The Apprentice 2: Why John Lostby David Bloomberg -- 10/20/2004
The men had been on a roll – until John led them to a huge defeat in a task that was definitely among the most difficult for the male gender. But was it really John’s leadership that caused the problem or was it something else? Why did John lose?
As we do every week, it’s time to look to, What ‘Apprentice 2’ Applicants Should Have Learned to find out what John did right and where he went oh so wrong.
The first rule, of course, is to show leadership. One of the ways to show leadership is to make sure that you truly are the manager when you have that role. On the one hand, John showed leadership when he picked Ilsa as the designer, similar to the manner in which Kwame showed leadership in picking Meghan the artist last season. Both men lost and both assumed responsibility for their picks.
However, that’s where the similarity ends. John left far too many things to other people and failed to properly control his team. When they were at the textile shop, causing Carolyn to laugh so hard she cried, it looked like the way Apex normally operates. In case there is any doubt, that is not a compliment! There were people running hither and yon, and nobody had any real control. Where was John? Not there. Kelly had to assume control.
Later, the men decided that they had to be in the same room as the models in order to create clothing for them. This turned into a testosterone-fueled frenzy of activity that had little or nothing to do with actually accomplishing the task. And what did John do to get them on the straight and narrow? Nothing.
The morning of the fashion show, the men showed up to find that there was still a ton of work to be done. Where was John? Why wasn’t he checking in to make sure things were ready on time? Honestly, I think the men were complacent. Everything seemed to go their way for so long that it seems they thought they could just say, “Do it,” and it would magically be done. Not this time, though.
Finally, John abandoned critical tasks as the challenge deadline approached. Rather than stick around to oversee price, he ran off to oversee models. Pricing, as John should have learned during the previous challenge at QVC, is one of the most important – if not the most important – decisions during a challenge like this one. Yet he just left it in the hands of two other people, with absolutely no oversight on his part. Bad move.
As the rule says, “What is worse than walking into the Boardroom after having lost? Walking into the Boardroom and saying, ‘Yes, we lost, but it wasn’t my fault because I had no control over my team.’” That’s essentially what John did – he had no control over his team and he gave away control on the most important tasks. This does not show good leadership.
However, John did a good job in abiding by the second rule – staying cool under fire. No matter what was going on during the challenge, John never seemed to get flustered. In fact, we might question whether John even cared. The same was true at the Boardroom. He took responsibility for selecting the designer, he calmly tried to explain that pricing was the problem, etc. Even when he was called out by Trump near the end for having made mistakes, he owned up to them. He never cracked under the pressure.
At the same time, John followed the third rule and stood up for himself. He blamed Kevin and Wes for failing at pricing and tried to sell Trump & Co. on the idea that he was a good worker during other tasks. Didn’t work, but he tried.
One reason it didn’t work is that even if he was a hard worker in other challenges, it was this one they lost and this one he was supposed to lead. Trump is looking for a leader, so it was this challenge that meant the most.
The fifth rule says to be loyal. John did protect some of those people who supported him, such as Raj. However, that might have actually been to his detriment.
It was pretty obvious that Trump had a problem with the way Raj behaved during this challenge. But John didn’t seem to even consider bringing Raj into the Boardroom as part of the final decision. Why? Well, I think most people make up their minds about who they will bring with them before they ever get to facing Trump. John knew Raj was backing him, and he didn't want to turn that around by then bringing him in. He probably figured he was safe with one of the guys who messed up the pricing and the guy who he claimed didn't do anything.
In this particular case, I don't think bringing Raj in would have done anything to help him anyway. Yes, Raj was bothering the models and the designer – but is that really the reason the men lost? I don’t think so. In the end, though, what we saw was that being loyal helped Raj, but not so much John.
Did John show his hand before going into the Boardroom? From what we saw, no, but it didn’t really seem to come as much of a surprise. The only real surprise was that John brought in Kevin and Andy rather than adding Wes into the mix. We would be right to consider whether Trump himself thought that John was overplaying his hand in this way, since he asked why John hadn’t brought Wes along.
Seventh, we have the rule saying to play well with others. From what we could tell, this was not a problem with John. So we’ll move on to the eighth rule: Focus on the long-term.
I’m not sure that John focused on anything during this task, other than perhaps the models. But especially he did not focus on how he could best defend himself. Losing a challenge is not the end of the world. But losing a challenge without thinking is the end of the show for you. Because he was not focused on what was going on around him, he was unable to properly explain why he should not have been fired.
The ninth rule says to think outside the box, but not too far. It seems that picking Ilsa may have been thinking outside the box. Sometimes that’s fine, especially in fashion. But the women thought about what would actually sell. As Betsy Wasser said in her recap, “the women’s clothing line looked more accessible and more wearable.” For this particular challenge, the teams needed something saleable, and the men didn’t really have it.
Finally, we have the rule to use common sense. John failed here completely. Whether you’re an experienced manager or not, common sense would dictate that you not hand over control of possibly the most important decision – pricing – to somebody else without any oversight whatsoever.
Common sense would also dictate that you bring with you to face Trump the people that are most likely to be sent home. As already noted, Trump was picking on Raj, so he would have been a likely candidate (though as I also noted, I doubt he would have been fired – but it was worth a shot). Andy had not done anything wrong in this challenge, so it was silly for John to bring him along. This is especially true considering that John made Wes safe but took Kevin along to the Boardroom.
Honestly, though, I’m not sure it would have mattered who he brought along at the end. By that time, it was too late. If he had brought both Kevin and Wes, then what? Trump couldn’t fire both of them. So either they would have been forced to debate who really set the prices, or he'd have still fired John for failing to oversee that task. I think he still would have fired John.
As Trump said, John made “too many bad decisions.” He was a poor leader. When he made decisions, they were the wrong ones – like picking Ilsa as their designer. But worse than that, too often he wasn’t there when leadership or strong decisions were needed – such as when the prices were being determined.
Did the pricing put them out of the market and thus out of the competition? Or was it Ilsa and the clothing line itself? In the end, it doesn’t really matter because both of those problems point back to John. That is why John lost.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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