When we speak of leadership, it is often about others. What kind of leader someone is and who they command. This is important to know, but we don't often stop to consider what kind of personal development did someone go through in order to get to their position? What awareness of their themselves did they develop? This is what I call inner leadership.
The most effective leaders we know have probably gone through a period of personal transformation, where they discovered, developed and nurtured their leadership skills and talents. The question then is, what skills? What talents? And what are some of the qualities to develop in ourselves that could help us to become a future leader? Skills that when asked to lead, we have already developed, nurtured and come help us in our new workplace or family leadership role.
I am apart of a worldwide organisation called Toastmasters (TM). For most people, TM is known as a place to practice the art of public speaking and indeed it is a great avenue for that. Their motto though is 'Where Leaders are Made'. Leaders, not speakers. So what does TM offer for Leadership training and personal development?
Initially, when you join a Toastmasters club you are asked to complete two basic manuals. The Competent Communicator which has 10 speeches and usually at the same time the Competent Leader which has 10 projects. Many come to realise that the real benefit of TM is not the speaking itself but the opportunities to serve your club, community and the organisation at large. Each club has its own Officers team with around 7 leadership positions from President to Sergeant at Arms. Each position is designed to impart different life skills to you and expose you to the challenges within that role, from organising the agenda, to setting up the room in a professional way, to arranging membership drives and marketing the club to new members.
At higher levels of the organisation TM offers opportunities to lead whole countries, regions and even the entire TM organisation even, as the International President.
All these positions are voluntary. So why do people do it?
I believe people do it as TM provides a nice training ground and development of your personal skills, skills that can be taken into your work, personal life and are useful for the rest of your life.
The website of the Cape Town Communicators Toastmasters club shows a list of the transferable skills one can gain from taking on Leadership roles in a club. Some of these include Customer Service, Policy Administration, Career Training, Purchasing and Budget Administration. Besides these outward skills there are also personal skills which come with such roles, including motivation of self and others, as well as providing value for what people can do and contribute. As everyone is a volunteer Club Officer, it can be a challenge to maintain motivation, positivity and momentum over 12 months as everyone is in it for different reasons. Most roles are only 12 months of commitment which often means as soon as you have gotten used to the position, you pass it on. There is little time to work slowly, so it is really a fast tracking situation.
I spent a year as President of my TM Club and it was the first time I had experienced such a Leadership role and about half way through the way I was pulled aside by a senior member and they complimented me on my visible growth as a person and as a Toastmaster. It was at that point I realised my inward goals, truths and development were being seen outwards as well. People were noticing and my contribution was valid. I was also pleased with the progress and development in my team and could see others were also growing in their roles.
So what kinds of inner leadership skills can someone think about developing, whether a toastmaster or not?
For me a list would include:
We all face resistance, but it is what you do about this and how you handle it that makes the difference.
Many might resist joining TM for a fear of stepping out of their comfort zone. I say go for it. Develop your inner and outer personal skills and you might just find out what you are capable of.
'He is in such a great mood today, what happened to him?'
'The mood of the room was solemn after the announcement of the company's restructure.'
'My mood is always down in winter. I feel so controlled by the amount of sunshine there is.'
'This has put me in such a bad mood.'
When you think of mood, what words and adjectives come to mind? Our mood is something we often take for granted until we are pushed to extremes. It could be that something puts us in a really bad mood, like when you hear about a work project that didn't go well, or a mark you received on an assignment wasn't the one you wanted. We are also pushed towards a positive mood when then conversely, go the way we want.
As an English Trainer I have often heard people say they feel affected by the weather. They become glum in the middle of winter and more unfriendly and anti-social compared to the brighter summer months when they feel more alive and refreshed. I didn't notice this as much in Australia as the weather is sunnier for many more months, but here in Europe it appears to be a strong indicator of people's moods.
Similarly has someone ever described you as moody? If so, what behaviours and actions did you exhibit for this to occur?
