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Building leadership experience helps you in your professional and personal development. However, many people hesitate to take on the leadership role. They think that they won’t be able to build leadership skills if they are not a manager. But your workplace is not the only place that can help you gain leadership experience. Besides, you can act as a leader without a ‘manager’ in your job position.
The unpaid leadership opportunities are as impressive and enriching as work experience. One of the best ways to gain leadership skills and experience is by beginning to lead, no matter what manner is available to you at present.
Importance of Leadership Experience
As you move ahead in your career and life, you will find that the benefits of leadership touch all the aspects of your life, such as your business and work life, family life, relationships, spirituality, health, and more. You are never too young or too old to take on a leadership role in any capacity.
Young people need to learn leadership skills to negotiate and communicate with their peers, have self-confidence, and take the necessary initiative for fulfilling their goals. Regardless of your age and career, developing and enhancing your leadership experience will help you in the following ways.
Leaders are not born but made over many years, shaped by personal and professional experiences. The leadership development process is not passive. It is more than just a matter to let life experience wash you over. Experiences in a strategic, thoughtful manner help the best leaders to learn.
Leaders are Made Not Born – Experience Matters
The best experiences are the ones that push you out of your comfort zone, expand your skill, challenge your capabilities, and evoke you to work harder. Although no one likes to spend their entire career in constant discomfort, the most valuable leadership development often comes with its share of discomfort. Nobody has ever become a successful leader while remaining in their comfort zone. It requires intentional effort to make worthwhile changes, and that is rarely easy.
All Experiences Are Not Same
Different people have their own set of experiences that teaches them different things. The quantity, diversity, and quality of your experiences are very important. Besides, remember that leadership experience goes way beyond what is on your resume. Hardships, volunteer roles, family experiences, personal life, and other experiences non-related to work also strengthen your leadership skills.
The Experience involves Past, Present, Future at Once
You can relive your past experience, think about them, and find new insights. It is not a phenomenon that happens only one time. The experiences of the past can help to navigate your current ones. And your present experiences may help you re-examine the past ones to learn new lessons. You can shape your future experiences by consciously looking for opportunities to advance and grow as a leader.
You must focus on developing the basic leadership skill that is required in every career and role. They are building mainly through experience and, in turn, help you gain the most from them. The following four skills are:
- Learning agility
How to Build Leader Experience?
Building leadership experience also helps you in your job search and career. Even if you are not applying for managerial roles, it always helps you have a few great examples of past leadership experience to use as talking points during interviews.
If you are looking for ways to build leadership experience, check out the following:
Be Active on Campus
It is never too early to start gaining experience. You can obtain leadership experience in your school or college by actively participating in clubs and extracurricular activities. Sports, residential assistant positions, student government, and geek life all offer leadership opportunities for you to take.
Also, you can head up an event planning committee or fundraising finance committee as one of your extracurricular activity organizations. These are excellent for networking, building leadership skills, and fun too. It doesn’t if you are not given a leadership role. You can still practice the skills by contributing ideas to the organization, leading change when needed, setting a good example, and mentoring second-year students.
It is easier for you to get a leadership role while volunteering instead of being in a paid position if you do not have experience. You can take the volunteer recruitment, fundraising project, park or beach clean-up, or other projects, whichever is available. Choose the one that interests you. Most importantly, find a nonprofit whose purpose and message resonate with you.
Furthermore, you can also volunteer in a role of mentorship. CASA, the Boys and Girls Club, Girl/Boy Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and others can volunteer by advocating or leading as it is a great way to build leadership experience. Besides, one-on-one mentorship experience can be just as worthwhile as leading a group. Evaluating the needs of other individuals, doing regular check-ins and goal-setting with them are some things that managers do a lot in the workplace. Thus, your one-on-one experience can help you to translate over very well.
Lead a Project
One of the best ways to gain leadership experience is by taking the lead on a project at school, work, or any of your outside activities. Offer to lead a project or help demonstrate a new employee the ropes if you are already employed and want to build a leadership experience. It allows you to build leadership experiences along with the skills while also indicating to your employer that you are interested and also capable of taking on more leadership tasks.
You can start small by taking the lead on school projects. However, ensure that you are acting as a leader and not taking all the work. A leader helps to divide the work, check in with other team members on their advancement, organize meetings, and manage unexpected problems or delays. Leaders also contribute to the work, along with everyone else.
Recognize a Problem
A better way to gain leadership experience is to recognize a problem in your company. Though identifying a problem is not all that is required, and in fact, it won’t even help unless you come up with a solution. Improvement or leading change is a compelling kind of leadership experience. It portrays the initiative that you sought out the solution actively and created a strategy to address the problem.
Whether there is a system that you can help make more efficient and easier or something you observe your colleagues often have trouble working with, leaders always focus on improving the processes to increase productivity and hence morale. Speak up and share your thoughts and ideas without any fear.
Begin a Personal Project
If you cannot find an organization that can help you build leadership experience, then you can start your own project. It is a great way to show off your skills. Though this may sound intimidating to you, do not worry as you are not required to find anything major like a start-up. Organizing a community service project will solve your problem. Identify an area that requires help in your local community and find people who are interested in assisting you. It can be short-term things like organizing a donation driver, fundraising, or helping the repair of public property.
You must be able to organize it by yourself. Involve in keeping the morale of others high and instructing them by delegating tasks. It would help if you found where your passion lies. You can also start with a passion project like a blog where there is no need to build a staff. With time and as you gain more experience, you will learn how to make decisions, navigate challenges and communicate. These are all traits of successful leaders.
Leading a Committee or Meeting
It can be a club, job, any volunteer organization, or an after-school organization. Conducting a meeting or leading a committee shows that you have the right skills and help you build the experience. It shows you are a responsible person. If you led a committee or meeting for even a short period or even a one-time activity, that is still a great leadership experience to put on your resume.
Build Your Leadership Experience Constantly
When you are not even in a leadership role, you can still acquire leadership experience. You have to think outside the box. Then do not be afraid to speak. Just share your thoughts and let your supervisors and coworkers know that you are serious about gaining experience. By doing this, you will be taking important steps towards building your career and brighter future and a strong one too.
You don’t require settling for a job where you are not allowed to be a leader. If you want to focus on leadership, then look for ways to gain experience. You can transform your dreams into reality. But, it is up to you to focus, share your ideas, and get started to lead wherever you are working at present.