Coach Spotlight: Dr. Barbara Reilly on Volunteerism

By the Turknett Team

In this edition of our Coaching Spotlight, we are sharing Dr. Barbara Reilly’s insights and perspective on how volunteerism connects to leadership development. Barbara has been a part of Turknett Leadership Group for decades. She lives and breathes the Leadership Character Model, championing leadership character and helping her clients leverage the model as a guiding framework. Learn more about Barbara here.


Q: What is your perspective on volunteerism as part of leadership development?   

Volunteerism is an essential component of leadership development. It is a training ground for servant leaders.  Leaders who volunteer have an increased sense of well-being, a greater connection to their community and world, a unique perspective for examining their own and others’ leadership practices, increased levels of empathy, and as an added bonus tend to live longer than those who don’t volunteer.


Q: Tell us about some of the types of organizations you work with that use volunteerism as part of their leadership success?  

I often ask C-level leaders to boil down their leadership philosophy to just three words. The answers are quite profound.  When I asked this of a senior executive at Chick-fil-A their response was “Great Leaders Serve.”  Volunteerism is a way of life for Chick-Fil-A employees and it carries over to everyday life and values.   Another example is Delta Airlines, which includes volunteerism as a core element of onboarding and training staff and leaders.  All new flight attendants participate in different volunteerism opportunities as part of their six-month onboarding.  This sets the stage for the expectation that volunteerism matters and is vital to the culture.   


Q: What are your suggestions to leaders to embrace volunteerism on their leadership development journey?   

Schedule it.  Make time for volunteering.  Find an organization that aligns with your passions and talents and jump in.  Share your journey and make it easy for others to volunteer as well.