nicole volunteered to lead (aka be the first to put her head on the chopping block). This was risky, because the leader’s performance is evaluated, not only by Donald Trump’s satisfaction of the finished product (in this case, designing an ultra-modern office space), but also on how their team (with members that barely knew each other) functioned.

All the men (except for a notable few) expected Gene to be an authoritative leader: “What’s the plan of action?” “Tell me what to do”. He, however, wanted to be fair and equitable and listened to all sides. When that was getting them nowhere, he became that authoritative leader that they all appreciated…again with the exception of a notable few. Nicole was a facilitative leader: “What do you want to do? “How can we make this happen?” A few women were not comfortable with that approach and confronted Nicole several times about her approach. Nicole was striving for cohesion, attempting to appropriately delegate while making time-conscious decisions.

In the end, the women lost. Cohesion, no matter how much Nicole wanted it, was gone even before they knew whether they had won or failed. Her team turned against her. Astonishingly, she had no supporters or advocates in the circle. She took 2 of her most vocal critics, Mahsa and Tyana, to the boardroom and was cut down, point for point, argument for argument. She smiled and did her best to maintain her composure. Her defense of her leadership approach: The authoritative way does not work with women. hmm…

Tears need not be shed for Nicole, however. Mr. Trump set up an interview for her, for her dream job: work for one of Mr. Trump’s enterprises.


1. How to set yourself apart as a leader

– Being/dressing in an unconventional, yet not-in-a-completely-outside-the circle manner. They say that it takes a special kind of man to rock a bow tie. They were right. Gene in a bow tie. ‘Nuff said.

-It also helps having an impressive background that is known for leadership skills: In Gene’s case, his military background. I’m not sure, however, if the same thing applies to women when they’re looking at leaders.

2. Is it better to volunteer or to be chosen  for a leadership position ?

3. I’ve heard people say that “he or she is just natural born leader”. From what I’ve observed, there are all kind of leaders. The authoritative types are easier to spot because they make their presence known. Facilitative leaders are leaders as well. They may not assert their presence, but they miraculously/mysteriously/quietly get people to do what they need to do to get the job done. In this case, the authoritative approach was reinforced and rewarded. Does this mean that facilitative leadership has no place in the business world?

4. Do women really respond more positively to facilitative leadership than men do?

5. As a business/competition strategy, should you first take on your strongest opponents or your weakest ones?

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