For me, I was thinking about mood this week as a topic that we don't often discuss and explore that often. I wonder whether our mood can be controlled or whether like the weather it can be predicted but not fully understood. What do you think?
In my previous posts, I have discussed music, energy sources and the effects of considering your goals and routines and I think all of these can have an effect on our mood. These are things that are within us, that we control, but what about external forces? We cannot control external forces, only except for how we respond to them.
Now, I am not here to evangelise about making sure all of your reactions are sunshine and bubbles, because, honestly speaking, sometimes things just suck. Our mood will be down. We will be tired and even exhausted so even trying to complete a novel, write 1000 word essays or even cook dinner, can all seem too much.
When you have these times, what do you do?
I have had a busy couple of weeks, and regularly felt exhausted. I took stock of my mood and realised with tiredness, my energy drops and I am not so good to anyone. It is in these moments, I want to be careful what I say on the phone, to friend or colleagues and especially my family.
From my training with 6 Seconds in Emotional Intelligence, sometimes the smartest thing to do is acknowledge that your mood is different and not where it often is. Something has changed and that is ok. Why? Because a mood good or bad is also temporary and our goal in life should not be to always be outstandingly happy and positive, but to also experience both sides of the mood/emotional coin.
One thing that the positive psychology and self-help cannon doesn't emphasise enough is that we don't always have to be happy. Just as we will be sad and lonely and feel isolated and the weather will affect our mood, but it is also temporary.
For me, one the best remedies is to go to bed early. Like as a kid when we were sick, we were told to go to bed at 6pm or 7pm. As adults 8.30 or 9pm feels guilty, but why not? A couple of nights weeks forget Netflix, put down the latest book by Gary Vaynerchuck and just rest. Let your brain and body stop for a moment and if you are in a bad mood or not feeling yourself, even more the reason to do it.
What is the alternative? We push on, making it harder on ourselves, get less sleep and then try to function. It might also be worth exploring why your are in the bad mood. Not to change it but to understand more about it. Labeling emotions helps them become less, why not label your mood? Become aware and take stock of your feelings and how you got there.
This advice also rings true for others and can be a basis for empathy. If someone else is in a bad mood don't try to cheer them up. Just support them. Give them space and gently help them explore why they got there. If you are the cause, step away from the situation and allow for breathing space. Not all moods need solving and just allowing the experience can be healthy. We know it's temporary (even if it lasts years) and hopefully there is a shift.
Ultimately, I agree with the idea we are simply here to experience. All emotions and pains all the joys and even all the moods!
Are you smart with your Emotions? When you feel joy or sadness or other emotions, do you have an urge to sing? Perhaps you want to dance and move to music?
Emotional intelligence is a topic I am particularly interested in. When I first studied Psychology around 20 years ago, it was a fresh topic and only starting to gain popularity amongst researchers and academics. At this time it felt like an area I really wanted to explore, but luckily for me, life took a different turn and I got to explore my emotions and music in another way. As a singer!
When I first began lessons with my first singing teacher John Lander, he suggested to me that often students of singing might really start to feel new emotions and have at times the urge to cry. I have never forgotten this advice as singing really can bring forth strong feelings, can enhance emotions and in some circumstances, allow the emotions to find new expression and pass.
I am really grateful I have had the opportunity in my life to discover singing and to be a professional singer. As a professional, our job in Opera is to play characters, bringing them to life in a way that has full emotional expression as well as good singing and acting. But how can you do this when you have never been a soldier or a lover, a king or a priest?
A drama teacher I had both at University and during my years in the Young Artist program with Opera Australia used to say to, go out and experience as much as you can. See the world, take in new environments and observe other people, cultures, places and have genuine experiences. She said, how can you sing Schumann, when you haven't experienced a European Winter then it's coming Springtime. The way the earth comes back to life after snow and colder temperatures is truly magical. Living through three winters in Europe now, has allowed me not only to see what changes in my physical environment, but also to feel the emotional changes that come with that. Many in winter feel real melancholy. Now as a Trainer, when I work with people they often feel less energetic. They are in a working hibernation. The change in their mood and attitude is palpable come Spring and then Summer.
