Leadership Lessons 201

We have all heard about the leadership lessons from business icons. Some of us too might have, or currently hold leadership positions within companies and as a business leader – you may have a team of people reporting to you.

Just like you – I too held positions within corporate and had a team of people reporting to me. I learnt many invaluable leadership lessons from those experiences. However those leadership lessons did not prepare me for when I became a leader of a non-profit, voluntary organization as its club president.

There are some common leadership lessons that apply to leading a team within corporate versus a within an NPO such as:

  1. A leader needs to set the vision; believe in the vision themselves and work with their team to achieve the vision;
  2. A leader needs to lead by example; display integrity and honesty in all relationships and behave in a professional manner;
  3. The leader ensures that the team is provided with adequate resources; are trained; provide direction and guidance to them and then let the person get on with their job.


Here are my top 3 reasons on why a corporate leadership style would be inappropriate to apply with a group of volunteers:

  • Performance focus versus people focus

Within a corporate, people are managed with an employment of contract; bi-annual or annual performance appraisals and rating systems on performance that is usually linked to salary increases.

None of these systems usually exist within a voluntary organization. So if a person decides one day that they no longer wish to volunteer their services, as a leader you usually cannot:

  1. Ask them to serve a ‘notice period’ or
  2. Commence procedures for breach of contract – there are none!

As a leader – you would focus on the person, accept the decision, and implement procedures to find a replacement.

  • Aligning to strategy versus taking personal accountability

Within a corporate, all individuals and teams need to understand the overall business strategy and align their goals for the year to that strategy.

As a team member within a voluntary organization, each member has to take a personal accountability as to what they wish to achieve from their role within that organization. If they have volunteered certain services, there is more focus on being personally accountable than there is on aligning to overall strategy.

  • Window dressing versus transparency

As a corporate, it is imperative that a positive image of the company, its performance and impact to society, is communicated to its shareholders. The moment that a corporate shows signs of distress, it can lose its investors; share price and ultimately experience a loss in profits.

As a voluntary organization the opposite hold true – it is a sign of great leadership when the leader shows transparency and asks for help. It is in asking for help and showing humility that creates opportunities for that leader to learn from others.


I believe that there are many leadership lessons that you can learn about managing people, managing yourself and leading a team that can be transferred into a corporate environment. However there are not too many leadership styles that you can apply from a corporate environment into a voluntary organization.

At some point in your career – I would highly suggest that you volunteer for a leadership position within a NPO – I have no doubt that you will learn invaluable lessons about yourself and leading others.

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