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CSR and Leadership Training

The courage to set yourself against something that cannot be easily won and giving your best shot at it comes from few other places like in CSR.

I have been involved in the CSR activities of our company for the last 5 years. And I have been associated with training for the last 20 years. What I found in my experience was CSR is a perfect nursery for leadership. Here are the five reasons why I think so.

  1. No comfort zone: First of all, you should be able to take a step beyond yourself if you have to think of the society and of course, getting associated with CSR. You have to go beyond your standard excuses of time, comfort and leisure. Well, this is the first step to leadership as well.
  2. Ownership without authority: Each CSR activity involves coordination, networking, reaching out to different entities, go beyond your comfort zone, talking to stakeholders, taking risks and ownership without any defined authority. Not many will last long in this game. Many of our successful volunteers are excellent project managers and program managers today. They can work with different kinds of people, departments, organizations and nations without getting too flustered.
  3. Action vs analysis: Often when you are involved in a CSR activity, you can get overwhelmed by the amount of work involved in fixing the world. I remember the many sleepless nights I had when I came face to face with real disease, poverty and exploitation. It took me a while to go beyond my helplessness and bring myself to do something that works. Something that makes a difference. Something that goes beyond brilliant insights about what is wrong with the world. When I see my leaders in the company, I see that they are no different.
  4. Mentors come free: The one big advantage with any volunteering activity is the variety of people who come together. You can learn abundantly from each other and share your leadership skills generously as well. I know of several senior leaders in my company who with their fellow volunteers share their experience generously. They reprimand, guide, lead and make mistakes along with you. They can stop for a tea along the way to a rural school, tell you stories, give you rare insights and even share a joke. You can't demand so much time/coaching even from any company run leadership programs.
  5. Failure, what failure?: Often success is not guaranteed. You would still not have eliminated poverty or illiteracy after a CSR program. The courage to set yourself against something that cannot be easily won and giving your best shot at it comes from few other places like in CSR. Slowly, you recognize that remarkable difference between satisfaction and success. You discover that empowering others is all that one can do. It leaves you fulfilled. And great leaders do this all the time.

Well, if you are on the fence, get off. Along the way, you may actually end up having a great career.

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