APPRENTICESHIP (Q4.3)

The Phase Of The LDP Within Which Positive Habit Transfer Takes Place

An apprentice first watches, then helps and finally does

The idea of Apprenticeship seems quaint and dated now, but there was a time when it was primary method by which any skill worth having was passed on from man to man. Whether it was butcher, baker or candlestick maker, an aspirant to any trade had to find a willing master under whom he could apprentice. In consideration for the opportunity to learn the trade, an apprentice would provide the master cheap labor around the shop. Put another way, the apprentice’s wages were primarily paid by the master with the opportunity to obtain a vocation.

Although the specific instruction would obviously vary with the nature of the Skill being transferred, the same simple three-stage method applies to any apprenticeship: watch-help-do:

• First, the apprentice watches

• Then he helps, and

• Finally he does

Take a new and wholly inexperienced apprentice to a seasoned master Cordwainer . On the first day of his apprenticeship he knows nothing of the skill of shoemaking other than what he gleaned from having worn shoes on his own feet most of his life. Thus, at the outset of his apprenticeship he can contribute little to the master’s work other than to perform the menial tasks ubiquitous to any workplace. This is the watch-stage of the apprentice’s development into a Cordwainer during which he learns the process of shoemaking from observing it being performed by the master.

During the watch-stage, the master is strict with the apprentice, insisting that his menial tasks are performed to an exacting Standard and Correcting him sharply for departures from the prevailing workplace culture and decorum. In this way, the master ingrains into the apprentice those Advantageous tendencies and strong positive work Habits that will be required of an artisan who must ultimately discipline himself to be successful. From the very outset, the master prepares the apprentice for the day when he himself will be a master.

After a time, when the apprentice has seen enough of shoemaking that he has an overall understanding of what the process looks like, the master transitions him into the help-stage by having him physically contribute to the making of a shoe. Gradually, the amount of the apprentice’s workday spent on menial tasks decreases as he contributes an increasing amount of his time to actual shoemaking. By helping with each aspect of making a shoe, the apprentice acquires the tangible Skills required to properly perform the entire process himself.

As the apprentice’s Skill improves during the help-stage, the master also gradually relaxes their workplace relationship, giving the apprentice increasing discretion in the use of his time and letting him self-apply to his work the Standards that the master rigorously taught him during the watch-stage. By the end of the help-stage, the master (if he has done his job properly) should be spending less time directing the apprentice’s work and more time instructing him on the finer points of their shared craft.

Finally, after the apprentice has mastered the various components of shoemaking sufficiently that he himself can construct a pair of shoes, the do-stage of the Apprenticeship process begins. Here, the apprentice works alongside the master at his own stand, no longer just helping to make shoes but actually making his own. Although he still works under the general supervision of the master, he himself has developed into a Cordwainer.

Apprenticeship makes intuitive by training that which is counterintuitive by nature

The Apprenticeship phase of an LDP employs the same watch-help-do pattern. Ideally, the apprentice-Leader has already obtained a functional understanding of the Leadership Principles from his Schooling. This provides him with the head-knowledge he will need to be Competent but not the heart-knowledge a Leader must have to actually Practice the craft.

While the Leadership Principles can be learned in a classroom (and initially should be), both the Leadership Skills and the Leadership Virtues require practical application, just as a Cordwainer’s apprentice needs more than just an instructional video to learn how to actually make shoes. To transfer the head-knowledge of Leadership into heart-knowledge, what is counterintuitive by nature must be made intuitive by training. This is the heart and point of the Apprenticeship phase of the LDP.

During the watch-stage of his Apprenticeship, the apprentice-Leader gains a deeper understanding of what a Leader is and does by observing his master in action. As with the master-Cordwainer, the master-Leader is initially strict with his apprentice, demanding exacting performance of small tasks and giving the younger man little discretion in the method of their performance. The master is also unyielding in his insistence that the apprentice meet the prevailing Standards of the Group that he may someday Lead.

Because the apprentice is carefully watching, it is incumbent upon the master that he meet or exceed the Standards that he has set for the apprentice. That means that he himself must be a Virtuous Leader if he hopes to properly develop the apprentice into a Sua Sponte Leader who can and will take charge in the absence of direct authority.

Gradually, at the pace deemed appropriate by the master, the apprentice begins to help the master Lead. Ideally, the help-stage of a Leader’s Apprenticeship lasts as long as the master determines it should, depending upon both the apprentice’s hard-wired Leadership ability and his level of tolerance for the Pain that comes with its development. This last point is critical, for the process of building a Leadership Foundation produces Hardship. It is no easy thing to release one’s intuitive first-nature toward self-preservation and personal advancement in favor of a counterintuitive second-nature toward self-abandonment and prioritization of the needs of the followers.

No man is born Living Third—he must learn to do it through Positive Habit Transfer. To become what a Virtuous Leader is and do what he does, a man must defy his external first-nature by shedding it in favor of something deeper within himself, something every man is born to be but can only be if he is willing tolerate the Pain and Chaos required to become it. To be freed to Lead, a man must be willing to overcome Hardship.

To some degree then, this process is like childbirth in that the Leader is a man reborn from something within himself. The master, having already been through his own rebirth, is both midwife to this painful process and the one who determines when it is sufficiently complete. In this way, Apprenticeship is critical to the development of the Virtuous Leader.

The Virtuous Leader makes himself dispensable

For those who are willing and able to tolerate the Hardship, the help-stage ultimately gives way to the do-stage. Here, the apprentice Leads alongside the master, encountering his own Problems and fashioning his own Solutions—but with the master close by to offer advice, counsel and Correction. The apprentice in the do-stage is like a student pilot who is flying the Leadership-plane with the instructor available to grab the yoke should his inexperience put the Group-aircraft at risk.

