One of the most powerful ways to demonstrate leadership is through volunteer activities. If you missed part 1 of this, catch up here.
It’s easy to get so busy with work that you seem to run out of time to get involved with causes that are meaningful to you. This is a mistake.
Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteer efforts infuse your life with things you are passionate about. And by including a passion in your weekly routine, you re-establish balance in your life, which often spills over into renewed passion about your job as well.
Volunteering also enables you to add new dimensions to your leadership, and to other’s perception of you as a leader. It’s one thing to lead initiatives because you are paid to do so. It’s entirely another to lend your expertise to unpaid initiatives.
When you volunteer for an important cause, you are seen in a different light. You earn a newfound respect that you might never have achieved if everything you did was work-related. And you get a chance to hone your skills in new ways.
One interesting aspect of volunteer activities is that you generally aren’t in a role due to a job title. People are there because they are committed to a cause, and you can often find yourself side to side with business people at very high levels in their organizations. Those people will naturally respond to the fact that you are helping with something to which they have a strong commitment, which in turn gets you noticed and helps you build a broader set of influential contacts.
I read about an example of exactly this some time back in the New York Times (“Doing Well in Your Career By Doing Good Outside It”). An operations manager spent four weeks doing volunteer work in an impoverished community as part of UPS’s community internship program. He reported that it improved his team-building and problem-solving skills and made him a more sensitive manager. He later was one of only eight UPS executives nationwide chosen to train 3,000 supervisors in communication skills.
How do you know which activities to seek out?
Don’t volunteer just because someone asked you to. Look for an opportunity that aligns well with your passions and your goals.
The best are ones that will also help you in concrete ways, such as:
- Let you develop underutilized skills.
- Allow you to take already developed skills to a higher level.
- Enable you to take on a role that you don’t often have.
- Compile strong ‘accomplishment stories’ you can draw on in the future.
- Put you in regular contact with influential people who can help you in your career.
If you still hesitate about volunteering, think about this quote by the novelist Catherine Aird:
“If you can’t be a good example,
then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.”
My Challenge For You
This week, identify one opportunity for you to get involved in something beyond your work responsibilities. Examples include:
- a nonprofit in whose mission you believe
- a volunteer initiative in your community
- a committee in a professional association
- a cross-disciplinary team or project within your company, that is working on an issue outside of your usual scope of activities
- a mentorship opportunity
And let’s add some accountability – contact me or post a comment to let us know what you are going to take on!