Leading by Giving Back: The Benefits of Volunteerism for Leaders

Volunteerism is a powerful way to give back to society while also gaining valuable personal and professional benefits. For leaders, volunteering can provide an opportunity to develop new skills, build their network, and make a positive impact on their communities. Engaging in volunteer work can also help leaders cultivate empathy and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges facing the people they serve. Henna Inam, C-level executive coach, global speaker, and author of the book Wired for Disruption, wrote about the importance of volunteerism for CEOs. She pointed out that CEOs volunteer, not only for the sake of volunteerism but also to cultivate resourcefulness. Among the various reasons, the concept of growth through trial and error is appealing. Because no leaders succeed overnight, and volunteerism gives room for the opportunity to learn what it takes to be resilient and achieve results amidst adversities. When we volunteer, we are often presented with a challenging situation such as a harsher environment or deal with the harsh realities of an underprivileged beneficiary.

Volunteerism is an excellent opportunity for leaders to develop and enhance new skills. Leaders have ingrained in them excellent communication, decision-making, problem-solving, and team management skills. These skills can be developed and improved through volunteering. When leaders volunteer, they interact with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs, which helps them learn how to communicate effectively with diverse groups. Additionally, volunteerism can help leaders develop problem-solving skills by working on projects that require creative solutions. Leaders can also enhance their decision-making skills by volunteering to serve on boards or committees, where they will have to make important decisions that affect the organisation. Many successful leaders have attributed their success to their volunteer experiences. For example, Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most successful investors, has often spoken about the importance of volunteerism in his life. He credits his experience as a volunteer at a local nonprofit for helping him develop leadership skills that have been essential to his success. Therefore, volunteerism is an excellent opportunity for leaders to cultivate and enrich new skills. In Singapore, Mandanjit Singh is one such leader too. After decades of climbing the corporate ladder, Madanjit stepped down from his role as Concur’s Managing Director of Southeast Asia and contributed to Singapore’s non-profit sector by serving as a volunteer board member. 

2. Volunteerism Cultivates Precious Relationships

Volunteerism also helps leaders build stronger relationships with their community and stakeholders. Strong relationships with stakeholders are essential and beneficial for any leader to succeed. When leaders volunteer in their communities, they show their commitment to the people they serve. This commitment builds trust, respect, and credibility among stakeholders, which can lead to stronger relationships. Additionally, volunteering provides leaders with an opportunity to interact with their community and gain valuable insights into the needs and concerns of the people they serve. This understanding can help leaders make better decisions that benefit their communities. A study conducted overseas by Deloitte, headquartered in London which provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services, has also found that 61% of millennials who volunteer for a company’s charitable programme reported that they felt emotionally connected to their company’s mission, compared to only 41% of those who did not volunteer. Thereby, this study demonstrates how emotional connection between people can lead to greater loyalty, commitment, and engagement from their community and stakeholders.

3. Volunteerism Builds Values

Leaders that support volunteerism are perceived to be more socially responsible and ethical. Leaders who volunteer can strengthen their company’s brand image by showcasing their commitment to social responsibility and community involvement. This will enhance their reputation among customers, investors, and employees and increase brand loyalty. Moreover, leaders who participate in volunteerism can attract and retain top talent by demonstrating their company’s values and culture. Employees who feel that their employer is socially responsible and gives back to the community are more likely to be engaged and motivated, leading to higher job satisfaction and retention rates. Finally, volunteering can also create new business opportunities as leaders can develop relationships with potential clients, partners, or investors through their volunteer work. By building strong connections with other organisations and individuals in the community, leaders can open new doors for collaboration and innovation, therefore showing the benefits of volunteerism for leaders.

Giving back to society is no longer the endeavours of undergraduate students or anyone with time to spare. Volunteerism is now valued for the benefits and intangible rewards it brings to leaders who hope to make an impact in their organisations. When leaders thrive intrinsically by giving back to society, they bring back invaluable skills that can improve the way they lead and manage in their companies.

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