Here are six tips for taking your skills to the next level. 

By Erin Chandler

Stepping up to pursue a Kiwanis leadership position is not as hard as you may think! Whether you’re thinking of a role in your club or district, or even at the international level, we’ve compiled some helpful tips — complete with advice given in Kiwanis magazine over the years by a couple of true experts: Kiwanis International Executive Director Stan Soderstrom and Executive Director-designate Paul Palazzolo. 

1. Assess your leadership strengths and goals.
“Many [Kiwanians] are taking the leadership qualities they’ve developed and already use into roles that suit them well. And many of them do it even if they haven’t held such official titles before.” — Stan Soderstrom 

There are many different ways to become a leader. In your quest to discover what kind of leader you want to be, it can be helpful to look to others as role models. That’s one reason we’re providing this publication. It is also important to look inside yourself. What are you passionate about? What motivates you? Which of your skills lend themselves to leadership? You don’t have to have held a leadership role before — everyone starts somewhere! Maybe you have learned patience from parenthood, organization from your job or perseverance from your hobbies. Think about how these skills could be useful to Kiwanis. 

2. Attend Kiwanis conventions, read the newsletters and keep up with the blog.
“[A convention] is where you will get the spirit and ideas.” — Paul Palazzolo 

At Kiwanis district and international conventions, you will have the opportunity to encounter more models of leadership, hear from experts and talk to fellow Kiwanians about their most effective projects. Between the sessions, the conversations and the energizing atmosphere, you are likely to come home with all kinds of new ideas for your club. 

You can also find inspiration through the blog, the KI Update newsletter and Kiwanis social media. The blog includes stories of clubs that are making a big difference in people’s lives. Update delivers highlights from these stories directly to your email inbox every month. And the Kiwanis accounts on Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly known as Twitter) share stories of club projects that have made the news. You never know when you might find the perfect project for your club. 

3. Get to know your community.
“We needed to cut the cord on tired initiatives and do some new things that were a little more relevant. That is a key word in the Kiwanis world: Your service needs to be relevant to your community.” — Paul Palazzolo

Being a servant leader means putting your skills to use in a way that is most beneficial to your community. Your club may have a lot of ongoing projects and ideas for new ones — but what do the people you serve actually need? Has that need changed over time? Talk to them and find out! 

Getting to know your community’s leaders will also open doors for partnerships that make your projects more impactful. A great way to become a leader is to network with those who have skills and resources that may elevate your club’s potential.   

4. Get to know your fellow club members.
“Leadership is as much about the people around you as the qualities within yourself. At Kiwanis International, that’s one of the most important aspects we emphasize for members who become leaders within our organization.” — Stan Soderstrom 

Leadership doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. Leaders surround themselves with talented teams of people who can fill their gaps in knowledge, expertise and resources. Get to know the strengths of the Kiwanians around you and get to work building your support team. 

Getting to know your club also increases the fun and fellowship you will find in Kiwanis. You might even build lasting friendships! 

5. Build up your communication skills.
“No matter if your club is a good club or a struggling club, take the plunge because your ideas can help turn that around. Kiwanis exists as an association of clubs to help leaders in the pursuit of their vision.” — Paul Palazzolo 

You have a project idea or a vision for the future of your club — but nothing will come of it unless you convey your message in a way that inspires fellow members. If you appeal to their passions and interests, you are more likely to persuade them to act. 

And remember that communication goes both ways — it’s as much about listening as it is about talking. Others’ concerns and ideas may help refine and improve your original vision. 

6. Look toward the future.
“The definition of a leader is always shifting. The challenges may be unexpected, even unprecedented, but it’s the flexible leader who will rise to meet them.” — Stan Soderstrom 

As you climb the Kiwanis leadership ladder, be prepared to adjust your goals and projects as the needs of your community, your club and your district change. And be sure to pay forward the help you have received by becoming a mentor and leadership role model to others. A key part of leadership is helping people climb the ladder after you.