Taking on Leadership Roles in Professional Organizations

My final emphasis in this chapter is on taking leadership roles in professional organizations. I started at the bottom in regard to leadership. The reason was I simply did not know many people in professional counseling associations, and those I knew were mostly way beyond me developmentally in their careers. Thus, being an unknown, I had to prove myself and show leadership by volunteering to do the jobs that were open. These tasks were almost always behind the scenes and nonglamorous. They included taking out the garbage after a meeting, arranging a room for a session, collecting evaluation forms after conference presentations, and even driving speakers to the airport or to their hotel.

What I found out is that people appreciate a good worker regardless of his or her status, standing, and experience. By taking on minor roles and doing them well, I made friends, and people began to notice and wonder if I was cut out for more. That is how it should be, because leadership is developmental (see Box 10.3). I had to learn the bylaws of the American Counseling Association before I was ready to become its president. Having done most of the jobs connected with ACA, I was ready in time to make my way up in leadership circles. Regardless, new openings, both great and small, are constantly cropping up in counseling organizations. The old adage that "there is always room at the top” is true. However, the climb to the top is one where experience is an invaluable ally. Doing the little things prepares us all for doing bigger things and hopefully doing them well because we have acquired knowledge and an appreciation for those who work beside us.

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