The Value Of Morals In Business

If the phrase "nice guys finish last" holds even a shred of truth, then the candidates of this series of the BBC’s The Apprentice series are a shoe-in for success in its most repulsive decadence. Here we ask whether being a cutthroat corporate character holds any stock in the real world of business.

Groans could be heard throughout the country when the first set of (self) promotional trailers were rolled out for series nine of The Apprentice. However, the arrogance of this year’s set of young professionals, no matter how contrived, is only exceeded by their success in the modern world of business.

It is a well-established idea, that in order to be successful, you have to be ruthless. According to a 2011 study by a leading US business school – this notion rings true.

Dr Robert Livingstone of the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, says: "Nice guys don't make it to the top when their group needs a dominant leader to lead them at a time of conflict.

"Being too generous often comes at a personal cost to one's position of strength or power."

The extensive research conducted into the subject by the US institute found that by being compassionate or unselfish, an individual becomes less appealing as a leader. And, as it would be disingenuous to describe The Apprentice 2013 candidates as either of the aforementioned adjectives, they may be on to something.

Take hopeful contestant, Myles Mordaunt, who, without a hint of irony or embarrassment, announced his arrival as “business perfection personified.” Or his competitor Jason Leech, who believes that it is his “effortless superiority” that will see him through – they are both affluent businessmen.

However there is hope for those aiming to achieve success without resorting to shameless self-promotion (usually at the expense of others). Venture Capitalist, David Hornik believes that ‘nice guys’ can actually be more successful than their confrontational counterparts.

He told Wired magazine: “Company-building is more collaborative than adversarial. Leaders need to co-operate with employees, partners, distributors, customers etc. As a result, executives who optimise for the confrontational aspects of their job, rather than the collaborative ones, will miss the mark.”

The collaborative approach to leadership and productivity has proved successful throughout the business and franchise world, providing individuals take responsibility for their own roles.

No matter how high your ambitions in the business world may be, the adage; ‘it is lonely at the top’ is never truer than if you reach it by cutting all ties on the way up.

By Gareth Samuel