Build your community while you build your skills. That’s what leaders do explains Marsha Egan

You’ve heard or said these words: “I’m frustrated that I’m not being given more responsibility…”  Why was I passed over to manage the project that I thought I deserved…”?  You want to get more experience leading projects, but don’t have the opportunity to learn management skills on the job.  What do you do? Here’s a “secret” you might consider.


Yes.  Take charge of your own leadership development. Volunteer!

Volunteering is perhaps the best kept career development secret.  Adopt it and it will be your secret to success, too.

Did you ever wonder why so many successful people are also active in their communities?  There is a definite relationship between voluntarism and career success, and it’s not only because of good works.

Management and Leadership Experience

When you volunteer, you broaden your management and leadership exposure.  You become involved in organizations and get to observe and participate in the workings of them.  You witness new and different leadership styles.  You learn what works and what doesn’t work.  You learn planning, delegating, organizing and communicating skills.  You can learn strategic planning, finance, and conflict management.


You learn how to motivate people without using the threat of a paycheck. When you work with non-paid volunteers who have a choice of where and when they volunteer, you learn skills that attract and engage people in your volunteer effort.  If you can motivate volunteers, you can motivate just about anyone.

Organizational Effectiveness

Volunteer groups are organizations.  When you volunteer, you learn about organizational design and structure.  You learn about committees and boards. You learn how to run meetings and projects.  You learn how to establish backups and backup plans.  All of these can apply to your business career as well.


Your volunteer efforts will broaden your network and contact base.  With each volunteer organization you join, you will meet new people.  This can be beneficial to you and your employer. You will have these contacts for the rest of your life.

Community Contribution

And finally, as with most volunteer work, you will help your community.  This should be the sincere reason that you volunteer.  The world needs volunteers—you’ll grow as your community grows.

How to get started?

Choose the volunteer effort of your choice.  It is very important that you have a passion for the work that you will donate, so select a cause that you know will sustain you.

Attend a meeting.  As you attend, talk to the people and observe the group to see if it is one you will enjoy.  It is important that you find a match that works for you.

Join. Join a committee or task force.  You will probably be asked what your interests and skills are – go for it!  Some people choose committees that fit with their skills, some select committees that will develop their skills.

Volunteer for a leadership position.  As soon as you feel comfortable, volunteer to chair a committee or do a special project that will enhance your leadership skills.

Hints for success:

  • Be there.  When you commit to something, do it. You can hurt your reputation by not doing these things as much as you can help it by living up to your commitments.
  • Don’t overcommit. Take on only as much as you think you can do… well.
  • Be positive.  Some people in organizations like to criticize.  Don’t play that game.
  • Network:  Get to know as many people as you can.  Sit at different tables at meetings. Every person you meet has potential to influence your career.
  • Learn from your experience.  Be a student of your broadened experiences.  Vary the volunteer jobs you take on to vary your experience base.
  • Add value.  Make a difference.  Enjoy your experience.

Yes, you CAN enhance your own leadership development simply by volunteering.  It doesn’t cost your employer.  It builds skills that you want to build.  It helps your community.  It is a “win: win” for you and your community.

Build your community while you build your skills. That’s what leaders do.

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, a Florida-based workplace productivity coaching firm. She is the author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. She can be reached at, where you can also read her blog. To listen ... (Read More)

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