Leadership is an apprentice trade. With the evolving needs of business and rapidly changing scenario in the modern workplace, demands and dynamics of leadership has procured a new meaning. To be a good leader in the present ecosystem is not easy, it requires an ability to adjust to uncertain circumstances, competing demands and evolving challenges. You need to tread a path that is completely unfamiliar. People do not learn leadership from books. New leaders learn from more experienced leaders.
In most apprentice trades, you learn about 20 per cent in the classroom and from books. The rest, 80 per cent, you learn on the job as one cannot learn the trick of the trade in theory. Apprenticeship is an opportunity to groom oneself and master the craft of leadership on the job, dealing with different situations and learning from the mentor how to fit into the leadership role in the larger world.
Often, there are critical incidents that call for the leader to take charge and undertake strategic decisions to adapt to the given situation. Undertaking the right approach to deal with the situation to ensure that the outcome is positive needs efficient leadership skills which can be imbibed by watching other leaders and emulating their behavior. Leadership is an applied science – the more you lead, more initiatives you take, more you fail – the more you learn. Effective leaders aren't necessarily the smartest people in the room or the company or even on the team. But they have to be smart enough to do the job they're assigned. Apprenticeship is an opportunity where one gets to shadow the senior leader, get a taste of a particular role allowing one to get a more in-depth work experience. Apprentices or protégés must be willing to learn and possess the discipline to persevere, often without recognition, in order to gain insights about themselves and those they aspire to be.
In this context, would like to cite Steve Kerr, the legendary leadership development guru’s 70/20/10 model for leadership development. The model suggests that, when it comes to training leaders, only 10 per cent happens in a classroom through formal instruction, 20 per cent is all about feedback exchange and coaching, and a whopping 70 per cent is experiential. You can’t create a leader in the classroom; to be an aspiring leader one definitely needs to think globally and have a strong intuition to anticipate unexpected situations and have a good back up plan in place when things go awry. Things change every now and then, when an unknown crisis looms you cannot go back to refer the books, at this juncture one has no choice but to take tough decisions, enabling the organization to sail through in the rough sea. The ability to respond to complex and uncertain environment can be mastered by gaining experience on the field.
A good mentor is critical in the process of developing leadership. To master the craft one needs to find ways to connect with experienced managers for one-on-one mentoring. He or she learns by talking with peers and mentors, trying things out, and getting feedback. Knowledge transfer from master to apprentice takes time and effort and considerable mentor-ship skills. It is the responsibility of the management to coach and share regular feedback on the performance of the apprentice. Experiential on-the-job learning is the natural conduit for developing expertise.