Personally, I’ve had the pleasure to take on different volunteer roles in IMA’s Switzerland Chapter, including webmaster, treasurer, and, most recently, president. Those experiences taught me several helpful leadership lessons.

People come first. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the chapter, and everyone’s time is scarce. The first thing I did when I became president was to talk with every board member to understand their motivation. These can be surprisingly different. Some join the chapter because they like to share their knowledge. Others enjoy meeting new people and thrive by organizing events. The leadership style that will work best with the group—whether it’s one that involves coaching, is more directive, or where you try to do everything yourself—depends to a large degree on the people working with you.

Set a strategy. When I was president, I had recently completed the CSCA® (Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis) program, which gives an excellent overview of the strategic process. Updating the chapter’s strategy offered a great chance to put the theory into practice. After our chapter decided on the strategy, we implemented a dashboard to track the targets that helped us achieve our objectives. As in many businesses, however, implementation is the hardest part and is only successful when daily goals are achieved. For our chapter, this included high-quality networking and educational events, helping candidates pass the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam, and communicating our accomplishments.

Create a credo. Mindset, or culture, is the secret sauce for any team or leader. Some organizations write a “credo” or values statement in large or colorful letters on their walls. Whatever it’s called, it should be meaningful. If I had one motto, it would be “Do one thing and do it really well.” Looking back, I could have explained it better, repeated it more often, and shared it in a more playful way. The chapter’s next president, Ekaterina Emelianova, will bring her own style and shape the mindset further in a refreshing, relevant way.

Leading IMA’s Switzerland Chapter often felt like running a start-up, but foremost it was a learning experience, allowing me to try new things while working with and relying on some of the best people in our profession. Many young professionals are looking for their first leadership experience. As a chapter leader, one can gain such hands-on experience in a safe and supported environment. IMA staff offers tools and assistance, and a mentor is never far away.

Experienced leaders can use this environment to practice advanced concepts and experiment with nuances. To get there, you need to take the lead: Get active with your chapter, seek opportunities, and actively recruit other volunteers to help you achieve your goals.

About the Authors