The OPPrentice - Episode 1
As the ominous strains of Prokofiev faded out, the next crop of hopefuls marched onwards against a London skyline, all but one of whom will meet their fate at the end of Alan Sugar's stubby finger.
Yes, the Apprentice has started again, and over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you insight into the personalities of the contestants, and how they affect their outcomes and futures.
Lord Sugar swept in, solid and impregnable, an incontestable leader. He commands respect by his mere presence – a product of many years of fulfilling the role, a supremely confident, no-nonsense approach, and, of course, his towering reputation.
Other “leaders” exhibited in this episode did not, perhaps, express similar qualities.
The old adage is “show, don’t tell”. Now, there have been so many outrageous things said over the years by contestants in their talking-head spots (“everything I touch turns to sold” being particularly memorable, with this season’s “I’m not bad looking – I’m one of a kind” a close second) that we suspect the producers goad them into making such vainglorious statements by role play.
“Imagine you’re an arrogant fool,” they may encourage. “Now what would that fool say?”
Perhaps they might say something like “I’ve been trained by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu” in a strident tone of voice. Among the clattering of dropped names, something was vaguely audible from Melody: neither of the globally charismatic leaders she referenced seemed to have taught her the precept of humility.
But Melody’s team performed pretty well. Other members of ‘Venture’ seemed to be almost universally supportive of her performance. Perhaps this is a strategy on the part of the non-leaders – we shall see how supportive they are of future leaders.
(By the way, the teams’ names remind us of the old Soviet joke: “there’s no truth in Pravda, and no news in Isvestia”. Team Venture failed to venture the entire investment; Team Logic ran around illogically.)
But even if Venture team members’ behaviour was cynical, to have everyone in the team ‘on-message’ is no small task. While business in general favours logical decision making, what makes a truly great leader is their persuasiveness, self awareness and understanding of others (Emotional Intelligence.) For those familiar with the MBTI, this represents the ability to master a combination of both the Thinking and Feeling preferences. Sugar, Branson et al could have minds like supercomputers, but would be nowhere without their ability to get people on side. Making decisions based on pure logic is simply not enough in a world where personality dominates – even though this domination isn’t always acknowledged. In 16PF terms, such an achievement is greatly aided by high scores in the Sensitivity, Warmth and Emotional Stability traits.
Not a single one of which was evident in Edward.
When we started the OPPrentice in 2009, we used to nominate a “muppet of the week”. We are not sure if future episodes will bear this out – and the Apprentice never fails to surprise us – but poor, poor Edward may already qualify for “muppet of the series”.
His leadership style was not to communicate his ideas (if he had any), not to assess the strengths of the people answering to him, not to capitalise on his own strengths and skillsets, no financial planning, to make ‘secret’ decisions with no collaboration or discussion, to ignore others’ points of view, not to concern himself with detail, yet fail to delegate that concern to others, to perform unimportant actions – like washing up – to appear busy, but when he did step in to micromanage, it was in a goading, antagonistic way that smacked of a general lack of control over his behaviour, and ultimately resulted in the orange juicers breaking down.
Where many in the past have been accused of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”, Edward managed to wrestle catastrophe from the jaws of disaster, leading the boys into a situation where Logic was faced with the task of juicing, by hand, the best part of 2,800 orange halves rather than selling juice to hungry commuters. Amazingly they managed around 700 halves, but only made 140 bottles out of a possible 500, and missed the breakfast rush. That they didn’t make a loss is a miracle. They could have made a fortune. But as Edward, a soi-disant accountant, said: “I’m not interested in margin”.
After that performance there was probably no way to save himself, but even had there been, he would have given it up in the boardroom, barking – then repeating – incoherent snippets of English at Lord Sugar with the coherence of Cookie Monster on a sugar high. “I don’t conform!” “It’s all there!” As the losing team sweated – one wonders if they turned up the lights over them, while leaving the victorious girls looking fragrant – Lord Sugar righteously fired him like the Great Gonzo from out of a cannon.
In leadership and management terms, the first episode was a disaster. In entertainment terms, it was priceless.
Before we go, let’s talk about Edna.
Here at OPP we were delighted to see, finally, a business psychologist as a contestant. Particularly one of 14 years standing, ready to represent our industry and roll out the enormous benefits of the understanding of personality and how it affects organisations. On our initial viewing, the kindest thing we can say is that her performance Wasn’t Quite What We’d Hoped: failure to capitalise fully on Lord Sugar’s £250 investment and not sending more stock to the other half of the team (a breach of trust that may not be forgotten when she is in a leadership role) both seem to be fairly inchoate actions. However, we know there is selective editing in the show, and she was merely a bit part this time round, so we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve seen more of what she has to offer. Watch this space.