It is in the do-stage that the apprentice first begins to Practice the positive tendencies that the master ingrained in him during the watch and help stages. Many, maybe most, of his initial Outcomes will be less than desirable. The master knows this because it was the same for him when he first began to do himself. Because he is a Virtuous Leader who seeks to Leave Right, the master rewards the apprentice’s Initiative and manages the Outcome, whatever it may be. In this way he Incentivizes I2 within the apprentice and begins developing him into a Sua Sponte Leader.

The development of a Sua Sponte Leader is the goal of the master-Leader. His ultimate objective should be the production of Leaders who are as Virtuous (or more) than himself—in other words, to work himself out of a job. If you have ever been a Member of a Lizard Organization this will not be a novel concept. In the military (for one example) working yourself out of your job by training your subordinates to do it better than you do is a Leadership Principle. That is where I learned it. On the other hand, if you have spent your life in Organizations that were Bullfrogs and Leeches, the idea will probably be both surprising and threatening. Why would anyone make himself expendable by creating a better (and younger) version of himself?

That is a logical response in a Bullfrog where Existential Continuity makes maintenance of the Status Quo paramount, or in a Leech where it is every man for himself. In those Organizations there is no Group Advantage that results from the development of Sua Sponte Leaders and thus no Incentive for any individual Member to engage in it.

My profession suffers from this ailment. After I passed the bar I was like every other new lawyer, in that I had a tremendous amount of head-knowledge and very little heart-knowledge. I knew the law, but not what to do with it. I (like every other new trial lawyer) was in dire need of an Apprenticeship to learn how to litigate. And I (like most other new trial lawyers) didn’t get one. The reason is that law firms are primarily Bullfrogs with a few Leeches thrown in.

Because Lizards are very rare within the legal world, law firms generally do not Incentivize Apprenticeship. And without Incentive, why would a seasoned lawyer, having struggled to learn his craft and build his practice, pass on what he knows to a young hungry wolf fresh out of law school just to see him steal his clients out from under him? That is a pretty strong dis-Incentive against working oneself out of a job. The result is that the older lawyers I worked with shared their Wisdom grudgingly, only teaching me what I needed to know to be helpful to them.

Without any form of a litigation Apprenticeship, I had to Collision Learn the craft on my own. It was like learning to fly a plane through a series of mishaps and near fatal crashes, each of which allowed me to limp away with a little more Wisdom and Skill than I had before. I felt like was I constantly getting lost in uncharted territory and having to improvise my way back out. It was not a good feeling, but (having no choice) I kept at it.

As the years unfolded I gradually found myself to be lost less often, and increasingly able to rely upon Skills that I had previously developed rather than on ad hoc improvisation that I had to conjure up on the spot out of whole cloth. After about ten years, it occurred to me that I was no longer encountering any new ground. With minor deviations, the circumstances and Problems that confronted me were familiar because I had seen them before. At this point, I was no longer Collision Learning but rather putting into Practice techniques that I had previously learned and improving upon them.

Now, years later, it is me that is the old lawyer who has the choice to either pass Wisdom on to younger lawyers through Positive Habit Transfer or hoard it for myself. Frankly, my natural inclination is the latter, just as it was for the old guys I worked for when I first started out. In fact, that is exactly what I would do if I had not been trained to work myself out of a job when I was in the Army. Because that Leadership Principle was ingrained into me as a young man when I was an apprentice-Leader, it is what I find I must do now as an old man.

In 1986 I was a twenty-two year old infantry platoon leader. Six months after taking over my platoon I went through an evaluation of its readiness that was conducted by officers from another unit who put us through twelve hours of simulated combat operations to see if we were mission capable. To prepare for the evaluation I had made sure that my men knew their jobs and could execute them effectively under stress. I was confident that we would perform well, and we did—for the first six hours of the evaluation, until the evaluators “killed” me. After that, my platoon was evaluated without me, just as if I had been killed in combat.

At that point a huge deficiency in my platoon’s readiness became embarrassingly evident. I had not prepared my men for the very likely happenstance of me becoming a casualty. Although each man knew his job, no man knew my job. I had hoarded all that knowledge for a very selfish reason: so that I would be indispensable. Because I had not worked myself out of my job my platoon failed. More accurately, I failed them.

Six months later we had a chance to do it again. This time I spent as much time teaching my subordinate leaders to do my job as I did making sure that they could do their jobs. When the evaluators “killed” me the loss of my platoon’s “indispensable man” did not render us ineffective. In fact, and somewhat embarrassingly for me, my men seemed to function a little bit better without me hovering over them.

During the after action review the evaluators made this exact point—they had functioned better without me. Although everyone in the room laughed at that, I had a moment of panic. Here I was being evaluated in front of my boss and his boss, and they are hearing that my platoon works more effectively with me dead than alive. But then the chief evaluator said this: “Lieutenant Redding has trained his men to fight with him and continue the fight without him. He’s made himself dispensable and there is no higher form of leadership”. That is when I understood that the Leadership Principle of working oneself out of one’s job, while counterintuitive, was the right thing to do.

Because it was ingrained into me through an Effective LDP I have never forgotten this Leadership Principle. The Virtuous Leader makes himself dispensable by working himself out of his job. He does it so that his Team, Organization and Community can continue the fight when he is gone. This is the essence of a man’s commitment to Leave Right.

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