The Role of Volunteer Organizations in Leadership Skill Development


Purpose – This study explored the concept of service-learning and the use of volunteer organizations as a means for members to learn and hone leadership skills that can be transferred to their full-time corporate positions.

Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative study incorporating a phenomenological design was utilized to interview 30 past presidents of two volunteer organizations in Florida, Junior League and the Masonic Fraternity. The goal was to explore the participants’ thoughts and experiences related to transferable leadership skill development.

Findings – Emerging themes confirmed that accepting leadership roles within volunteer organizations is conducive to learning, testing, and evaluating new methods of leadership and skill enhancement. These skill sets can then be transferred and applied to different corporate settings.

Practical implications – Organizational leaders should consider the value-added benefits of encouraging employees to become involved in volunteer organizations and accepting leadership roles. This not only promotes good corporate social responsibility, but provides the employee with leadership skill development, which may ultimately benefit the firm.

Originality/value – Participants belonging to two separate volunteer organizations presented viewpoints regarding the value of volunteer organizations in developing and honing transferable leadership skills. Previous research has not addressed direct skill transference from leadership experiences in volunteer organizations and therefore, this research is unique in its contribution to the literature.

Key words: leadership skills, service-learning, volunteer organizations, transferable skills

Paper type – Research paper

This publication has been peer reviewed.
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Pamela Ann Gordon
Brett Anthony Gordon
Year of Publication: 
Journal, Book, Magazine or Other Publication Title: 
Journal of Management Development
Emerald Publishing Group
Publication Language: 
ISSN Number: 
doi: 10.1108/JMD-06-2016-0099
Gerald Sheard
Boyer's Domain: 

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