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How to have your cake & eat it


Sir ALucinda's less overbearing leadership style won over John Fay - she may not be the bossiest but she gets results, he says. Sara, on the other hand, was left with cake on her face with her hard sell attitude and poor listening skills.

Sir Alan’s contestants found themselves in St Bartholomew’s church taking a brief to attend the National Wedding Show and compete against each other to sell 'the dream' to brides-to-be preparing for their big day.

Team Renaissance was headed up by Helene, while Team Alpha saw Lucinda as its project manager. A candidate who was heavily criticised in the earlier days, Lucinda is now finding a growing appreciation from team members for her less authoritative leadership style. She may not be the bossiest of the bunch but she gets results.

Product choice was critical in this quest, as Lucinda’s team favoured the high-end designer dresses while Helene opted for a mid range collection featuring modern bright colours.

This was Team Renaissance’s first major error – they failed to take a risk and lost the support of a valuable lingerie stockist who opted to go with Lucinda’s team. This left Michael and Sara with the task of selling quality wedding cakes – a purchase they later realised a bride would not make without the groom.

These vital decisions and poor product choices left Helene, Michael and Sara in the boardroom in the final minutes, under the close scrutiny of Sir Alan and his team.

Despite the argument that Helene’s poor leadership skills and lack of ability to take responsibility for her actions might have led her to be the obvious choice for dismissal, Sir Alan’s exasperation for Sara’s constant ‘hard sell’ led him to utter the phrase “I would have got hold of your head and pushed it in the cake”.

Sara was heavily criticised for not showing sensitivity to the customer’s response and ploughing on with the sell without listening. This is a key element of strong managerial and leadership skills – it’s not simply about setting the agenda, it’s about taking feedback and responding well.

The fiasco which ensued as Team Renaissance failed to tackle the task, by contrast, showed Team Alpha to be a much closer, positive and dynamic team.

The outcome was a harsh dressing down for Michael (the cat with nine lives) and Sara was shown the door. Her comment in the taxi was telling – she admitted she is not a team player and would prefer to work alone.

Leadership expert John Fay was awarded an MBE for his work teaching leadership, confidence and citizenship skills to young people during a 10-year period. He is the founder of SFL, a change management, leadership and development company. For more information visit


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