Leadership development is key to having a healthy organization. When we think about volunteer leadership, we often concentrate on board members only. However, taking a closer look at our organizational structure, we can see leaders on every level.

Each local chapter needs leaders, so do national working groups. The supply-demand ratio is different in each partner. It might happen, that you struggle to fill even the most crucial roles. In this case, it is important to raise awareness of arising opportunities and focus on skills development. Another possibility is to have more qualified and willing volunteers lined up than you have open positions to offer.

No matter the situation, conscious skills development is of utmost importance.

We should always keep in mind, that leaders should be properly trained and experienced. Otherwise, we do not only threaten the organization but also risk having a dissatisfied volunteer. Taking on such a role can provide long-term motivation if the volunteer feels equipped and supported.

To aid partner organizations, AFS Internation created The Leadership Development Program. The program helps volunteers become change agents and achieve growth. It incorporates online and in-person learning, as well as mentoring.

A leadership position comes with various responsibilities. Hence, writing detailed role descriptions is imperative. Creating and sharing clear career paths with your volunteers can help ensure conscious development.

Some leadership positions have mandates, determining the length of service. Some others do not have a time restriction. In any case, succession planning is needed for a smooth turnover. A leader might leave because their mandate expires, or decide to resign of their own will. Working with volunteers, a notice period is not always applicable. Therefore, we need to prepare for the event of having to replace a leader immediately. Spotting possible replacements on time and training them in advance can be of help in these situations.

Leadership development might be challenging at times. However, it ensures we are prepared for the future.