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Celebrity Apprentice: Does the Donald know leadership?

Aubrey Daniels
Aubrey Daniels is the author of Bringing out the Best in People, and, most recently, OOPS! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time & Money And What To Do Instead. He blogs on workplace and management issues.

Watching the new season of NBC's reality show Celebrity Apprentice got me thinking "What does The Donald know about leadership?" Week after week, celebrities vie to be the best leaders (as judged by Trump) so they can stay in the competition. For those that don't make it, Trump delivers his best-known line: "You're fired!"

I know the show is designed to be entertainment and not a serious test of leadership. I know that the winner will not become a Trump employee and it is for charity, blah, blah, blah -- I really do try not to take it seriously. As a psychologist, however, I can't help but observe how Trump evaluates performance, what he looks for, what he overlooks, and what he values in a leader. Results, in business and in life can be achieved, but the real question is at what cost?

When you get results the right way, by motivating the people around you to consistently go above-and-beyond, your results are sustainable. If you choose the other path -- results at any cost -- performance will drop over time and consequences will come in the form of attrition and a negative workplace culture.

Trump's criteria for leadership are certainly not spelled out clearly on the show. However, one thing is certain, behaviors take a back seat to results as the team with the best results gets immunity independent of how they were achieved. Winning teams have never had a person "fired" but wouldn't that be something if Trump actually fired contestants on the basis of their bad behavior?

On the show, the Project Manager leads his or her team in a particular task and leadership weaknesses and strengths are on display for all -- including the audience -- to see. When former pro-wrestler Maria Kanellis took charge, her team seemed excited about her leadership from the beginning; they were clear on her vision and how to execute it. Actor and comedian Sinbad, on the other hand, had a vision of what he wanted to do but had trouble communicating it to his team, leaving members, and rocker Bret Michaels especially, questioning what they needed to do.

My advice to "The Donald" and the rest of business is to not only look at results but how they were obtained. This scenario plays out all the time in real life business. Just look at the highest levels on Wall Street and in Congress. Many business executives who were touted as good leaders are now serving long prison sentences because they got results the wrong way.

The best way to evaluate leader effectiveness for inspiring good performance versus just good results is to look at the behavior of their followers. In future episodes, it will be revealing to watch the behaviors of project managers and their teams using the following criteria which applies to leaders and followers in all organizations:

1. Do followers work actively and energetically toward the leader's goals?

2. Do followers make sacrifices for the leader's cause?

3. Do followers tend to reinforce or correct others so that they also conform to the leader's teachings and example?

4. Do followers set guidelines for their own personal behavior based on their perceived estimate of that which the leader would approve or disapprove?

These criteria separate effective project leaders from ineffective ones. Here's how they played out for the two leaders in this past week's episode:

Followers delivering discretionary behavior:

Maria: Yes, Cyndi Lauper is shown carrying carpet on her shoulder down the street and even commented "Whatever I need to do to help the team."
Sinbad: No, his people are shown sitting around waiting on him to tell them what to do.

Followers made sacrifices:

Maria's team: Yes, even though Sharon Osbourne fell ill on day one, she came back the next day in spite of not feeling well.
Sinbad's team: No. At one point, Bret Michaels left causing a ripple in the team's morale.

Followers reinforce and correct each other:

Maria's team: Yes, they were all very supportive of each throughout the whole challenge.
Sinbad's team: No, they reinforced each other against Sinbad's leadership and against each other. The team became divided at various points during the challenge.

Followers set guidelines for their own behavior:

Maria's team: Yes, they were more likely to be concerned with her approval.
Sinbad's team: No, they were more on their own throughout the challenge and in the end, reinforced each other but not because of anything Sinbad did as a leader.

In the end, it's not surprising that Sinbad was fired. His behavior and that of his followers (ie. team) did not meet the above criteria of an effective leader. But, if Trump follows these criteria, the most effective leader will win. Stay tuned. No matter what, week after week, good behavior or bad, someone will be fired!

By Aubrey Daniels

 |  March 23, 2010; 12:41 PM ET |  Category:  Leadership development Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Effective leadership is essential in every industry, organization, household. There are many ways to achieve this and I have found that there are simple things that can be done to achieve these outcomes. To me, there is far too much rhetoric about leadership and not enough about how it is achieved.

I have worked in this industry for a long time and also write on the topic and many senior executives have never been taught the basics of leadership. It is often considered to be a soft issue and business does not see the value of giving their key people the development and training they need. They’re just thrown in at the deep end and they’ll either sink or swim. This is as absurd as telling a person to be a top chef but not to give them any training. It simply can’t be done. Merydith Willoughby

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Posted by: IBCoaching | March 25, 2010 11:17 PM

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