A new season of The Apprentice has just started
on British television.
While shows about business are to be welcomed – and
certainly represent a step forward from the days when the only entrepreneurs on
television were negative stereotypes – it is difficult to think of worse role
models than Apprentice host Sir Alan Sugar and his American
counterpart, Donald Trump.
Their ranting and raving gives a completely false impression
of what management is about. To try to compensate for personal inadequacies by bullying those of
inferior status is the mark of a loser, not a leader.
Take it from one who has been privileged to meet a number of
great leaders – in politics, war, education, and diplomacy, as well as
business, from Margaret
Thatcher to Sir
John Harvey-Jones, and from Prince Charles
to General Sir
Peter de la Billiere – they all have one in common: unfailing patience and
This is not to go to the other extreme of suggesting that a
leader must molly-coddle his subordinates and crawl to them. On the contrary,
the leader must be firmly in control.
However, being in control means being calm and displaying
that grace under pressure which is the complete opposite of the rudeness and
bullying of Sugar and Trump.
Politeness costs nothing – and can actually make it easier
to be ruthless.