Project Management

Need to Build Leadership Skills? Use These 8 Tips to Lead Volunteers!

Lonnie Pacelli is an Accenture/Microsoft veteran with four decades of learnings under his belt. He frequently writes and speaks on leadership, project management, work/life balance, and disability inclusion. Reach him at [email protected] and see more at

While searching for a job online, Manesh found a listing that caught his eye. “Wow, this looks perfect!” he thought as he read through the position requirements. Then those three dreaded words reared their ugly head:

“Leadership experience required.”

“Dang,” Manesh thought as he closed his laptop. “This is so frustrating. How do I get experience when everyone is expecting me to already have the experience?”

You’ve likely experienced this earlier in your career, or may be going through it now: Potential employers want leadership experience that you don’t have, and you don’t have a clear path on how to get that experience.

When looking to grow leadership skills, this can be a frustrating dilemma. How do you get the experience you need and build great leadership skills when your paths are limited? Here's a potential path: lead volunteers in a non-profit organization.

I particularly like this path for two reasons. First, most non-profits are in a perpetual state of “too much to do, not enough people to do it.” In my years of experience, it has been rare that a non-profit will say, “I’m sorry, we have all the help we need, try XYZ non-profit instead.” Non-profits generally can always make use of more help.

Second, leading volunteers means the leader is competing with…

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"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother."

- Albert Einstein