In the UK, it is estimated that 15 millions volunteer actively. That’s about half the total number of paid employees. This figure shows that people do seek meaning outside paid work, and it’s encouraging.
Having previously worked for many years with refugees and asylum seekers, I have seen several accounts and aspects of their hardships and ordeals, and it’s humbling.
The payback for volunteering is wide ranging: social connections, networking opportunities and a sense of purpose. However, since the outbreak of COVID-19, the world has lived in unprecedented times, a litmus test for leaders. It is as true in the for-profit world as it is in the non-profit.
Below is a reflection of the leadership journey at my social club.
Finding the successes …
First and foremost, a leadership experience is and should always be one more chance to rekindle oneself with a personal vision, discovering who you really are and the desire to find or refine a purpose. Yet, the discovery is a field of experimentation and continuous improvement.
An expression of this is being authentic. In one hand, this can be exemplified by values and beliefs, but more specifically behaviours and attitudes that can influence and inspire. On the other hand, being authentic paves the way to fruitful social exchanges and mentorship when many of us feel vulnerable or face stressful and difficult situations in our personal or professional life.
Moreover, a private victory opens the route to public victories as Stephen R. Covey explains in his book ‘’7 habits of highly effective people’’. Acting as a VP Membership, you promote the club and manage the process of bringing in guests and converting them into members. As a club promoter, you are the entry point to prospects willing to join the club. In this regard, effective and timely communication was key to a successful mandate while at the same time upholding the image of the club. Converting guests into members resulted internally in building tools that could be shared with the executive committee, as well as leaning on best practices in a manner that encourages teamwork for us and accountability for each.
… And the lessons learned.
Next to the achievements, there were also lessons learned along the way. Chief among them is the belief that leaders are born with some innate charisma. There are few leaders who certainly do have that capacity. Charisma, however, is rooted in Ethos, Pathos and Logos. As Jo Owen shows in his book ‘’How to lead’’, you do not have to be perfect. Instead, one has to learn skills and behaviors to be an effective leader.
These (soft) skills are even more important in times of uncertainty like the present pandemic. And a lot of them depend on the growth mindset as Asli Derya highlights in her publication: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/business-school/blogs/executive-education/empathy-skill-can-be-learnt/
And for someone like I who initially joined a social club to become a better communicator, the bridge between improving communication skills and leadership development turned out to be even more concrete.
Providing feedback is also an important aspect of a leadership experience. When doing so, I often say that the essence of feedback is not to make the recipient comfortable today but to ensure that s/he leaves with material to work on and to improve tomorrow. But it is also a hidden gem because you develop active listening skills and learn how to be tactful when giving feedback.
In a nutshell, the road to leadership is not a riddle, wrapped in mystery inside an enigma. Volunteers in a social club could be a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons to do good by doing well while becoming the best version of themselves. And they should not lose sight that a leadership journey is one for growth – an opportunity to serve and to learn.