Thursday, June 07, 2007

All about playing the game

Last week I interviewed Judith Leary-Joyce, whose new book, Inspirational Manager is published by Prentice Hall Business here this month. She talked a lot about the key to being a truly inspiring manager as being the ability to build and sustain great relationships.

So contrast that with the BBC's hit business show - the Apprentice which offered a fascinating semi-final last night.

Now Alan Sugar is not my idea of an Inspirational Manager. He barks and bullies and makes sure everyone knows he's always the boss. I'd hate to be apprenticed to someone whose only idea of the 'right way' is his way.

Last night's round of interviews for the candidates also showed how unprepared they are for management - one, Tre, came out as a loner and a bit of fantasist. What struck me most is how he has clearly been a favoured son, and has been brought up to believe in his own hype. One chap was nice but dull ans there's another real 'Tim nice but dim' through to the final in Simon - definitely a poor finalist from a poor selection of candidates.

The more interesting candidates were Kristina and Katie - definitely the two powers in the competition. Kristina's dogged, bright and clearly ambitious. She's a player with a hard streak - but is positively soft and fluffy when compared to Katie Hopkins who was Sugar's first choice as a finalist - but then stepped down when it finally struck her that winning the competition would mean uprooting to the lovely suburban landscape that is Brentwood. Clearly Katie had no plans to be an Essex girl.

Hopkins is the antithesis of Leary-Joyce's vision of an inspirational manager. Katie's a great relationship builder as long as those relationships are on her terms and will meet her end-game.

We've probably all had the kind of boss who'll climb over anyone's back to ensure they get to the top - and Katie coupled that duplicity with an ability to manage upwards by turning on the charm and the flirtatiousness whenever the situation demanded.

I'm not surprised that Katie is ex-army - she's part of that breed who works hard plays hard and ruthlessly removes any barriers to 'project Katie'.

The thing that amazed me most is that she's a mother to two young daughters - reading the kind of profile she provided in the Met Office's magazine last year pages 8 & 9, and watching her through the 10 weeks of tasks, family simply didn't feature.

And I don't think her family had much to do with her decision to pull out of the final. I don't think she ever had any intention of working for Sugar. Katie was in the game to win: she's been there all along to promote 'project Katie'. I'm sure she'll be successful in that, and we're witnessing the birth of another C list business celebrity a la Ruth Badger and Saira Khan.

What we're not seeing in the birth of a great manager - would you want to work for Katie Hopkins....or for that matter, have her report to you?

The Apprentice is great entertainment, but it's as much about business and management as Alan Sugar is about football - there's a connection, but it's becoming ever more tenuous.

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