In many cases a master craftsperson has moved through a definitive and structured process in order to master a craft. Usually, a master craftsperson started out being an apprentice to someone who is deemed a master craftsperson. An apprentice serves for a number of years, and during this time an apprentice will undergo a formal education process, receive genuine work experience and on-the-job training, and will undergo a significant evaluative process in order to proceed to the next stage of mastering their craft as a journeyman. It is only through many years of learning and experience that someone finally reaches the master craftsperson stage.

But does the learning end when someone reaches that master stage? I think not. Masters are continuous creators because they have an on-going  desire to learn and to create. And in their curiosity, practice, successes and failures, they become producers of masterpieces; pieces that endure and last overtime. Think of the master violinmaker who spends many hours crafting a priceless instrument. 

So why do some leaders assume they can lead effectively right away, or at all times, or feel as though they can be referred to as master leaders because they have put in their time and they have seen it all and figured all things out? Or, because they completed a formal Master’s degree and now are “qualified” to lead?

At certain stages in my leadership journey I have seen myself as one of those leaders. One who has paid his dues and has figured it all out, and is now ready to lead with confidence and assurance.

Leaders don’t be fooled though. Although one may have a calling to be a leader, my contention is that you should always continue to view yourself as an apprentice or perhaps a continuous master learner.
I believe it is necessary because when you stop learning, when you cease to engage in hands-on leadership practice, and when you don’t self assess and ask others to hold you accountable, you will no longer be an informed, active knowledgeable and wise leader whom others want to learn from. To put the brakes on learning and growth because you feel you have mastered it all leads to redundancy and status-quo leadership.

Stephen M.R. Covey (Speed of Trust, 2006) points out that followers look for two critical ingredients in leaders. They look to leaders whom display strong consistent characterand leaders who continuously produce results. These leaders have a proven track record of obtaining results while displaying integrity and honesty. They attract followers because they can be trusted. These are leaders that apprentices seek and are the type of leaders people want and choose to work with.

I think most leaders would aspire to Covey’s trusted leader. I do.

It takes years to master a craft. The same holds true for leaders. Take your time to learn and lead. Your leadership journey is a continuous apprenticeship and leadership mastery is an on-going process. Just like the master violinmaker, mastering leadership is an indeed an art (Max DePree,1989).