I’m not a usual viewer of The Apprentice – Lord Alan Sugar’s television show when people pit themselves against each other in business tasks to win a coveted prize of £250,000 in a start up business of their choice. I find the show to be incredibly ruthless and cut throat and not my kind of thing I like to watch – however I did just the other night.
What left me reeling from the show was the leadership (or lack of) qualities shown by Edna Agrarha who elected to be project manager of the all female group. Her words when addressing the other women in her group left a lasting imprint – “I’m tough, I don’t suffer fools gladly and I take no prisoners”. Not encouraging words from a leader to get the most out of her group. What’s interesting is that Edna is a business psychologist, so surely she would know a thing or two about leadership and working with others?
I’ve commented before that women make great leaders – when they are themselves and not some bloke dressed in a skirt. Unfortunately, given the nature of the show and of the contestants in the Apprentice, Edna came across as someone who is used to using aggression and scare tactics to get what she wants. It was ‘her way or the highway’.
I believe our history has been chartered by ‘a few great men’ who have been so powerful that they have shaped the fate of our nation and economy. However, given the changing nature of our world, there is now an opportunity for women to step up to the task and let their true leadership abilities shine, in collaboration with others. In the words of Douglas Elix, the head of IBM’s Global Services Div, who has just hired two senior women managers, “women think through decisions better than men, are more collaborative, and seek less personal glory”.
I think leadership is not only a state of doing, but also a state of being. You can't lead others if you can't lead yourself. Most importantly leadership is about being clear, having a vision, having courage, and inspiring others. A great leader takes people with them and shows them the way. And if there was ever a time for women to lead in our world, surely that time is now.