Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Leadership Apprentice

Written by: on November 4, 2021

Leadersmithing: Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership is an excellent practical resource on leadership. Right from the beginning, Eve Poole distinguishes this book from several others on the subject by identifying eight important stakeholders in the leadership ecosystem. These include leaders in training; learning and development practitioners; executive coaches; weary leaders; talents; leaders in transition; and other stakeholders [1]. Obviously each one of these individuals contribute to leadership in significant ways in organizations all over the world, and need to be equipped with tools for their unique calling.

The book is about preparing for leadership from a theoretical and practical standpoint. It cautions right from the onset that “if you still think it is somehow cool to wing it, sack yourself now [emphasis added]” [2]. Poole observes that there are seventeen “critical incidents” anyone aspiring for leadership must master to make their leadership worthwhile[3]. These include executing tasks courageously; decisiveness; change management; risk management; and several other leadership traits.

Using the analogy of apprenticeships. Poole shows how this used to be the main way to entering a trade in the England[4]. Needless to say, apprenticeship was also an important part of the industrial landscape in many parts of the world. Indeed vocational training and apprenticeships are still an integral part of the educational systems of Germany and Switzerland, two countries recognized for excellence in science and technology. Therefore, it seems that an important question the book sets out to answer is, if apprenticeship is so important in gaining mastery in the trades, how may this be contextualized in the craft of leadership? As part of the response, the author comes up with the term Leadersmithing, alluding to a similarity with goldsmithing, blacksmithing and other important vocations.

I agree with Poole in several points offered in this book. For example, she notes that “in a country where 21 percent of 18-24 year olds are unemployed, our culture of overworking is having devastating consequences[5].”  This resonates with me because in my opinion, the paradox of some individuals overworking, while a significant portion of others are unemployed, does not make sense. It leaves society with losers on both ends. Individuals who lack a work-life balance due to overworking, contribute to the already alarming levels of mental disorder in our societies. Their imbalanced lifestyles affect their families, colleagues, and other stakeholders in the social ecosystem. Similarly, the unemployed might also have significant stress levels, especially in contexts where they are expected to be breadwinners for their families and cannot meet this expectation due to lack of jobs. Unfortunately, in some cases,99999 the unemployed feel pressured to crime, thereby further complicating an already very bad situation. The question is what if overworked, weary leaders globally would empower others, whether existing or new staff, and delegate their extra responsibilities to them (this is one of the critical incidents Poole suggests)? The multiplier effect could include less stress and more energy for the weary leader, in addition to professional growth, job security, a healthier self esteem or other benefits for an existing or new employee. In other words, the world would be a better place. Indeed Leadersmithing is filled with life-giving suggestions for leadership that could benefit all kinds of contexts, from the family to the presidency.

[1] Poole, Eve. Leadersmithing: Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership. (Bloomsbury Business: London, 2017) location 55.

[2] Poole, Leadersmithing, p.29

[3] Ibid. p.10

[4] Ibid, p.59

[5] Ibid. p.31

About the Author


Henry Gwani

Disciple, husband, father, community development practitioner and student of leadership working among marginalized communities in South Africa

8 responses to “The Leadership Apprentice”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Henry, thanks for stressing the practical implications of this book. I wish you could share more about the connection between the unemployed and mental health issues and other negative consequences of it. It sounds like you have personal experience that led you to that conclusion. You also mention the apprenticing dynamic in some countries such as Germany and Switzerland. I have also seen it in Canada and that experience came into my mind while reading the book. What would happen if we viewed leadership as a “trade” like other vocations that teach the trade through guided mentorship?

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Troy thank for your comments and question about mental heath issues among the unemployed in South Africa. If viewed against the backdrop of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a significant portion of the unemployed struggle with stress arising from an inability to meet their physiological needs. Some ways people cope are by waiting for a job; suffering in silence; living in denial; substance abuse; gangsterism; and crime. The situation is further complicated by the stigma of seeking help for mental disorders. People here generally do not discuss their mental health difficulties as freely as in the west. For example for months we struggled with getting a client struggling with stress and substance abuse to visit a professional counselor. The person said they do not believe they will get any significant help from the counselor. Yet we can all see that they are struggling. So an important part of our role is to address the myths among the poor about receiving counselling and find ways to make mental health services more accessible to the most vulnerable.

  2. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Henry: I like your example of the unemployment statistics and how the book “Leadersmithing” can be applied to solve the problem in countries where it’s a real issue. I hadn’t thought of that application. That’s the great thing about a thoughtful and insightful book, the ways to use the wisdom found on its pages is limitless.

  3. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Henry – Thanks for pointing out that whether unemployed or overworking, there is still significant stress upon the individual. Sometimes I feel that it’s easy to only imagine the positives of another persons situation, especially if different than your own, and not take into account the challenges that lie within their given context. Like Roy, I’d be interested to know more of your experience between unemployed and mental health given your work in South Africa.

  4. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Yes Henry I resonate with your thoughts about overworking. I think the psychological outcome of that is overfunctioning which I think indeed impacts mental health. So often the “Ideal” of overworking is connected to how society defines success or to our detriment…our worth. I wonder if you see this as an element in South Africa?

  5. mm Eric Basye says:

    Thank you Henry. I would be interested in learning more about how you still the opportunity for employment in your context. Having not been to your home country, I am curious to know in what ways poverty is similar and different from poverty in the US. Either way, it sounds like this book has some practical application for you, as it does me.

  6. Elmarie Parker says:

    Henry, thank you for your summary of Pool’s work. I appreciated your framing of the leadership ecosystem and your highlighting of the significance of each and the importance of further equipping/empowering each to further develop their skills. Zeroing in on the issue of overworking and its relationship to unemployment is a helpful systemic analysis. It raises the issue of how we could look at this challenge from more of a communal impact perspective and less from a corporate profit bottom line perspective. It leaves me wondering if profits would not end up increasing with a healthier and more diverse workforce (certainly Poole hints this would be the case). But…how to convince CEOs and Board Chairs/Members of this…

  7. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Henry, Wow! I love how you pulled out the overworking element of Poole’s book and applied it to your culture. In Poland that is a huge factor as well. I have often wondered how much of people’s self-esteem is directly tied to the need to produce? While the people in the culture I serve also work long and hard. I wonder how much of it is really driven by need and how much by want? I also wonder if Jesus is who he says he is, and he is faithful to meet our needs, where does faith, and trust fit in this equation? Do you have any insight into these questions from your perspective?

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