Successful Methods for Gaining Leadership Experience Outside of the Workplace

by Srikant Chellappa Jan 12,2024

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

Leadership excellence doesn’t solely stem from corporate work experience. It extends beyond the confines of the office, permeating every facet of life. 

Nurturing professional growth is vital, whether one is seeking new career opportunities or aiming for success within their industry. While some organizations offer structured training programs and educational benefits, others may not. However, this should not deter individuals from seizing leadership development opportunities outside of work, as advancements in technology have made it possible to gain valuable leadership experience beyond the workplace. This blog will delve into the intricacies of leadership development and suggest ways to learn leadership skills outside the office.

Also read: How HR and People Leaders Can Ensure Pay Equity in 2024

How to Gain Leadership Experience at Work?

To be a leader, one must inspire, encourage, and motivate others to take ownership of common goals. You may push yourself to develop and improve your leadership abilities, no matter where you are in the process. Let’s explore some opportunities to gain leadership experience at work.

1. Look for Training Opportunities

Great leaders possess self-awareness, recognizing both their strengths and weaknesses. They actively seek to bridge any skill gaps they might have. Show your commitment to leadership by exploring management courses. Engage with your manager to discover internal training programs, external courses, or other developmental opportunities that can enhance your workplace capabilities.

2. Take Initiative

If you’re looking to advance in your job and are not currently in a leadership role, one effective strategy is to approach your manager and express your interest in taking on additional responsibilities. This can showcase your initiative and drive. You can offer to handle challenging clients, engage in complex projects, or take on tasks that your colleagues tend to avoid. By demonstrating your self-motivation and resourcefulness, you can highlight qualities that are highly valued in a leader.

3. Train/Guide Your Team Members

Demonstrating empathy by supporting less experienced colleagues in their responsibilities and helping them overcome challenges showcases your effective leadership, training, and assistance skills. As you consistently guide your peers, you establish a reputation as the go-to person for training newcomers. Your colleagues will appreciate your training style, methods, and tools, instilling trust in your guidance. Leverage this experience confidently, inviting mentees to validate and speak to your impactful training approach.

4. Network with Professionals

Engaging in professional networking unlocks various leadership opportunities, allowing you to connect with influential leaders and founders. Strengthen your professional relationships by scheduling casual meetings or informational interviews with inspiring leaders at your workplace. Attend panel discussions, instructional seminars, or networking events to expand your network within the business sphere.

Moreover, the insights gained from networking with experts can offer specific advice or tactics that may reshape your approach to leadership roles. This guidance can enhance your ability to motivate your team and effectively address challenging situations.

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How to Gain Leadership Experience Outside Work?

Irrespective of your field or level of experience, enhancing your leadership abilities facilitates more effective communication with co-workers and collaborators. Moreover, honing your leadership skills enables career advancement and positions you for senior roles. Effective leaders also foster the generation of innovative ideas and solutions, motivating colleagues to contribute likewise. Discover how to gain leadership experience beyond your routine job responsibilities:

Also read: How to Improve Internal Communication in the Workplace

1. Volunteer for a Good Cause

Volunteering for a good cause is a powerful strategy to enhance leadership abilities beyond the workplace. It provides a platform to contribute to meaningful initiatives while gaining hands-on experience in roles such as event planning, communication, and project management. 

By actively participating in non-profit organizations or community projects, individuals can develop key leadership skills, including effective communication, teamwork, and the ability to organize and oversee initiatives. This hands-on experience not only contributes to personal growth but also provides a tangible impact on the community, making it a rewarding avenue for building leadership abilities outside the confines of traditional work settings.

Also read: Employee Management: Best Practices and Tips for 2024

2. Work on a Side Project

Embarking on a creative and passionate side project or pursuing a personal interest offers an excellent avenue for developing leadership skills beyond the workplace. Leaders, in addition to being role models for their teams, benefit from seeking fresh perspectives to address organizational challenges. This creative thinking often finds expression in hobbies and side projects.

