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.
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.