Leadership Success: 10 Lessons from The Apprentice 2009

Series 5 of The Apprentice in the UK finished a few months ago.  Over the 12 weeks that the show ran, there were a number of important lessons for leaders, aspiring leaders and managers.  So what are the top 10 lessons from The Apprentice 2009?

Lesson 1: Team working really does matter

Even though the candidates are all competing for one job at the end of the day, they can only achieve that goal by working with others.  It is no different in an organisation.  No one individual has the range of skills, knowledge and personal attributes to do it all on their own.

Lesson 2: Communication matters

Whether it is getting the team’s contribution to generate ideas or making a pitch to a potential client or customer, communication really matters.  The best project managers were those that took the time to listen and were open to others ideas.  Those that presented most effectively in front of potential buyers were those that were well prepared.

Lesson 3:  You need to know when to change direction

We saw this in the final when following some basic research it became clear that the intended target market for the box of chocolates being developed by one of the finalists was not going to buy.  How often do we see organisations keeping pursuing a particular direction even when it is clear that a change of direction is required?

Lesson 4: Don’t discount intuition or gut feel when making decisions

Truth is most of us will rely on the hard facts and figures when it comes to decisions.  While in the long run this is probably sensible, there will be times when you just have a hunch or gut feeling that something will work.  One of the candidates spoke up with her gut feel about a particular product on at least 2 instances and was spot on.

Lesson 5: Keep teams small

In the early stages when the teams were large, we saw sub-teams develop and bickering and in-fighting on a regular basis.  As the teams became smaller, we saw a much greater willingness to work together and focus on the result or outcome.

Lesson 6: Planning while not the most exciting task is vital

There were at least two instances where a lack of planning led to a last minute rush and in some cases half finished packaging or promotion materials.  There will always be pressures on organisations to deliver at short notice but this is generally an exception.  Planning may not be the most exciting part of any project but is vital to a successful outcome.

Lesson 7: People need clear direction

We saw instances where the team was quite simply not giving clear enough direction to others that they were working with on tasks.  Having the ideas is great but you need to be able to give clear direction to others that you want to implement and make a success of the ideas.

Lesson 8: Keep the goal at the forefront of your mind

In the urgency and haste to get things done, the teams sometimes lost sight of the overall aim.  In busy organisations where there is relentless pressure to meet budgets, targets and stakeholder expectations it is all too easy to lose sight of what the organisation exists for.  Make a habit of keeping the bigger picture at the forefront of your mind.

Lesson 9: Don’t be a passenger

As a member of a senior leadership team there will be decisions that you support 100% and others that you are less committed to.  As a leader, you cannot afford to be a passenger or be passive about something just because it does not float your boat.

Lesson 10:  Make expectations clear

There were many instances when there was vagueness about responsibilities and expectations on The Apprentice.  In any organisation, team or function that you are leading you need to make sure that responsibilities and expectations are clearly communicated and understood.
Bottom Line – While The Apprentice is first and foremost about entertaining there are many excellent lessons that can help you to achieve more success as a leader.  So what lessons could you learn from The Apprentice 2009 so that you achieve more success as a leader?

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 6,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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