The Entertainment Value of Leadership Theory

“The Apprentice” always causes a bit of a stir doesn’t it?  People growl at the deepening chasm between the candidate’s egotistical claims of business skills and their evident fails at demonstrating leadership, teamwork and good commercial sense….you’re concerned that the programme is indicative of the poor calibre of new business leaders in the pipeline.

Others claim we need to lighten up.  This is a programme produced for entertainment purposes of course.  Let’s be honest everyone and own up to enjoying the evident fails of the candidates as they are stretched to achieve tasks that call for skillsets outside of their remit and grasp.   The programme just wouldn’t be the same without the egos and quirks of each candidate as they desperately plead with Lord Sugar to give them another chance at proving themselves.

The programme actually provides interesting learning particularly for those unfamiliar or new to management and leadership theories.  In the SFJ Awards – Level 4 Certificate in Office & Administration Management qualifciation we deliver at Your Excellency Ltd,  I quote “The Apprentice” as an example  of how not to put into practice The Situational Leadership® Model.   For those new or unfamiliar with the Model, here’s the low down.

The Situational Leadership® Model was developed by Dr Paul Hersey a professor and author of “The Situational Leader” and Ken Blanchard, a leadership trainer and author of “The One Minute Manager”.   The Model is based on the foundation that there is no single optimum style of leadership.  Rather, leadership needs to be adapted and tailored according to the ability and willingness of the individual you are leading or influencing.

Hersey-Blanchard categorise leadership styles into 4 behaviours, S1 to S4:

S1   TELLING The leader defines the role of the individual or group. Communication is one way and the leader provides clear direction and supervision on the what, how, why, when and where of the task.
S2 SELLING The leader provides direction but communication is two way with an opportunity for the individual or group to buy-in to the process and understand the importance of the task.
S3    PARTICIPATING The leader takes a supportive role and shares the decision making.
S4    DELEGATING The process and responsibility is passed to the individual or group with little direction or support from the leader.

The ability and willingness of an individual is categorised into 4 Maturity levels,, M1 – M4 as follows

M1 The group or individual are both unable and unwilling to perform a task.
M2 The group or individual are unable but willing to perform a task.
M3 The group or individual are able to perform a task but lack the self confidence or enthusiasm to do so.
M4 The group or individual are able, willing and enthusiastic about performing the task.

Successful situational leadership calls for mapping across the leadership style to the maturity level :  S1 would suit M1, S2 would suit M2 and so forth.

The entertainment value in “The Apprentice” lies in Lord Sugar purposely mismatching his leadership style (the S) to the Maturity level of the candidates (the M).

Lord Sugar favours a leadership style of S4 Delegating.  He is clear about the expected outcome of the task that is set for the candidates but leaves the responsibility and how it is done to the team, thus providing little direction and input.

Whilst lots of the candidates may consider themselves Maturity Level 4 (there’s that ego thing again)  in reality we know they fall into Maturity 2.  There is therefore an obvious mismatch in the leadership style.  And therein lies the entertainment value of “The Apprentice”.


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