The Trump Test: Would You Get Fired?

I was watching The Celebrity Apprentice last week, and I had an “aha” moment. At the end of the episode, Donald Trump was asking each of the teams whether they thought their project manager was a good leader. I realized that the skills Mr. Trump was looking for in a team leader are exactly the skills I outline in The Artistic Edge. So should our children be watching The Apprentice to get their daily dose of leadership training?

In each episode of The Celebrity Apprentice, teams of competitors choose a project manager to lead them through a business project assigned by Mr. Trump. At the end of the episode, the teams come together in the boardroom and analyze the contributions made by each member. After the discussion, Trump decides which team member has been least effective, and that person hears the now infamous words “You’re fired”.

So how does success in the Trump boardroom relate to the 7 Skills my book?

  1. Creativity is important, of course, as the teams must find innovative solutions to the problem set before them during their weekly task.
  2. The teams are rewarded for dreaming big in order to find solutions that go beyond those that their opponents come up with.
  3. As the team encounters obstacles along the way, problem-solving skills are essential.
  4. The ability to adapt by changing tactics when something isn’t working or when new obstacles are presented is the key to a project manager’s success.
  5. The project manager must be confident in their ability to lead, and must not be hesitant to take charge of the team and direct its plan of attack.
  6. As the team works through the project, the manager needs to be able to communicate the plan to each team member so that everyone is able to work effectively and successfully.
  7. Ultimately, the managers must hold themselves accountable for everything the team does under their direction, because at the end of the day, Trump is going to hold them accountable in the boardroom.

Through my book I’ve identified these skills as the qualities that we all need in order to be successful, not just in creative endeavours, but in all aspects of our lives. It was a great moment because here was confirmation that these same skills will make you successful in the boardroom too.

Aside from the humorous drama that often arises from the B-list celebrities who struggle to impress Mr. Trump and win money for their charity, there are valuable lessons to be learned on the show. Not all of the managers on The Celebrity Apprentice possess strong leadership skills, and those who fall short in any of the areas are likely to be fired.

Often the project manager isn’t the strongest performer on the team, and an unexpected leader emerges: someone who exhibits all of the necessary skills. Sometimes the best performer is someone no one expected to lead, but their leadership skills outshine even the project manager’s.

It’s impossible to ignore how well these skills make a player perform, and those who have all seven are certain to become effective leaders. You may see The Celebrity Apprentice as learning to tackle corporate America. But I see it as the ultimate leadership test. As we think about educating children for a successful future, we need to keep in mind that their leadership skills will be tested at every stage and in every arena of their lives! Strong leadership skills are essential not only on reality TV shows, but in any career young people choose.