In Toastmasters, we spend a lot of time working on speaking skills for both presentations, meetings, even speaking in impromptu situations such as networking events. These skills are developed as we all work through the exercises in our Competent Communicator manuals.
But what of the second focus of Toastmasters – Leadership? What of helping members become the Leaders that they want to be?
Leadership training within Toastmasters is a little more subtle and is developed through a series of activities within the Competent Leadership manual. We are all asked to take on the roles of Toastmaster, General Evaluator, Evaluator, Timer, Grammarian, and Table Topics Master so that we can practice the skills necessary to run effective meetings and become leaders in our professional lives.
These skills may include organization of a meeting, time management, listening and evaluation skills, even delegation.
As we take on additional leadership roles such as Club, Area, Division, District, and even International Officers, we get even more opportunities to learn the “Makings of a Great Leader.”
As Kouzes and Posner explain in “The Leadership Challenge,” great or exemplary leaders follow five practices. They:
- Model the way by clarifying values and setting the example
- Inspire a shared vision by both envisioning the future and enlisting others
- Challenge the process by searching for opportunities, then experimenting and taking risks
- Enable others to act by fostering collaboration and strengthening others
- And finally, they encourage the heart by recognizing contributions and celebrating the values and victories of their constituents.
Leadership is a learned skill, that is honed through practice. What better organization to learn this than Toastmasters, where we have the support system that tells us what areas we are doing well in and what areas we need to work on.
Are there leadership challenges within Toastmasters? Always, but it is by meeting these challenges head on that we learn to be great leaders.