The Apprentice: Why Kwame Lostby David Bloomberg -- 04/16/2004
It all came down to this: Bill vs. Kwame. Ironically, early in The Apprentice’s life, it looked like two women would probably be facing off at the end, not two men. But Bill and Kwame turned it around for themselves. The question was which of them would come out ahead in the final sprint.
Of course, by now you’ve read Betsy Wasser’s recap of the finale and know that Bill was the one who heard “You’re hired!” Kwame was not technically fired, but he lost nevertheless. Let’s take a look at what happened and see if we can figure out why Kwame lost.
Kwame would never have been my pick to even make it to the Final 2. Indeed, when a rumor was going around a couple months or so ago that one of the Apprentice contestants had claimed Kwame would win, I thought it completely impossible. Certainly it would be Troy vs. Amy in the finals, right? Well, we’ve previously addressed Why Troy Lost and Why Amy Lost, and in those discussions we saw how Kwame kept moving forward.
Kwame is well-spoken, smart, knows his stuff, and has a great education and background. He did a good job of staying in the background throughout most of the show, and to the viewer it often looked like he really just wasn’t doing much. But apparently he was doing more than we saw. For example, Isaac Mizrahi mentioned on the Dateline NBC special about The Apprentice that after Omarosa and Jessie negotiated the deal for the celebrity auction, it was Kwame who tied up all the loose ends and made sure everything worked out. It may be that, as in many other reality shows, we simply didn’t see Kwame in action because he wasn’t on the chopping block that week.
It could also be because of his laid-back style that we didn’t see as much of him. Reality TV thrives on conflict, and people like Sam and Omarosa provided a lot more of that than Kwame did. Going hand in hand with that conflict was that Sam and Omarosa were fired while Kwame held back, did what he needed to do, didn’t ruffle feathers, and sort of stayed under the radar. Although he made quite a few trips to the boardroom, there was always somebody else to fire instead of him.
Kwame also has a good management style – for certain situations. That helped him get to the Final 2, but hurt him once he was there. When he was surrounded with people who were fighting to stay alive and who were good at what they were doing, his style of giving them direction and then getting out of their way worked well. Indeed, in a real job, that same style would also probably work well in most cases.
However, that style didn’t take Omarosa into consideration. Omarosa needed constant attention – well, actually, she needed to be fired. It is too bad that Kwame didn’t realize this was an option, and it wasn’t terribly fair for Trump to hold it against him. Perhaps Kwame should have known that if the rules didn’t forbid him from firing her, he could have. But in any case, he certainly could have – and should have – shunted her off to the side. Yes, he would have been down on manpower, but I think it would have been better to be down a person than to have to keep chasing after Omarosa and fixing her screw-ups.
That was where his leadership failed. Yes, Omarosa is a real piece of work. She’s been inducted into the Reality TV Hall of Shame and then received a quick follow-up for her behavior while “working” for Kwame. You can expect to see more in the Hall of Shame about her later, too. But the point is that Kwame did well handling people who were easily-managed. He did not do so well in managing Omarosa, and that was made extremely obvious to Donald Trump.
When Trump and Carolyn asked Kwame about his handling of Omarosa and why he picked her for his team, he also should have done a better job of responding. Just saying she was the best choice left – which is both insulting to those who were left and also a bit silly considering he knew what type of person she was. What Kwame should have said was that by picking her second, he was making it seem like she was wanted, which could have helped make her a better employee. It was obvious that he was going to get her third anyway, since he picked second and there was no way Bill was going to pick her. Indeed, at the time he picked her, I figured that was what was going through is mind anyway.
Omarosa compounded the problems she caused by then blaming Kwame for them when she was in the boardroom with the other five workers. Yes, she said he was the best for the job, but she had already done plenty of damage.
Still, we can’t blame it completely on Omarosa, no matter how much we might want to. Trump likely would have seen that Kwame’s management style was different from his own even if Omarosa hadn’t been in the picture. Indeed, in the previous episode, his staff pointed this out as a potential mark against him. Trump said that maybe the organization needs somebody like that, but it was likely still in his mind.
Let’s face it, Donald Trump is not a laid-back guy. He could much more easily relate to the energy shown by Bill than the coolness shown by Kwame. Bill might have been running around quite a bit during the golf tournament, but at least he had his finger on the pulse of what was going on. If he thought something was important, his employees knew. What if their roles had been reversed? If Kwame had found out about the missing Marquis Jet Card sign, he would have probably calmly asked one person to find it, and then let them go about looking. However, if it hadn’t been for Bill’s repeated attempts and, eventually, doing it himself, the sign never would have been found.
When Kwame lost something – in his case, Jessica Simpson – all he could do, it seemed, was helplessly call for people on his walkie talkie. He was in charge, but he didn’t know where people were or what they were doing. He even confused them somewhat by changing up who was in charge of what. Was Omarosa in charge of breakfast, or was it Troy? Was Heidi in charge of the meet and greet, or was Troy also in charge? Was he just there to help, or was he the co-pilot? Kwame said both things, but they don’t really mean the same thing. With all the changes, it was hard to pin down exactly who was supposed to do what. And imagine how the hotel staff felt, trying to figure out just who they were supposed to deal with. In the end, Kwame didn’t ensure that communication took place between all of his staff or his staff and the hotel staff.
It also didn’t help that Bill did all his running around out of sight of Trump himself. Kwame, on the other hand, was in a world of hurt when Trump showed up. It was obvious that The Donald was not a happy camper.
It’s good to have trust in your employees and to make sure you don’t micromanage them. But at some point a manager does indeed have to manage. The panelists on the Dateline special noted much the same thing, saying that Kwame was too nice and let things go that Bill never would have. For example, Bill got upset when Ereka took a five-minute break during the apartment-renovating challenge, but Kwame appeared to just let Omarosa lie to his face and didn’t say anything.
Kwame’s laid-back style worked sometimes, but not when it counted. That is why Kwame lost.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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