What Can You Learn From Donald Trump?

Leadership Lessons the Trump contestants learned the hard way

First and foremost, remember that the basic premise for the show is that contestants are competing for a job leading a company, not simply working for a company. As such, there really are only two important criteria to measure prospects against: JUDGMENT and INFLUENCE

In the first episode, the leader of the losing team had to answer for their poor lemonade sales. He showed leadership by delegating effectively but lacked judgment by setting up shop next to a stinky fish market.

You might argue that he dodged a bullet by not getting himself fired, but at the boardroom table, both he and Sammy (a poor performing team member) were influential in stating their case. They did not beg for their jobs, but showed more leadership potential than the third team member who was highly educated but lacked the people skills necessary to survive this round.

While you can learn from mistakes, it is difficult to change one's character.
(Score: geeks zero).

In the second episode, the new team leader was given the task of preparing an ad campaign for a client. His technical experience as someone who has worked in advertising worked against him since the "know it all" didn't take input from his team, didn't gain their respect, and therefore did not do a very good job of influencing them, but that's only part of it. The team lost and Trump had to hold someone's feet to the fire. Would it be the seemingly underperforming Sammy who was accused of sleeping on the job?

Remember that this is a competition to choose a leader, and as in real life it is very likely that any team will have its share of underperformers. While it may be necessary some times, you can't improve performance by continually focusing on trimming the poorest performers. If overall team performance continues to be less than ideal, eventually you will begin trimming muscle. No, in this case the leader is to blame.

He arrogantly decided that his technical ability to produce an ad campaign meant that the client did not need to be consulted. Foolish! An amateur mistake. Remember that at this level, technical ability is not the key to success. The background may help, but the key measures are judgment and influence.

Poor strategy has a much greater negative effect on outcomes than a poor performer on an otherwise strong team, and it is the leader who is responsible for strategy. In fact, I'll argue that poor strategists can be saved by poor performers since they don't move fast enough in the wrong direction to do much damage.

A poor strategy in the hands of top performers can get you into trouble way faster. Its like four wheel drive. It won't get you out of a snow bank, it'll just get you further in before you get stuck. It is the leaders job to chose a strong team, but if I own the company I'm looking for a strong leader who can make good decisions, including hiring good people and keeping me out of snow banks in the first place.


The next challenge was lost badly as Sammy had his opportunity. Up to this point he had attracted the negative attention of Trump more than once. He exhibited potential but was largely an unknown quantity. Rather than fire him earlier, Trump had decided to watch him for a while and see if he could hit a home run. Sammy was an all or nothing hitter and in the end Sammy proved to be a liability and did not deliver as a leader.

What of Sammy's influence in the board room?
Sammy was confused between assertions and evidence. Up to this point he has made the assertion that he could do well. When he had his opportunity to produce evidence by leading a team to victory, he did not have the support of his team and failed. You could argue again that it was the team that underperformed by not producing results, but it was up to the leader to put a strategy in place (judgment) and motivate the team to implement the strategy (influence). Ironically the challenge his team lost involved negotiating (Sammy's strength), and in this instance, he may have been a much better doer than a leader.

The next episode was an interesting one in that Trump chose to personally call Amerossa on her behavior when in a leadership role she treated her team poorly. That was a warning shot.

Meanwhile a weaker team member was dismissed for not standing up to Amerossa on her own. Remember Even though a single underperformer is not our first target, the criteria for a leader is judgment and influence, and someone who cannot stand up for themselves cannot make a strong team leader who may one day be asked to defend their strategy or influence a decision.

The lesson here is that leaders need strong character (the strong survive), but this does not include bullying. (Think strong positive influence)

Once again in the latest episode the leader of the losing team survives. Instead a team member gets the axe, though we have already said that underperformers are not yet our primary target. This team member was not fired for being an underperformer, but for being a disruptive force on the team. By continually deviating from the strategy on previous challenges, and eventually being disloyal to her team at the board room table, she became a liability, and required too much of the leaders energy to manage.
It is not simply that this sort of person cannot implement as well as the others on the team, it is that she made it difficult for the team to implement at all. She would have been more of an asset sleeping in the broom closet where nobody could see her. Maybe not for her contribution, but at least there she couldn't mess things up.

Amarossa finally gets the axe. In a challenge to select and sell art at a gallery, her superior knowledge of art gave way to her inferior treatment of team members, but where she really messed up was in the board room.

  • Rather than accept any responsibility she made excuses
  • Rather than defending her actions she was begging
  • Rather than appeal to Trumps self interest, she based her response on her own need.

To top it off she lost control, lacked respect for Trump and barged back into the board room, sealing her fate. Finally, regardless of what she had said (assertions) she demonstrated (evidence) that she was not one to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty when the job required it.

Stay tuned, the low hanging fruit has already been picked. Now the real competition begins.

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