How Leaders Are Made
by Pele Williams
I joined Toastmaster 5 years ago, to improve my impromptu speaking skills. Even though I had even done some teaching and academic presentations I was always very nervous every time was to speak to a group. I dreaded public speaking and concluded I just wasn’t good at it.
Before & After
Fast forward to today, I’m no longer afraid of public speaking. Looking back, I realize now that like 75% of humans, I feared public speaking because I never learnt how to do it right. More importantly, I did not know was that there is a tight connection between communication and leadership. James Humes said the art of communication is the language of leadership.
At Toastmasters, as I learnt the art of communication. With knowledge came the confidence to speak. More importantly, I received lots of constructive feedback which further refined my skills. As my communication skills improved,I got better at connecting, giving feedback and supporting others as needed.
Before I knew it, I was part of a network of like-minds. Being part of a network meant I could take on bigger dreams, with the help of my network, and encourage others to do so too. This is how you from fear to leadership. I’m here today because I strongly believe that anyone can be an effective leader, and no one should wait as long as I did to practice these 4 simple techniques; learn, speak, refine and support others.
I still remember my 1st Toastmaster meeting. I felt very comfortable because everyone was so friendly. I was impressed how much we got done in one hour. Round table Introductions, 2 prepared speeches, a game of impromptu speeches, feedback for everyone and lots of applause in 60 minutes flat. I learnt so much I learnt that my confidence went up a notch.
I joined the club following week and then the heavy lifting began. I was assigned a meeting role right away , and within a month I was the club’s clean up and set-up executive. I selected a mentor because there was so much to learn; I needed some hand-holding! By the 2nd month, I had booked my 1st speech, by the 4 month, I was competing in a speech contest. All of this happened, only because I had learnt a lot from club members and my mentor. It was not easy, but it was way less frightening than running blind. Every time I had the opportunity to speak, I would get a ton of written and verbal feedback, I would then refine my skill until I also learnt how to give others feedback too.
By the end of my 1st year, in addition to many speaking techniques, I learnt the importance of keeping my commitments, humility, and lots of wisdom, just by listening to people’s life stories. At that time, Calgary was going through a recession, my team was get disbanded, but instead of being let go, I was given the unique opportunity of a lifetime to step into my dream job.
By the year two, I challenged myself by taking on the club President role. Again lot of learning on the job, as I practiced how to lead a team, to be a cheer-leader, a mentor, come up with goals, an annual success plan, how to delegate and execute a plan. I got better every month because, I did a lot of learning, talking and received a ton of feedback for the members and other leaders.
By the end of that year, I was a Toastmaster evangelist. I wanted to teach what I was learning to my kids so I ran a Toastmaster for kids age 9-12 years in the public library and registered my kids in it. I learnt how to solicit for help, advertise an event, source for volunteers, and work with youths. The outcome was unbelievable! These kids learnt in 8 weeks what adults take a year to learn. My sons are now 14 and 12 years old and they are now vocal student leaders and “A grade” students because of the skills they learnt.
3rd, 4th and 5th year
In my 3rd year, 4th and 5th year I progressively embraced roles with new challenges and more breath both in Toastmasters and in my community. I learnt to write leadership reports, organize large event, raise funds, train leaders and take on challenging projects at work. In my 4th year, I teamed up with another Toastmaster and to charter the Society of Women Engineers in Calgary. I’m currently the founding President of that group. Again, I apply the learn, practice, refine and serve model to build a leadership team and run this group of over 50 members. In all, have I learnt that it is possible to inspire others to greatness even if you don’t have traditional lines of authority .
You can be a leader if you are willing to learn, speak, refine and serve. Simon Sinek once said the goal is not to be perfect in the end, the goal is to be better tomorrow. As long as the learning never stops, you can overcome your fear and become the leader want to be in whatever aspect of life you desire it.
Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development, with over 352,000 members in 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. The world needs leaders. Leaders head families, coach teams, run businesses and mentor others. These leaders must not only accomplish, they must communicate. By regularly giving speeches, gaining feedback, leading teams and guiding others to achieve their goals in a supportive atmosphere, leaders emerge from the Toastmasters program