What is a Competent Leader? How does Toastmasters help you to become one?
These are good questions, and the basis of these may be answered by your active participation in a club.
Most everyone has a pretty good understanding that Toastmasters is a proven program which helps you become a better public speaker; it’s not well known that Toastmasters can also be instrumental in developing your leadership skills.
The Competent Leader Manual is your structured guide, and by following its form, you will find yourself filling every required role at your club’s meetings, sometimes several times over. Your Competent Leader Manual requires that another club member give you a critique on how you fulfilled your role, and it allows him or her to offer constructive criticism for your next attempt. Newer members find that they are a little hesitant at first to ask someone to help fill out the manual, but soon they become accustomed to asking for assistance. This is a positive thing as this helps the club members get to know one another and to bond.
You should start out like most new members and take on a role as a Timer or Grammarian within the first couple of meetings. After that you can step out and try Speech Evaluator, which is a good exercise in active listening and in impromptu speaking. At nearly the same time you may find yourself more assertive and find yourself volunteering to be a Table Topics Speaker – another great opportunity for impromptu speaking.
While you begin to get comfortable with the meetings, you are becoming an active, participating member. While you may not feel that this is really practicing leadership, you are actually a good example for a brand new member who is just finding his feet. You are contributing to the meetings, and you are making an impact to others. And at the same time you are working through your Competent Communicator manual and becoming a better speaker you are getting more immersed in active listening and in structured communication.
The next roles you can try are Topicsmaster, General Evaluator and finally Toastmaster, which provide extensive and valuable experience. It is in these roles that you will get to lead the club through larger and larger parts of the meeting, and which help you to understand how to guide your club with less and less structure. It is here where you find you will find your greatest challenges and rewards as a speaker. You may not feel that you are a leader, but you have already made great strides in your confidence and in taking on more important roles for the club. In fact by example you are a Leader.
What’s next? As a club member (being an Officer for your club is not a prerequisite) there are a variety of activities where you get to become more involved, and contribute to the club as a whole. These include:
Assist the Club’s Webmaster
Befriend a Guest
Club Newsletter Editor
Club PR Campaign Chair
Club Special Event Chair
Club Speech Contest Chair
Help Produce a Club Newsletter
High-Performance Leadership (HPL) Guidance Committee Member
Mentor for an Existing Member
Organize a Club Membership Campaign or Contest
Organize a Club PR Campaign
Organize a Club Special Event
Organize a Club Speech Contest
PR Campaign Chair
These more advanced activities or projects never happen in a vacuum. You should work with your club officers to get involved with your advanced projects, and they can provide you the benefit of their guidance and experience to help the projects bring success to your club and to yourself. Your creativity, people skills and project skills will come together as you work hard to bring each project to fruition.
As you get to know your club officers better, you may imagine yourself in their role, and wonder how you can help your club. They can guide you on your journey and they can help you to consider a formal leadership role in the club.
Within a year of active membership, you can very well complete most if not all of the 22/23 required steps in your Competent Leader manual. Upon reflection, you will see that you are changed, with more confidence, poise and assertiveness. Others begin see you as a leader who is a good example for others to follow.
Your next move? Competent Leader is one of the important milestones which help you to on your journey to achieve the pinnacle of Toastmasters achievement, Distinguished Toastmaster. Only your commitment will tell you. But being a Competent Leader is an important and life-changing first step.