Monday, February 16, 2015

The Courtesy Strategy

2015 Celebrity Apprentice Cast with Donald Trump
I don’t watch many reality shows, but Donald Trump’s The Apprentice has always fascinated me. When it first premiered, with non-celebrities participating, I followed the program until Bill Rancic won the initial challenge. Each episode, I remained glued to the screen. Then, afterward, I would berate myself for enjoying a show that encouraged folks to undermine their opponents in order to take the prize.

For those of you who have avoided the temptation, please let me congratulate you. The premise is that Mr. Trump brings together talented individuals from all walks of life to be divided into teams, compete against each other in accomplishing business tasks, and eventually be eliminated (“You’re fired”) based on judgments of their work product, their cooperative abilities, and their capabilities to outlast each other. The original prize was the opportunity to manage a Trump-owned enterprise. Later, the participants were limited to people considered “celebrities” (including actors, singers, comedians, reporters, athletes, reality stars, and people generating media attention) who played for donations to selected charities.

So, I weaned myself from the terrible viewing habit, although I must admit some backsliding to watch Omarosa’s manipulative efforts. Of course, I was intrigued when celebrities became involved, and had to see if what I read about Gary Busey’s antics was true. Then, this year, how could I not tune in for Joan Rivers’ last TV appearances?

Leeza Gibbons
There is a more personal reason that the current Celebrity Apprentice appeals to me. It features among the players local girl made good, Leeza Gibbons who grew up in Irmo, South Carolina, a suburb of Columbia, and attended the University of South Carolina. Also, I went to law school with her brother Carlos.

Leeza Gibbons came to prominence as an interviewer of celebrities on Entertainment Tonight. She also hosted her own programs and infomercials and has been a competitor on Dancing with the Stars. She’s beautiful, intuitive, kind, supportive, and the epitome of a lovely Southern lady, which is why she seems to be doing so well in this round of the Celebrity Apprentice.

In the early episodes, Leeza followed a Bill Rancic strategy, remaining low key, but always available and part of the team. She appeared level-headed and evaluated the situations reasonably without making derogatory comments. She even expressed regret and concern when people faced the boardroom. At one point, Geraldo Rivera asked her when she would step up to the plate to be project manager. With demure tact, she managed a non-answer.

Then, the task arose to make a viral video for Chock Full of Nuts Coffee. Making videos is Leeza’s forte. So, she stepped up to the project manager slot, listened to the recommendations of all her team members, and ultimately took charge to direct the process, including making use of a dispute between two female team members and incorporating it into an edgy, controversial film for a conservative product. Even she admitted she wasn’t certain how it would go over because it pushed the envelope, but with her classy presentation, her team was victorious.

Geraldo Rivera
Now, Leeza and Geraldo, two reporters, one respectful and deferential, but savvy, and the other inventive and intelligent, yet erratic, face off in the final challenge that will air tonight (Monday, February 16, 2015). Who will be the victor? Will class overcome brash?

As you can imagine, I intend to watch the resolution. Maybe because I was raised in the South and have seen its manners work successfully in so many settings, I have to admit I’m rooting for a Leeza win. I haven’t felt as guilty following the episodes this time because I saw less of bad behavior being rewarded and more of courtesy and kindness being admired.

What do you think? Is courtesy the preferred strategy? Can it be used for a competitive advantage?



  1. Courtesy is the best way to deal with people. and, yes, I think it will give a competitive advantage.

  2. So many confuse polite with naïve. And loud with smart. Although I don't think Geraldo would say the end justifies the means, I hope classy wins.

  3. Pam and Georgia, I agree completely. In my day job as a legislative lawyer, I see so many instances where zealous advocacy must be tempered with respect for other viewpoints. You never know who your allies will be on the next issue!


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