Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore opportunities for delivering sustainable leadership education through critical reflection embedded in the framework of higher and degree apprenticeships. Design/methodology/approach: This paper contributes to leadership development research that focusses on “leader becoming” as an ongoing process of situated learning (in the classroom and everyday work life). The approach to leadership development adopted in this paper proposes that sustainable leadership practices and decision making are developed when leadership learning is firmly embedded in work-based practices and critical self-reflection. Findings: The discussion of critical reflection methods focusses on utilising the learning portfolio as a core aspect of all leadership and management apprenticeships to embed sustainable and reflective practice and facilitate situated leadership learning. The paper explores the role of training providers in actively connecting higher and degree apprenticeships to embed this model of leadership development and seeing leadership as a lifelong apprenticeship. It also highlights the potential for resistance by managers and senior leaders in seeing themselves as apprentices rather than accomplished leaders. By paying attention to issues of language and identity in this discussion, it will surface practical implications for the delivery of sustainable leadership education through the framework of apprenticeships. Originality/value: This paper adds to the theoretical and practical understanding of sustainable leadership education by exploring opportunities for re-framing leadership development as a lifelong apprenticeship focussed on personal and professional development. Recognising the resistance that often exists to reflective practice within leadership development contexts, this paper further explores ways of dealing with such resistance.