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Great Leaders Start as Great Followers

n the last post I talked about mentors and the impact a great mentor will have on someone’s life. In this post I want to touch on what makes a great apprentice. I talked a lot about responsibilities of mentors from a leadership stand point. The apprentice’s roles is equally as important. I want to explain the responsibilities every apprentice should learn in order to one day be a mentor that someone else will be lucky enough to have learned from.

In Order To Lead You Must First Follow

No one respects someone whom has not earned the right to be respected. There is a sense of entitlement in today’s society and people feel they need to be leaders because of who they are, and not what they have done. If your goal is to have a big business one day, then you have to pay your dues. This starts with understanding your role as an apprentice and making your mentor’s life easier. Horseshoeing is a small group for a reason; it’s hard work and it takes a long time to become a knowledgeable farrier. 


Keep Your Mouth Shut

I know a lot of farriers and most of the farriers I know use helpers. One of the biggest prerequisites I hear is, “they have to keep their mouths shut.” That doesn’t mean you need to be silent the entire time you’re with them. That just means learn when to speak and when not to speak. When you are working your job is to work, but when your driving to the next stop, your job is to ask questions you might have had when you were working.

Make Your Mentor’s Life Easier 

You have to first understand why this farrier is needing someone to help them. He now has a business that is too large for him to maintain on his own. This is why every other business hires help, and  you should treat this like any other job. When you are there you should constantly want to take on more responsibility. When I was apprenticing for my mentors, I would routinely ask how I was doing and when I could start doing more. This showed them that I wanted to progress and take more of the weight off of their back. If nothing else, always be doing something, never just stand around. You can always retrieve tools or nails, grind shoes, or even just sweep. If you go out of your way to make his life easier, he will go out of his way to help you.

Be On Time

I don’t care what business you are in, you must be punctual. There is absolutely no reason not be on time. This simple task is difficult for some people, but if you want to be successful you have to have to be on time. Horseshoers are very busy people whom care about their time, because time is money. If you are costing your mentor time, then you are costing him money and that makes you a liability. Make your mind up to always be there before your mentor and stick to it. By doing this you tell your mentor you are trustworthy and that you care about their business. When you show someone that you care about their business, they will show you that they care about you.

Be Respectful

Being respectful is a key part of relationship building. You want to build a relationship with your mentor that will continue long after your apprenticeship is over. I would always try to respond to my mentors with yes sir, no sir and no one ever really said anything about it. Till one day Mark Milster asked me a question and I replied with yes sir, and he smiled and said, “I like that.” To most people it might not mean that much but it does show that you respect the person you are talking to. You must also treat your mentor’s clientele with the same respect you treat your mentor. This is very important as well, because this also shows your mentor that you care to better his business.

Final Thoughts

Everyone who created something great on their own, did so by starting from the bottom and working their way to the top. ‘On their own’, by the way, is a relative term because no one ever really did it on their own. Always strive to be the best, but always respect those that are better. Understand being an apprentice is the first step to success and the way you follow others will have a huge impact on the way you lead others. Treat your apprenticeship as a job, be respectful, make your mentor’s life easier and learn when to speak. There is an old saying that states; “mind your own business and one day you will have your own business to mind.”

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