Seeking a Leadership Role? The Journey is More Important than the Destination

The path to a Leadership role should be a journey…not a destination.

I recently read an article explaining the difference between the two. The path as a destination is to achieve some level of proficiency or stature in your chosen field of work.  The path as a journey is to experience work from a variety of perspectives in your field.

To become a Leader, whether in a Senior Management role at your current company, or as a Chair of a Committee, Board Member or President of a non-profit association, your path should be a journey through the organization.  Experience all the diverse areas they offer!  Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into one role year after year, delve into the full experience.   By becoming a well-rounded employee or association member, you bring value, knowledge and wisdom to the table.  The two groups can enhance the other, allowing you to succeed with both by your journey.

When I started out in commercial real estate in the late 80’s, I began my journey on the bottom of the ladder.  I was an administrative assistant for the property management office.  Then I delved into construction management.  And leasing.  While I was on my journey in commercial real estate,  an opportunity arose to become a Property Manager.  While I was certainly interested in that role, all of my varied experiences within commercial real estate ensured I was ready to take on that challenge.  My journey had made me very well-rounded, knowledgeable and an asset to my employer.

In conjunction with working in commercial real estate, I joined a non-profit real estate networking group.  I became involved serving on several committees over the years and subsequently chaired a few.  I was asked to serve on the Board of Directors and a few years later, was honored to serve as President. My experience serving on non-profit Boards has taught me that finding members with working knowledge of the association for Leadership roles can be challenging. About twenty percent (20%) of members in an association do the actual work.  The other eighty percent (80%) are more passive and may just attend events throughout the year instead of serving on a committee or board. Large corporations have many layers of management, but there is usually more competition for the roles that become available.  Have you talked to a current Leader in either the non-profit, or your employer, about the path to the Leadership role you are interested in, and how to get there?  Don’t assume anyone understands your goals and the path you want to take.

Several Board members I served with on non-profits, both past and present, have worked on multiple committees, attend several events a year, and are very passionate about the association.  Becoming President isn’t necessarily a bucket list item or a resume enhancer to them.  They truly have a vested interest in making the non-profit the best association to join. When I was asked to serve as President of a non-profit, I didn’t seek it out at the time.  I had spent my time serving on a variety of committees and becoming a well-rounded and a very knowledgeable member of the association.  When I look back, there were probably a hand-full of members, out of 400, that had as much experience as I did.  That is not a big pool to fill several Leadership roles every year.  If you are new to joining an association, seek out a few of its Leaders.  They all have a story to tell about how the association helped them personally or professionally to succeed. Ask them, they would love to meet you and share their story!

While on your journey to a Leadership role, why not build relationships and enhance your personal development?  Your current employer can definitely benefit from the network you build with your peers. Is your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and completed?  Do you have a photo posted?  Make it easy for others to reach out to YOU.

Serving in a Leadership role for a non-profit association benefits the association, but it also showcases the way you interact with others and your work ethic.   Committee Chairs look at your skills and how you handle assigned roles.  When opportunities arise to fill Leadership positions, usually Chairs and Board Members are asked who they recommend.  If you are dependable and consistently shine, your name will be passed around as someone to watch.  Others will think of you first for business opportunities.  Take some time and explore the associations website to check out what opportunities are available.

How will your success serving in Leadership roles in non-profits translate to success with your employer? You will have the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience running a committee, serving on a Board, leading meetings, public speaking and planning events. You will gain confidence.  Your journey will lead you to your destination.

Karrie Westphal

Cape Fear Commercial



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