The Benefits of Volunteer Leadership


As young professionals, we’re always looking for new opportunities to grow our careers and further ourselves. Some of us can actively seek out opportunities in our company to take on more responsibility. Others struggle to find a role in their company that can grow as fast as they do. We often channel the drive we have outside our company walls, seeking out an MBA, CMA, or CPA. These things are hugely beneficial to ensuring your career success, but the one thing it seems so many people overlook is the opportunity of volunteer leadership in a professional organization.

Developing leadership skills are hugely important to any career. If you can’t work well with people in difficult situations and motivate team members to achieve results, then you will reach a ceiling in your career, even if you have the top academic credentials. Volunteer leadership in a professional organization experience is invaluable to a young professional. It offers you an opportunity to test out and develop your leadership skills in a safe environment. You can try new things, fail at them, and learn from the process without worrying about risking your job. These are the kinds of lessons best learned first-hand.

Collaborative Decision-Making

Volunteer leadership involves working with a group of leaders, where committees and boards often make decisions. This type of collaborative decision-making is vastly different from most companies where decisions are often handed down from the top. Because collaborative decision-making depends on developing consensus as a group, this type of experience can give you great insight into how to navigate politics in the corporate world. Everyone has an opinion and gaining consensus can be a challenge. To achieve results, you will need to practice the art of compromise. This can be very difficult, especially when you’re passionate about our work.

Knowing how and when to compromise in order to build consensus becomes more important as you advance into management roles.  You learn that gaining consensus and navigating politics is a prerequisite to getting things done. The type of decisions you make require more and more people to buy-in to them. The earlier you can practice developing those skills, the better.

Collaborative decision-making also means that as a contributor you will have a unique opportunity to impact the organization. You are a part of the decision-making team. This means that you can share your thoughts, then have those around you help analyze and refine your ideas before they are implemented. This can be very beneficial to young leaders who can benefit from building confidence in sharing their ideas.

Diversification of Experience

Every different challenge you face, environment you work in, and relationship you build helps you build depth and perspective. If you’ve ever worked for the same company for more than a couple years, you can probably agree that the company’s culture starts to shape your approach to work. Leadership experience outside company walls helps you maintain perspective and gives you insight on how cultural issues your company might have are impeding your progress.

Diversification is also important in the relationships you build. Working with the same people day-in day-out at work can narrow your perspective over time. Gaining experience with different types of personalities and management styles enriches your perspective. Unlike working with those in your company, many professional organizations are composed of members across many industries. This brings a rich variety of opinions and perspectives on business and leadership that can be valuable to learn from.

Take Action

If you haven’t already, seek out a professional organization and get involved in it. Chances are they will be more than willing to involve you in leadership than you might think, especially as a young professional with fresh ideas. Take advantage of these opportunities because you never know where they will lead you.