Engaging in a side project or hobby provides an opportunity to refine planning, execution, innovation, and evaluation skills. Various side projects, such as internships, volunteer work, training, mentoring, and more, serve as practical platforms to gain valuable leadership experience and enhance one’s capabilities beyond the formal work environment.

3. Participate in Athletic or Cultural Activities

Participating in athletic or cultural activities outside of work can be an effective way to develop leadership abilities. These activities provide opportunities to develop skills such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, time management, and perseverance, which are essential for effective leadership. For instance, sports and team activities encourage participants to work together, delegate tasks, and contribute to the team’s ultimate goal. 

Similarly, cultural activities provide opportunities to develop effective communication skills, as participants learn to interact with teammates and coaches. By engaging in these activities, individuals can develop a range of leadership skills that can be beneficial in both their personal and professional lives.

Also read: Gamification in the Workplace: Introduction, Benefits and Tips

4. Take up Part-Time Jobs or Internships

Taking up part-time jobs or internships is a valuable avenue for developing leadership abilities beyond the confines of regular work. These roles provide hands-on experiences where individuals can take on responsibilities, make decisions, and navigate challenges, fostering essential leadership skills. Whether it’s a part-time job in a different industry or an internship related to one’s field, these opportunities allow individuals to lead in diverse contexts, enhancing their adaptability and problem-solving capabilities. Such experiences contribute not only to professional development but also to a more comprehensive and versatile understanding of leadership, transcending the boundaries of the conventional workplace.

5. Obtain Additional Certifications

To develop leadership abilities, one can ask industry leaders about the certifications they hold and the requirements to attain them. Additionally, one can enroll in online courses that help develop leadership abilities. Obtaining additional certifications in leadership can help apply theoretical concepts to work. There are various leadership certification programs available, such as the Professional Certificate in Leadership, Leading Leadership Development Certificate, and Certificates of Leadership Excellence from Harvard. These programs aim to teach rising and experienced leaders how to lead effectively, refine strategic management and leadership skills, and learn effective strategies to motivate, engage, and empower teams.

6. Identify an Issue and Fix It

Recognizing and addressing challenges in the workplace is a hallmark of effective leadership. Whether it involves independently solving an issue or proactively bringing it to the attention of superiors, demonstrating initiative and problem-solving skills is a key leadership trait. Moreover, the ability to maintain composure under pressure and go above and beyond the expected duties further exemplifies strong leadership. These qualities are essential for navigating the complexities of leadership, where the capacity to tackle diverse challenges, both technical and adaptive, is a pivotal skill. By embracing such opportunities to showcase leadership abilities, individuals can effectively develop and demonstrate the skills necessary for success in leadership roles.

Also read: How To Develop A Talent Management Process

Summing Up

Developing leadership skills has become crucial in today’s job market, even for entry and mid-level positions. Possessing influential leadership abilities, both acquired within and beyond the workplace can help set you apart from the competition. A true leader does not simply wait for opportunities to arise, but actively seeks or creates them to advance their career. Engaging in volunteer work, training or mentoring, or pursuing personal projects are all examples of valuable activities that contribute to personal growth and career success.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do extracurricular or personal activities qualify as proof of leadership experience?

Yes, extracurricular or personal activities can qualify as proof of leadership experience, showcasing skills like teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and initiative. These experiences demonstrate the ability to lead in diverse contexts, contributing to personal and professional growth.

2. What are some essential qualities of a good leader?

The essentials of a good leader include effective communication, empathy, adaptability, decisiveness, integrity, and the ability to inspire and motivate others. Leadership involves fostering teamwork, problem-solving, and a commitment to continuous learning and improvement.

3. What is leadership experience?

Engaging in activities such as volunteering, taking on leadership roles, participating in team sports, pursuing additional certifications, and addressing workplace challenges can help develop leadership qualities. These activities provide opportunities to enhance communication, teamwork, decision-making, and problem-solving skills, fostering effective leadership abilities.

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2023.

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