Putting it all together, singing has always enabled me to not only express my emotions but also to feel them more. The passion when you are in a moment on stage can feel real. While work, it is a tremendous gift to feel real genuine feelings when you work with others you share the stage with. Audiences can also tell when a performance is lacklustre and perhaps this is due to the emotional connection a person feels with their character. Even if you haven't experienced that particular situation before, the reason actors and singers rehearse is to find other appropriate expressions, ideas and feelings which match the ones the characters should portray. They search deep within themselves to find the most appropriate expression.
So, why can't those not in the theatre, also start to sing their feelings? What is stopping you when you feel joy to find a joyous song and sing along? Your performance is for you! It WILL make YOU feel better and uplift your spirits. Music has a tremendous power to do this, but rather than be an impartial listener, receiving the music, why not co-create it with the radio? Sing along, drum the beat on the bench, tap your foot and feel the music flow.
From my learnings from 6 Seconds, the international organisation promoting and researching Emotional Intelligence, I have understood that all emotions are chemicals. Data with which to interpret your world. Emotions are there to tell us when to fly, when to fight, to experience the joy of seeing our children being born, to make us feel sad when our hearts are broken and to give us information about what things we have passion for! I think as an extension, we should learn to sing and feel this data even more. To enhance and extend the feeling. To express ourselves in a new way.
Whether you join a choir, sing a solo at church or just make sure the next time you sing 'Happy Birthday' is the most joyous and happy moment for the person you are celebrating, use singing and music to extend and express your emotions. BE BOLD in your feelings and allow them to shine. The gift of these emotions will enrich your life.
For more information on Emotional Intelligence contact 6 Seconds (www.6seconds.org) and for a singing lesson to explore your voice and your emotions, to feel uplifted and fulfilled, give me a call or send me an email! You won't regret it.
"Acting 'as if' works better than any kind of thinking, because when you’ve done something, you feel proud of yourself—even if you didn’t do well" is a quote by Barbara She from her book, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It.
'Act as if' sounds better than 'fake it till you make it' and the concept is basically the same. Often in life we need to set the right impression for ourselves in order to find the success or next evolution we are looking for. I call it Impression Management. It is important to succeed in finding the impression we want to make on ourselves, in order to feel good, to go out into the world and achieve the change we want to see. Normally when we think of impressions, it is about how we are perceived by others.
For me, impression management means looking in the mirror and seeing the sort of person we are creating and embracing that person, supporting that transition and making it feel as good as possible. The reason I wear a suit is because it makes me feel good, professional and sharp. In Opera, I wore the costumes that were asked of me and played the characters I needed to. I never got to wear a suit day to day as it wasn't in my companies culture.
Now my character is me and I am in control about what this version of David wears, how he feels, acts, thinks and proceeds in the world of being an Entrepreneur. This choice empowers me to create the change I want to see, to be empathic with others and to act as if more professional and sharp.
The positivity and energy I bring to my clients is as a result of cultivating some very deliberate habits.
From the shoes I wear, to the briefcase or satchel I carry, I send a message to myself which then sends a message to the world. What does your image say about you?
In order to help you feel better and to grow your self-impression consider the following -
Whatever happens in your day, if you at least 'act as if' as Barbara Sher says, you can feel proud of yourself. You can know that you have tackled the day in a more positive way and that you have given yourself the best impression. No one else is going to do it for you and no one really cares whether you do or don't. It is up to you to make the best of your own situation, so you need take care of the impression you give yourself. No one will do it for you and if you rely on the compliments of others for self-esteem and courage then stop. Give yourself courage and self-esteem by knowing you are setting and deciding on what impression to make in the world.
'Act as is' and very quickly you will become the person you want to be.
David Corcoran is a Executive Voice Coach. He helps people take responsibility for their communication. This Blog contains his regular musings, thoughts and ideas. He is based in Vienna, Austria.