Volunteering your professional skills is an under-recognised way to develop your leadership ability. Some of my greatest leadership learning has occurred when I have been involved in pro bono community activity.
National Volunteering Week is 14 to 20 May, so now is the perfect opportunity to consider how volunteering develops your leadership ability.
1. Increase your influencing skills. Without the authority of line control, your ability to build relationships and influence people will be critical to your success. You will need to rely more on your EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and less on your IQ skills, perfect training for the matrix management structures of the corporate world.
2. Develop or refine your skills. A 2011 LinkedIn survey found that one out of every five hiring managers in the US agreed that they have hired a candidate because of their volunteer work experience. Pro bono community work allows you to develop new skills, utilise your existing skills in unfamiliar contexts, or even to test-drive a permanent move into the not-for-profit sector.
3. Build networks outside your current circle. Working in the not-for-profit space exposes you to inspiring people doing some amazing work.
4. Develop a fresh approach to leadership by stepping outside your comfort zone and considering similar challenges from different perspectives. For example, the challenge of limited resourcing looks quite different to a mid-level corporate leader than it does to the board of a community health organisation.
5. Connect with what you’re passionate about. Increase your energy levels by engaging in activity aligned with your interests and your values.
And I haven’t even mentioned the amazing buzz you get from helping others!
I am passionate about getting more leaders contributing their professional expertise to the community. There are numerous opportunities for engagement, ranging from short one-off projects, through to an ongoing commitment as director and inspired by the great things this could achieve.
A leadership development opportunity that enhances your skill base, widens your horizons, makes a contribution to the community and leaves you feeling good… What could stop you?