One universal truth that I have found about leaders is that once we have committed ourselves to the study and discipline of leadership, we are always looking for more opportunities to lead and make a difference. We start to develop a talent for seeing ways to improve products, services or experiences in ways that make our customers, co-workers and even our own lives better. We become focused on improving ourselves and our environments but we can often run into roadblocks when looking for leadership opportunities in the workplace. Our employers have set certain priorities for the organization (rightly so) and often we don’t get opportunities to develop our leadership skills as quickly as we would like. In the best cases, employers who believe in developing the leadership abilities of their employees are trying to develop all of their people, so we have to share the leadership opportunities with others and in many cases compete to lead the best projects. In the worst cases, employers just don’t care about developing leadership on their teams and there are few opportunities. Just as it is important to be good leaders we need to be good followers and trust the judgment and priorities of the leaders above us. Although we may feel underutilized as leaders in our workplaces, there is a solution to developing your leadership skills outside of work.

Seeking Other Opportunities to Lead

If we find our opportunities to lead limited in our workplace, there are other places we can go to practice and develop our leadership skills. Our communities are in need of leadership at all levels in a variety of organizations. There are any number of groups such as schools, churches, business organizations, youth groups or even sports or recreational groups that are always looking for people to step up and take charge of projects they want to get done. Many of the groups in our communities are understaffed and while they may have a number of volunteers to participate in activities and projects, they are limited in how quickly they can accomplish their goals because they are in need of ambitious leaders to take charge of many of the projects and initiatives they want to accomplish in their community.

Getting Started with Community Leadership

Start out by looking for a community organization that is a good fit for you. Look around at several groups in your area and find a group that fits your interests and core values. The idea is to connect with other people who are making a difference in the community in a way that resonates with you. Much like starting a business or making your workplace better, think or a problem that you’d like to see solved in your community and find a group that works on solving that problem. If you don’t consider the organizational goals and values before you join, you may find yourself struggling to lead a project you don’t believe in which can leave you as frustrated as you are at your workplace. You may have to pay your dues for a little while in your new community organization, again followership is important, but showing initiative and taking on a project that the group needs to have done will give you some valuable experience in leading others.

You’ll often have to lead people who are committing their extra time and they may not be able to contribute as much time as they would like to. You’ll have to be very organized and have a plan to recruit enough people to your project to make sure you can meet your goals. You may even have to be responsible for raising money and managing other financial resources. One of the things that you will find if you are leading a community or volunteer group is that you will be working with people who come with varying levels of skill and ability. This will really force you to think about your philosophy and methods for training and developing others to be able to perform their roles in the organization and how much supervision you really want to have to give them on a regular basis. Also, because many people in community groups are volunteers you won’t have any direct authority over them to influence their contributions. You’ll have to get very good at your soft skills like communication, empathy, persuasion and negotiation to bring all of these volunteers together to achieve your goals.

Finally, even if you are getting all of the leadership opportunities that you want in your workplace, consider taking on a leadership role in a community organization. Giving back to our community helps solves the problems that our friends and neighbors face, makes our communities more livable and warmer and better places. It also makes us feel better about ourselves and give us some satisfaction from bringing some good into the world.

Tell us in the comments where you seek your additional opportunities to lead.


Photo Credit: By Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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