To be a great leader takes practice. Yes, there are some people that are born gifted leaders but we can all learn to be effective leaders. A challenge that people in non-management positions commonly face is how to get that experience while not in a management role at work or while owning a one person business. The good news is that there are several ways and everyone should be able to take advantage of at least one of these suggestions.
If you’re still in school or pursuing a degree while working, there are two big opportunities for you. The best thing you can do is get involved with student organizations, preferably in a leadership role. The higher the position (President vs. V.P. Membership) and the bigger the organization, the better — but any leadership role, even in a small organization, will help.
The second option available to those in school comes with group projects. Volunteer to take the lead when possible but be careful not too be too pushy — you don’t want your teammates to think you’re trying to be bossy.
If you’re not in school, you can always join a club or volunteer organization and get yourself into a leadership position. I initially joined Toastmasters International back in 2002 and within nine months was elected President of my club. The following year, I was an Area Governor where I oversaw five clubs. Look on the web, check your phone book under “clubs and organizations” or ask your librarian about clubs in your area — you’re bound to find something that piques your interest. There are also service clubs such as Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis and whole lot of others.
The experience you can get in these clubs is priceless. In addition to leadership skills, you’ll also learn:
- Presentations and public speaking
- Conflict resolution
- Operations management
- Time management
- Interpersonal relations
- Team building
- Goal setting
Another option is to join your local Chamber of Commerce and volunteer to be on one of the many committees that they have. I was an Ambassador with my local chamber which helped me meet new and existing members as well as overcome my anxiety of walking up to a stranger an introducing myself.
The last opportunity I’ll cover is local boards. Whether it’s an elected office such as your town’s board of selectmen or getting on the board of your local library, these opportunities can get you valuable experience (as well as important contacts). So look to get involved when an opportunity opens up.
So there are a lot of places that you can valuable management and leadership experience when you can get it at work. Take advantage of these opportunities and use them to fine tune your skills. Then use your accomplishments and achievements to sell your leadership skills.