Leadership Excellence at Capitol Toastmasters
By Timothy B. Owens and Leigh Waite
Toastmasters is an international communication and
leadership organization that assists individuals in developing and expanding on
leadership and communication skills. Each member has the opportunity to work both
programs or focus on one track. There are many levels of achievement for the member
to reach. Additionally, there is club incentive for encouraging members to achieve
The following is an interview with a member who is working his way through the Advanced
Leader Bronze designation by conducting two programs from the “Leadership
Excellence series” from Toastmasters International.
Leigh: As part of the Toastmasters International Leadership
Track, you recently presented some information to the Capitol Club (#365) outlining
leadership goals in the Advanced Leadership Manual. Would you overview the presentation?
Tim: Probably the most important things to get out
of the presentation are these points: Values come from interacting with all of the
people you have had contact with throughout your life – from your parents,
to friends and coworkers. These values determine who you are, where you work, the
friends you keep and the decisions you make. Once established, these values are
slow to change.
A leader wants to have values that are consistent with their organization –
that’s obvious. But the leader also wants members of the team to have values
that are consistent with their values. Here’s why: We make decisions based
on our values. Those decisions become actions. If everyone’s values are inconsistent,
then so are their actions. In other words, the actions of one team member will undo
the actions of another for example. So not a lot is going to get done and the conflict
will cause stress in team members. It would be an unpleasant and unproductive environment
if values are not consistent throughout. If values are consistent though, we have
synergy where the total contribution is greater than the sum of the individual contributions
since with similar values, team members are more likely to interact and come up
with new ideas.
Also important is that if a leader who says they believe one thing but act in a
way that is contrary to what they say, they may lose credibility. Most people will
look to what the leader actually does rather than what they say in judging what
the leader will do according the Toastmasters material on leadership.
On the other hand, let’s not foolishly follow a plan when the circumstances
have changed. If changes must be made in spite of what was said earlier, the leader
should say that due to recent circumstances our plans will need to be adjusted.
These are Toastmasters values: Integrity, Service to the Member, Dedication to Excellence
and Respect for the Individual.
This is what Toastmasters provides:
- A learning laboratory – most effective where you learn by doing and which
is reinforced by effective feedback.
- A chance to experience leadership as well as communications skills by “doing
them” without risk
- A Member focused program
The most cost-effective method of reinventing yourself for the position you want
according to a speaker from a Toastmasters Officer training conference.
This is the effect Toastmasters has on you:
- More confident speaker - you get this from going through the many speech manuals
and table topics
- Personal growth through interaction with members in various activities
Leadership Skills through “doing”
This is the impact on your life
- You'll be better able to take advantage of life’s opportunities
Happiness and success can be achieved from Self-Confidence and accomplishing more
Leigh: What have you learned from
conducting this program in the Advanced Leadership manual?
Tim: Before this program, I placed
more emphasis on the actions that I saw of others rather than what they said in
anticipating what they would do. So what the program says about actions versus words
seems reasonable. This program though forced me to think about my own actions and
to what extent they were consistent with the things that I’ve said. An exception
of course - and it wasn’t in the program - has to do with plans. It’s
foolish to stay with plans, just to be consistent when things have changed. For
example, they added amendments to the original constitution of the United States
to address new experiences. They make changes in the scope of our projects here
at ADOT based on new environmental information. These changes though are well thought
out and go through a formal change process to ensure that the reason for making
them is sound. This is the same for ones announcement of plans as well I believe.
If you deviate drastically from what you say you will do, you should have a reason
for it and communicate that reason.
Leigh: How have you decided to handle those things
that you realize have been or are perceived as being inconsistent?
Tim: As a leader, if I say I am going to do something
but do not do it, it’s either because it has not occurred to me that I am
doing something that is inconsistent with what I’ve said or there is good
reason for acting differently. If it is a case where actions have not occurred to
me then I will change my actions to reflect my words or promise. In this case, I
appreciate someone letting me know so that I can do the right thing. If it is a
case where circumstances have changed which require my actions to also change, then
it is important for me to communicate the reason for changing my actions. In either
case, feedback is always appreciated so that the right thing can be done.
Leigh: What does the leadership track do for the individual?
Tim: The leadership track at Toastmasters provides
a laboratory where one can try things in leadership and can get supportive feedback
in a risk-free environment. Experience I believe is the best way to try things out
with respect to leadership. It’s one thing to read about leadership but another
to actually do it and see the ramifications of what you do. If you were to experiment
with leadership in the workplace and something did not work out as expected, there
may be repercussions. At Toastmasters, there is just constructive supportive feedback.
They will tell you what worked well and what didn’t. They’ll give you
specific examples of what they liked and suggestions of what you may want to try
if things did not work as well as anticipated. Those who have worked their way through
the program before – mentors - are also helpful in steering you in the right
direction. As the introductions manuals in the “Leadership Excellence Series”
begin with, “Leadership abilities are not inherited…they are learned
and honed through experience.” So what does all this do for the individual?
The skills learned through Toastmasters leadership track will allow members to better
take advantage of life’s opportunities and more prepared to accomplish our
goals leading to personal success and happiness.
Leigh: How does the leadership track work for the club?
Tim: According to the “Leadership Excellence
Series”, “the difference between a successful club and an unsuccessful
club is the quality of its leadership.” So if the leaders are astute and work
through the leadership track to become better leaders, the club will be more successful.
The success of the club depends on the abilities of the leaders. Those abilities
are learned and honed through the Toastmasters Leadership Track.
Leigh: What is next on your leadership horizon?
Tim: Next on the leadership horizon for me is to conduct
my final program from the “Leadership Excellence Series” to complete
my advanced leader bronze (ALB) designation. Although there are many programs to
choose from such as this one on values and leadership, the next one will be on the
Visionary Leader. Vision is the ability to see possibilities for a Toastmasters
club for example at some point in the future. It gives a club a destination to shoot
for whether the vision be to have all its members (that desire it) become DTMs (Distinguished
Toastmasters, the ultimate in Toastmasters achievement) or to have an atmosphere
where you can go to practice communications and/or leadership. My next speech on
Leadership, at the end of April, will hopefully encourage all of the members of
Capitol Toastmasters to draft a Vision Statement so that we can become one of the
best clubs in the state.
Leigh: Thank you, Tim. I look forward to the next step
in meeting your leadership goals.
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