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Lead From Where You Sit, Stand and Speak

Each of Us Can Lead, Regardless of Official Toastmaster Title
By Craig Harrison DTM, PDG

May, 2005
edition of
The Toastmaster

When I first joined my Toastmasters I look admiringly at the seven elected officers of our club for leadership. Over time I've come to see we all have the opportunity to lead, and not just when we are that week's Toastmaster. Consider the many opportunities for you to demonstrate leadership within a typical Toastmaster meeting.

1. When Guests Arrive

Each of us can embrace leadership by reaching out to welcome guests to our club. The willingness to approach them, introduce yourself, extend a handshake and welcome them is what a leader does. Your warm smile, inviting personality and facility at introducing them to others and seating them accordingly is a marvelous application of leadership. You don't have to be the club's sergeant-at-arms or membership vice president to welcome guests. As a leader you do this naturally.

2. Closing the Door

While Toastmasters is an inviting organization once the meeting starts a premium is placed on being able to hear participants without distractions. During many a meeting if an open door is allowing noise from the hallway to intrude, you can quietly get up and close the door. It's a subtle example of leadership that improves the quality of the meeting for all. Again, you needn't be an officer to lead. See a need and act upon it. That's what leaders do!

3. Sharing Handouts

Most agendas, evaluation and voting forms are passed out in advance of the meeting. A speaker's handout, however, may be passed out during the meeting. Leaders make sure everyone gets a copy. They take responsibility for fellow club members as well as themselves. Especially if latecomers arrive and aren't at the main table your leadership insures they too are cared for accordingly.

4. Filling In on Short Notice

A leader is always willing to fill in to cover for an absent or late arriving club member. They effortlessly slide over to become Timekeeper when the official meeting time arrives and the scheduled Timekeeper is nowhere in sight. Ditto Opening Thought, Closing Thought or Speech Evaluator. Leaders are always on call to serve the needs of the club. Be a leader and make yourself available for the good of your club.

5. Modeling Good Listening

I used to think what distinguished leaders from followers was what they said and how they said it. I've come to realize silent leadership is powerful too. Your actions model proper behavior. When you focus on being a good listener you are modeling appropriate behavior for others. Ignoring distractions and cross chatter during the meeting, concentrating fully on the speaker at the lectern and even taking notes of important information models good listening. That's leadership in action; others will follow your lead.

6. Helping Others Look Good

Anytime you say or do something to help others within a meeting that's good leadership. When you remove an impediment in the path of arriving speakers, reorient the chairs or tables for improved sight lines, give visual cues to colleagues to speak up, button up or smile, or otherwise be more effective, that's leadership! When I am in the back of a room listening to a soft spoken speaker I might cup my hand to one ear to indicate I can't hear them in the back. Nobody else sees me do this but it makes a difference to many. Opportunities abound to help others succeed during a meeting. Look for and act upon them for the betterment of all.

7. Arriving Early

I've always believed that arriving early is a form of leadership. That's when you assure the room is set up, when you connect with other meeting participants and deal with the unexpected: a room is locked or configured differently, word arrives that a key player isn't arriving, or something else altogether. Leadership involves being in a position to assert yourself for the benefit of your club. To do, you have to be. Be early and do more.

While the world knows Toastmasters as the world's foremost organization dedicated to promoting oral communication, we know it for its marvelous leadership development opportunities too. Don't be fooled into thinking only club and district officers are honing their leadership muscles. We can all lead from where we sit, and in doing so become outstanding.  Lead on!

© Copyright 2003-05 Craig Harrison. All Rights Reserved.

Professional Professional speaker Craig Harrison is a past District 57 governor who used Toastmasters leadership lessons as the 2004-05 president of the National Speakers Association — Northern California chapter. Visit www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com for additional tools for communication and leadership.

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