|But good entertainment isn’t always
good management or good leadership. As
a professor of management and organization,
watching the show can be as much
pain as pleasure. In every episode I see
some lessons that are the exact opposite of
the lessons I want my students to learn.
Here are a few examples.
Teamwork is a key component of the
MBA program at Smith, because effective
teamwork is crucial to the success of an
organization. Recruiters always cite “ability
to work in teams” as one of their top
criteria for new hires. Does “The
Apprentice” encourage participants to
work in teams?
Each week, one of the participant teams
is forced to vote one of the team members
off the program. The gaming structure of
the situation demands that participants
work in competition with team members,
pitting them against each other in a
Darwinian struggle for survival. Moreover,
especially in the board room scenes, CEO
Trump directly encourages infighting by
asking questions such as “Why are you better that the other? Why should I choose
you rather than the others?”
This behavior may mirror real life, in the sense that employees do
compete with each other for promotion and advancement. Yet I maintain that the show encourages interpersonal
conflict to a degree that would be dysfunctional for any team in a real-life organization. “The
Apprentice” receives an “F” for teamwork.
rewards a certain type
of leader: the authoritarian.
facilitate and motivate
through team member
participation are seen
as weak, while micromanagers
Team leaders are
often criticized for
to mean that
enforce their decisions,
In the modern
business world, however,
are those who motivate followers by
involving them, not ordering them about.
ENCOURAGEMENT OF RISK
In one episode, a participant put himself
on the line to support his team. Behaving
in a confident and supportive manner, the
participant took a risk. Mr. Trump saw
this risk taking as recklessness, and
responded with his now famous epitaph:
“You’re fired!” The message to the troops was clear; risk taking is punished in
But this is a poor management strategy. Effective leaders always
reward risk taking, even if the risk does not always pay off. Creativity and risk taking are essential for
innovation, and creating a climate which encourages employees to take risks
is a real challenge for today’s corporate leaders.
TEAM EMPOWERMENT: A
There is one aspect of “The Apprentice,”
however, that I really admire. Each week
participants are formed into teams and
given a clear objective to accomplish
without interference or meddling from
their CEO.The team is then rated according
to the team accomplishment. This is a
good example of team empowerment—an
excellent management strategy.
OVERALL GRADE: D
“The Apprentice” is saved from the
ignominy of an “F” because of the team
empowerment the participants experience
in their weekly tasks. But don’t take the
show as your model for corporate leadership!
Video of Hank Sims on Maryland Public Television's Business Connection
program as he discusses "The Apprentice."
Henry P. Sims, Jr. is professor of management
and organization at the Robert H. Smith
School of Business, University of Maryland,
College Park, Md.