By | Published On: July 17, 2013 |

Are you team Luisa or team Leah? For those as yet uninitiated in this particular TV programme’s shorthand, it’s the final of The Apprentice tonight, where Sir Alan Sugar will choose a business partner from two finalists. I’ve found it compelling viewing, from a business and personality perspective. But when the credits have rolled and the limelight fades, the winner will be left with a bottom line to focus on and a team to run. Which got me thinking – who would I rather work for?

In the left corner, we have 25 year-old mother of one and multiple business owner Luisa Zissman. Describing herself as having “the energy of a Duracell bunny, sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit and a brain like Einstein”, Luisa has shown herself to be ruthless, domineering and manipulative throughout the series. She has a credible business idea (a baking brand ­­– a smart choice considering she already has a wealth of experience in the sector) and the reluctant admiration of Sir Allan, who probably sees something of himself in the ego-driven but hard-working businesswoman.

And in the right corner, 24 year-old NHS doctor Leah Totton, whose relatively last minute success in the process was marked down to her “finding her voice” and demonstrating she had solid business nous despite her relative inexperience. We know she is brilliant academically, possesses a photographic memory, and can be very persuasive when required. Her strategy, she says, is to “disarm with charm” although anyone who has followed her progress to date may have struggled to notice much charm under the icy exterior
She is set to bring her deadpan expression to a wider audience if she wins with her plan to bring Botox and other “quick filler” cosmetic procedures to UK high streets.

How would these “attributes” work in a real office environment? Well, Luisa would certainly be a handful, both to manage and have as a boss. The upsides of knowing where you stood with her might be outweighed by the epic meltdowns when she did get her own way, or something didn’t go to plan. She is very much a one-woman show, so in an organisation where teamwork and delegation are required, she could prove too hot to handle.

As her manager, I would be concerned about her inability to accept criticism or listen to alternative points of view, but as a boss her passion and drive could be very inspirational, particularly for younger employees who might reasonably see her as an entrepreneurial role model and example of a woman who “has it all”.

By contrast, Leah’s quieter, steely presence could be an asset in situations that require negotiation or consideration. Her judgment appears to be sound, and her determination and impressive business plan catapulted her into the final. Easier to manage than Luisa, she might risk letting down the company with her lack of charisma. Yes, she certainly has the brains for the job, but does she have that edge that would mark her out as truly exceptional?

There’s a great article here from Forbes on the “top 10 qualities that make a great leader”. They go into much more detail in the piece, but I’ll summarize them here:

  1. Honesty
  2. Ability to delegate
  3. Communication
  4. Sense of humour
  5. Confidence
  6. Commitment
  7. Positive attitude
  8. Creativity
  9. Intuition
  10. Ability to inspire.

If we use this checklist to assess our finalists, a clear winner emerges – Luisa (especially on point no. 4). I may be proved wrong, but if Sir Allan’s business advisers are in charge of the final selection, my money’s on Ms Zissman. Personally, the idea of working for either of them gives me the heebie-jeebies’ (and makes me glad I’m self-employed), but I’d definitely pick Luisa if my hand was forced. What do you think? What qualities do you look for in a boss?