The best business leaders have often honed their leadership skills by volunteering and serving their communities. These leaders operate with excellence and integrity. They influence and inspire others to high levels of performance, and intentionally build a legacy of developing leaders, who then develop more.

Learning through a Volunteer Mentor

Volunteering allows an individual to serve and to be mentored by experienced and skilled leaders who feel strongly about giving back and developing the next generation of leaders.

  1. These leaders eagerly share their expertise and networks to help others experience success in their own lives.
  2. They get satisfaction from seeing mentees build skills while making the community stronger.
  3. This mentoring process is a win-win that benefits both businesses and service organizations.

The Muscle of Influence

Leadership skills come into being as the “muscle of influence” is exercised while leading and managing people who are not on a payroll. There is no paycheck to be used as leverage.

Volunteers who are led by these executives donate their time and energy for altruistic reasons, and they do not seek anything in return. In many respects, the volunteer’s time is more important than money.

Volunteers are often so accomplished that if given the time, they can generate revenue for the nonprofit if they so desire.

With Less Professional Development, Service Organizations are Filling the Gap

Many corporations have significantly reduced the amount of their budgets dedicated to professional development. There is often little time for–and a limited focus on– performance coaching and reinforcement.

This results in the vast majority of middle and senior level executives not possessing the necessary skill or ability to lead teams in a very competitive business environment.

Service organizations can help fill the gap. Many of them have members who are accomplished and experienced in wide-ranging fields of endeavor, who are eager to mentor younger members.

These nonprofit organizations also often provide various forms of leadership training. If corporations encourage, provide resources and allow time for their employees, especially high-potential team members, to volunteer, they will receive an infinite return on their investment.

What You Can Learn as a Volunteer

Community-related roles are great schools for future leaders. A person can strengthen their strategic-thinking skills, and learn financial management tips while managing budgets that are tight, and in some cases non-existent.

You can also develop the following through strategic volunteering:

  1. Planning and organizational skills. Volunteers are often called on to plan meetings, organize events, and coordinate with other volunteers. You might need to lead a group more diverse than your work team, plan and execute time-sensitive activities with many moving parts or build in contingencies.
  2. Time management skills. Volunteering pushes you to juggle work, family and volunteer priorities to maintain life balance. You will have no choice but to figure out how to focus on what’s most important in each area.
  3. Mentoring skills. Most nonprofits rely on experienced volunteers to share information and knowledge with new recruits. As you grow with the organization, you will likely become the mentor to new members filling the shoes you have left.
  4. People skills. As a volunteer, you may be called on to motivate, communicate and collaborate. You may be asked to persuade others to join your cause. You could practice developing a team and inspiring change.
  5. Networking. When you break out of your work circle, networking happens organically as you partner with people from other industries, at other stages in their careers.
  6. Risks without fear of repercussions. Volunteering gives you the space to take risks without fear. Experimenting helps you become a more versatile leader.

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