Source: Toastmasters International
In tough economic times, it’s important to make yourself as valuable as possible – whether you’re holding down a job or seeking employment. Here’s a hard truth: In most companies, leaders are generally considered more valuable than those who follow. They’re paid more, allowed to plan their own schedules and given a larger share of responsibility.
Given that, what would you do to redefine yourself as a leader?
You could walk into any bookstore and purchase dozens of books on leadership, but they won’t build your confidence. To master a new skill, you must practice it. That includes leadership skills, from conflict resolution to time management. It’s better to market yourself as someone who not only knows about these skills, but has also put them into practice.
You could hire a leadership coach, but how would you practice what you learn? And what about the expense?
The fact is you need all of the above and more – without wasting time or going broke. The best solution is the Toastmasters leadership education track, beginning with the Competent Leadership manual (Item 265).
The Benefits of Club Meeting Roles
Toastmasters clubs are typically highly energized meetings where participants learn leadership in a safe and fun environment. They do this by assuming meeting roles and practicing their leadership skills in front of fellow members who constructively evaluate their performance every time they take a role. Once you join Toastmasters and try these roles, you, too, can develop your abilities without fear. Moreover, you can build specific skills with each role you perform.
Take, for example, the role of timer. The timer is responsible for keeping the meeting on schedule. In this role, you use a stopwatch, a timing device and a record sheet to help speakers stay within their assigned time limits. The timer develops an awareness of how effective speeches are constructed. If the speaker only has 30 seconds left, you notice how a speech might be tightened or expanded to fill the time limit. This way, when it’s your turn to give a speech, you already know how to get to the point and control your content. This is an invaluable skill for any business leader!
Another important leadership role of a typical Toastmasters meeting is that of the Toastmaster. The Toastmaster gains real-life experience as host at the meeting and as event planner before the meeting. You work with other volunteers to organize a gathering with panache. In job interviews, anyone who has participated in this role can explain the specifics of coordinating and moderating a special event with confidence and know-how. You’ll easily convince a prospective employer that it’s not just something you’ve read about – it’s something you have successfully accomplished.
If you want to be appreciated for your communication skills as a leader, then taking on the role of grammarian is a perfect fit. You not only increase your vocabulary as you discover, practice and explain new words to your club; you also develop your sense of language – noticing what works and what doesn’t. Companies want and need clear communicators. That could be you.
Speaking clearly, of course, relies on thinking clearly. And there’s no better way to develop critical-thinking skills than by taking on the role of general evaluator. With practice in this role, you soon walk into a club meeting alert and ready to take notes on the meeting’s triumphs and challenges. You also learn how to present your report clearly to the group. This role helps you nurture the habit of continually seeking to improve your meetings, your experiences and yourself. With constant improvements come greater successes. As the general evaluator, you take on leadership duties, guiding the speech evaluators to their goals.
Dr. Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters International, once said, “We learn best in times of enjoyment.” That still stands today, and when you build those valuable leadership skills in Toastmasters, you’ll reap even greater rewards in your career. So, volunteer, have fun and discover the leader inside you!