Leading and managing volunteers can be exciting. Volunteers choose to stay with us, not for financial reward, but because they feel motivated to do so. Our challenge is to nurture that motivation, and inspire volunteers towards the vision, aims and objectives of the organisation.

Wikipedia offers us this definition of leadership: “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” This brings out the fact that leadership is (or should be) about influence and not coercion.

Successful managers of volunteers create a climate where people achieve great results, and keep on wanting to do more! They are leaders as well as managers.

Writing in Harvard Business Review 2000, Daniel Goleman refers to research by consulting firm Hay/McBer looking at almost 4,000 leaders, at different levels within organisations. The researchers identified six distinct leadership styles, linked to different components of Emotional Intelligence.

They found that the style of leadership used had a big impact on the organisation or team. Importantly, leaders who promoted a healthy climate and achieved the best results were able to be flexible and use different styles as appropriate. So the key to leadership is an ability to draw on your internal resources to choose the right style for a situation. The research indicates that one of the most effective styles to have at your disposal is the visionary leadership style. Visionary leaders inspire people to move towards a common goal.

Leadership styles are underpinned by emotional intelligence competencies. A visionary leader will be strong in self confidence, and in empathy. Both these are competencies that can be developed. To pick one example: if a lack of confidence sometimes holds you back, then you can work specifically on building up your awareness of where you lack self-confidence, and developing strategies to overcome these feelings.

Some approaches to developing self-confidence

You might find it helpful to start by giving yourself an overall score out of 10 for self-confidence, as a benchmark.

Reflect on situations where you feel more confident, and situations where you feel less confident. It may be easier to do this with an objective person acting as a ‘thinking partner’, or if you try writing down your thoughts.

What are the differences in the different types of situations you encounter?

What do you notice triggers your lack of confidence?

What do you notice promotes self-confidence in you?

What are the strengths and abilities you can draw on from the more confident situations?

How can you apply these to the more challenging situations?

Spend a few minutes recreating a sense of confidence from something that you have done well in the past, and then imagine yourself going into a leadership situation with the same feeling?

Experiment with some of the ideas that you generate. Reflect on your successes as well as review what went less well and why. Experiment some more. Seek feedback on your efforts.

At a suitable point, review what you’ve achieved. Have you made any progress since your initial score of self-confidence?

Interested in developing your leadership skills as part of a group?

Why not take a look at the ILM Level 5 Award and Certificate in Leadership programme



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