How to Become a Leader Before You are One

learning to fly

Don’t tell me what you hope to do.
Tell me what you’re doing.

Reading and talking are useful, even essential, but experience matters most. Leadership is about practice more than theory. Every leadership behavior can be practiced as a volunteer in a not-for-profit organization.

Leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned
by reading about it.” Henry Mintzberg

Help yourself by helping others.

#1. Develop experience. Stop wasting time. Do it for free. Whatever you hope to become, can be done as a volunteer.

#2. Grow skills while volunteering. You’re more likely to earn promotions at work if you already:

  • Lead meetings.
  • Organize projects and plan initiatives.
  • Connect with leaders in the community.
  • Develop schedules.
  • Delegate tasks.
  • Take initiative.
  • Solve problems.
  • Handle budgets.
  • Cut costs.
  • Motivate others.
  • Collaborate and innovate.
  • Make decisions.
  • Manage projects.
  • Recruit.
  • Form and lead teams.
  • Give presentations.
  • Endure through adversity.
  • Make and learn from mistakes.
  • Adapt to diverse personalities.
  • Have a track-record. The best indicator of the future is the past.
  • Teach others your skills.
  • Adapt to others.
  • Deal with stagnation and resistance.
  • Act with generosity and compassion.

#3. Generosity enhances humility while developing confidence at the same time.

Bonus: Encouraging volunteerism is a free leadership development program for every business.

A note to nonprofits:

Recruiting volunteers is about them not you and your needs. Stop focusing on what you want them to do for you. Connect with their hopes and dreams.

Focus on what you do for volunteers.

The first question to young volunteers is, “What do you want to become?” not, “What can you do for us?” If they want to become managers or supervisors, train them to manage and supervise in your nonprofit.

Nonprofits are so consumed with their mission that they don’t realize the value they bring to volunteers.

What are the pros and cons of volunteering?

How has volunteering helped you develop?