Strategic leadership in action


translating volunteer skills to organisational success

Leadership, according to Peter Drucker, is cause and everything else is effect. Leadership skills are, therefore, very essential for the growth and survival of every organisation. It is, therefore, important that individuals at all levels of organisations take steps to develop their skills in leadership. Developing leadership skills does not need to always be in a paid formal organisational setting. Leadership skills can be developed through volunteering services in both formal and informal organisational settings.

Personally, I had the privilege of volunteering for an autism awareness programme during the first weekend of August. This experience gave me the opportunity to further develop my leadership skills through volunteerism. These acquired leadership skills developed can be applied in both formal and informal settings to achieve organisational objectives. In this article, I delve into leadership skills that can be developed through volunteering services and further touch base on how they can be applied in formal organisational settings.

Leadership skills developed through volunteering services

Communication and active listening

Communication and active listening were very crucial leadership skills that I had the opportunity to develop during the volunteering service. These skills were essential when it came to taking the records of individuals on the autism spectrum as well as experiences of parents with autistic children. The main aim was to obtain adequate information to help the professional staff attend to needs of the participants appropriately. These leadership skills were also reinforced in my interaction with diverse groups of volunteers, participants and other stakeholders who helped to make the programme a success.

Application to formal organisation setting

In an organisation, effective communication fosters clarity and reduces misunderstanding among team members when communicating goals and expectations. Actively listening to team members promotes collaboration and contributes to improved productivity and team dynamics. Developing effective communication and active listening skills help leaders to effectively communicate to team members and take constructive feedback that goes a long way to ensure organisational success.


Attending to children on the autism spectrum at the playground while their parents wait to see the consultants was one the activities I enjoyed the most during the programme. This activity was, however, filled with sporadic actions by the children. Adapting to these spontaneous actions of the children and ensuring their safety helped me become more flexible and adaptable to change.

Application to formal organisation setting

In a constantly evolving business landscape with technological innovations, adapting to change is a skill every leader must possess. Being adaptable helps leaders to respond positively to change and embrace new technologies. Adaptable leaders are also able to spearhead change in their organisations to stay ahead of the competition. Developing the skill of adaptability as a leader helps to encourage your team to embrace unexpected challenges and circumvent any shortcomings to achieve the needed results.

Team building and collaboration

Being part of the programme and contributing to its success helped to develop my team building and collaboration skills. Cooperating with other volunteers, professional staff and other stakeholders was very necessary for the success of the programme. It made me to understand the essence and benefits of team building and collaboration in achieving a set objective.

Application to formal organisation setting

Team building skills are very essential when it comes to leadership in formal organisations. By developing team building skills, leaders can create diverse and high-performing teams. Leaders can also promote the sense of unity in their organisation through collaboration. Collaboration also helps to improve creativity and boosts the morale of team members toward the achievement of organisational objectives.


The 5-day autism event had its fair share of unique challenges that needed to be addressed hands-on. Addressing these challenges that arose helped me to cultivate problem-solving and critical thinking skills. These skills are so invaluable that they are essential for effective leadership in every endeavour.

Application to formal organisation setting

In formal organisations, leaders are faced with various challenges – from operational issues to strategic decisions. Developing effective problem-solving skills helps leaders to analyse complex situations, identify root causes and implement practical solutions that lead to improved efficiency and productivity. Leaders with problem-solving skills can think outside the box to discover creative solutions. They encourage a culture of innovation and open-mindedness as well as empower a team to generate fresh ideas and unconventional approaches. Problem-solving skills work together with critical thinking skills which are essential for addressing conflicts among team members and stakeholders. Leaders also employ critical thinking skills to foster constructive dialogue, resolve differences and maintain a harmonious work environment.

Inclusivity and diversity management

In partaking in the autism programme, I became aware of the challenges and struggles faced by the individuals on the spectrum as well as the impact it has on parents and family relatives. This awareness emphasised the importance of promoting inclusivity and managing diversity in all spheres of life, particularly in organisations.

Application to formal organisation setting

Inclusive leaders promote diversity within the organisation and value different perspectives and backgrounds. By developing inclusivity and diversity skills, leaders help promote creativity and innovation since team members from diverse backgrounds bring unique insights to the table. Leaders with inclusivity and diversity skills also create a welcoming environment where every individual feels valued, promoting a culture of trust and respect. Furthermore, this leads to improved decision-making as teams with diverse perspectives are more likely to consider a broader range of factors and arrive at well-rounded solutions. By valuing and leveraging diverse talents, inclusive leaders drive the organisation’s success and promote a more equitable society.

Empathy and compassion

During my volunteering service, interacting with autistic individuals and their families fostered empathy and helped me become more compassionate and understanding. These qualities are very important in leadership when it comes to interacting with team members and seeing things from their point of view.

Application to formal organisation setting

Understanding the needs and concerns of team members as well as stakeholders of organisations are very important in building trust and promoting a supportive work environment. Leaders can better understand the needs and concerns of their team members and stakeholders of the organisation when they are empathetic and compassionate toward them. The satisfaction and relationship with team members are improved when leaders show genuine empathy toward them. This is because empathetic leaders can understand and share the emotions of their team members. Leaders who engage in genuine acts of kindness and support toward their team members foster a strong sense of loyalty.

Motivation and inspiration

Taking part in the autism awareness programme gave me the opportunity to motivate and inspire participants. Through the sharing of success stories of individuals on the spectrum, I was also able to motivate and inspire parents of autistic children to hope for the best. This helped in the development of my motivational and inspirational skills which are essential for driving positive change.

Application to formal organisation setting

Motivation and inspiration work hand in hand to drive individuals and teams toward goals. Motivation provides the incentives and encouragement needed for people to act, while inspiration they instil a sense of purpose and passion. Effective leaders tailor their motivational strategies to everyone’s preferences and needs. Some team members might respond well to public recognition while others might prefer personal growth opportunities. Inspirational leaders communicate their vision clearly and consistently, while aligning it with the organisation’s values. They inspire a sense of purpose that goes beyond immediate tasks, and connects with the larger impact of the work being done. Both motivation and inspiration contribute to a positive work culture, higher team engagement, and increased commitment. Leaders who master these skills create environments where individuals are not just working but thriving and contributing to the organisation’s success.


In conclusion, the journey from volunteer experiences underscores the profound impact of leadership skills developed through service. The insights gained from volunteering for an autism awareness programme have illuminated the transformative potential of honing leadership abilities. From effective communication and active listening that fosters unity to adaptability that embraces change in an ever-evolving landscape, the skills cultivated in volunteerism seamlessly translate to formal organisational settings. The power of teamwork and collaboration, coupled with problem-solving prowess, fuels progress and innovation. Inclusive and empathetic leadership nurtures diverse talents, creating an atmosphere of respect and equitable decision-making.

Moreover, the art of motivation and inspiration ignites positive change, propelling individuals and teams toward exceptional achievements.

It follows that leadership skills are not only developed in the formal organisational setting. One does not necessarily need to be employed in a formal organisation or own an enterprise to develop the leadership skills needed for success. A plethora of leadership skills can be developed through the provision of volunteering services within non-governmental organisations, religious institutions, community and civic organisations, educational institutions, hospitals and healthcare facilities, and social service agencies. The only prerequisite is the passion to help and contribute to making the world a better place.

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