'The Apprentice': What Skills Are Key?

Experts say emotional intelligence and leadership are necessary to win the dream job with Donald Trump.

From the WebMD Archives

You're hired!

Millions of viewers will tune into NBC on April 15 to hear the Donald utter these two words to one savvy job seeker on his hit reality show The Apprentice.

Will it be Kwame Jackson or Bill Rancic? And why? What will be going through Trump's coiffed head when he hands down that final decision?

Leading psychologists and management professionals all have their own ideas on who will win the $250,000-a-year dream job at one of Trump's companies and why. Here's what they had to say:

While Trump certainly doesn't scoff at an MBA degree or experience with a top Wall Street firm, emotional intelligence is the key to winning, says Muriel T. Anderson, a leadership professor at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine in Buffalo, N.Y. She teaches the School of Management's Leadership PACE (Personal Achievement through Competency Evaluation) program, which helps master's students identify their personal limitations and develop a plan to overcome them.


"Emotional intelligence is basically how effectively we deal with our own emotions as well as with others' emotions," she explains. "Do we know our limitations? Our strengths? Our weaknesses? Do we understand the effect our behavior has on others?"

Studies have shown that the managers who set themselves apart from the fray have more than just a high IQ, they also have a high emotional intelligence, she says.

Need more proof that emotional intelligence is key on The Apprentice?

On the show, 11 of the 12 candidates who were fired got the can because of a lack of emotional intelligence, she says. "Trump said to Heidi [Bressler], 'You have an edge that drives people nuts,' and as far as Omarosa [Manigault-Stallworth] goes, he didn't like her rude behavior or lack of social skills. Ereka [Vetrini] let her emotions rule her, and Tammy [Lee] was disloyal," she says.

People with high emotional intelligence, however, "are the ones that are able to motivate others, show a high level of initiative, set and reach goals, and are true team players," she explains. "They influence others without them even realizing that they are being influenced."


So who should land the dream job?

"For the longest time, I was rooting for Amy [Henry] because I felt that she was able to build strong bonds with team members, didn't get sucked into cat fights, tried to be the peacemaker, and under the stressful situations kept her emotions in check and developed good relationships with clients," Anderson says.

But Anderson was worried that Amy's emotions would show with a romance [with another candidate], so "I am now leaning toward Bill," she says.

"Bill may be the one that will shine as he has been getting along with the others and has the background that Donald Trump is wanting to see -- good education, polish, and people skills," she predicts.

Leadership Key, Too

"I don't think emotional intelligence is enough," says Philadelphia -based executive coach and corporate strategist Hellen Davis, president and CEO of Indaba Training Specialists and author of The 21 Laws of Influence. "I think you have to have certain leadership qualities and certain smarts that are logical and not just emotionally based."


That said, Davis hoped that Amy would win because "she is a good role model for women," she says. "I think its good to know that you can be pretty, smart, and good at business -- especially since all the other women were bounced out so quickly," Davis says.

"But," she adds, "I really think Kwame will pull it off because he has been under the wire and influenced teammates more than anyone else," she says. "He's smart, handsome, and people do follow him when he steps up to the plate."

Leadership ability is why Steven Harap, PhD, president of Partners for Productivity Inc. Business Coaching and Performance Consulting in Downer's Grove, Ill., thinks Bill will win.

"He is a leader and has appealing experience," Harap says. "Leadership really is a huge quality both on the show and in terms of being able to run a business," he says.

"I honestly think the winner is the person that Trump feels can best run one of his businesses," Harap says. "The show is an ongoing job interview, and ultimately the reason that someone like Troy [McClain] got kicked off is not because he didn't play the game well, but because he is not who Trump wants to run a company," he opines.

Taking One for the Team

Deborrah Himsel, the vice president of organizational effectiveness at Avon Products in New York City and author of Leadership Sopranos Style, says that being a team player is one of the traits needed to win on this reality show -- and in the real-life corporate world.

"You have to be a good team player [and] that really means collaborating with others, sharing information with others, and working across boundaries for the whole organization -- not just yourself."

It's also important to believe in your company's product or service.

"In the episode where contestants took artists and sold their work, the team that won believed in the artist and the work, and the lesson is that you have to be very passionate about what you are doing and what you stand for," Himsel says.

Francie Dalton, president of Dalton Alliances Inc., a consulting firm based in Columbia, Md., is hedging her bets. "It's too early to tell who will win," she tells WebMD.

"The key trait that they have to demonstrate is the ability to subordinate their own emotions, while at the same time using the emotions of others," she says. "CEOs need to understand that it is not about how you feel, and you have to keep an eye on the ball of business results," she says, "If you don't stay clear that this is what is important -- not emotions -- you are going to go down," she says, meaning you will hear Trump utter those two words, "You're fired."


"Trump shows what most people consider heartlessness or harshness, but, in fact, what he is doing is making a decision without emotion, which is exactly how he ought to do it," she says.

But good news for No. 2. KFC says it plans to hire the runner-up for a limited-time gig, helping it roll out its new oven-roasted chicken line for one week with a $25,000 salary and a year's supply of KFC products.

Published April 13, 2004.

WebMD Feature


SOURCES: Muriel T. Anderson, leadership professor, University of Buffalo School of Medicine, Buffalo, N.Y. Deborrah Himsel, vice president of organizational effectiveness, Avon Products, New York City; author, Leadership Sopranos Style. Steven Harap, PhD, president, Partners for Productivity Inc. Business Coaching and Performance Consulting, Downer's Grove, Ill. Francie Dalton, president, Dalton Alliances Inc., Columbia, Md.

© 2004 WebMD, Inc. All rights Reserved.