When we think of Toastmasters, we think of public speaking. After all, this is a group where we can practice and improve our speaking skills, right? (Well, to employ the classic improv technique,) Yes, and this is a group where we can also practice and improve our leadership skills. Whether you do this while also working towards your Competent Communicator certification or you've chosen this as your main focus for your participation in the group, this is a valuable effort for your long term career as well as your immediate day job.
Great Leaders Are Great Speakers
It turns out that most great leaders are also great speakers. After all, there's so much speaking when it comes to leading - organizing and delegating, motivating people, mentoring and building teams. And there are quite a few leaders in history that were Toastmasters! Such as:
- Nancy Brinker, Founder of Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Former US Ambassador to Hungary
- Peter Coors, Chairman of Coors Brewing Company
- KC Jones, Former Coach of the Boston Celtics
- James Lovell, US Astronaut on missions including Apollo 13
- Linda Lingle, Former Governor of Hawaii
At this point, Toastmasters is grooming hundreds of thousands of speakers and leaders across the world - there are more than 14,000 Toastmasters clubs in more than 120 countries, totalling close to 300,000 members.
What is the Toastmasters Leadership Program?
The Competent Leader Certification is the first in the leadership track of Toastmasters and it includes 10 projects focused on different skills necessary for being a successful leader. Skills include listening, critical thinking, giving feedback, delegating, motivating, and mentoring. For each skill, there are a number of roles or projects you can take on to practice that skill. For example, to practice your listening skills, you can take any 3 of 4 roles during a typical meeting: Ah/Um Counter, Speech Evaluator, Grammarian, or Table Topics Speaker.
How to Get Your Competent Leader Certification in Record Time
I ended up getting my CL in no time, almost by accident, becoming the first in our club to do so. Here are two tips for all those future CLs who would like to get this certification under their belt.
Tip #1: Take every opportunity to participate.
Participate in every meeting you attend. Without even realizing it, this is how I got my CL so quickly - I participated in almost every meeting. Taking on roles every chance you get helps you finish your CL projects as fast as possible. (Plus, in doing so, you lead the rest of the group in participating more in meetings.)
Tip #2: Pick the roles most frequently tied to CL projects.
If you want to be strategic, check the roles you need to fill to complete your next project in the CL manual. If you want to be sneaky or lazy (like me) and don't want to sift through what you should do next, here's my cheat sheet. Below are the number of mentions of each role or project in the CL manual.
- General Evaluator - 5
- Speech Evaluator - 4
- Toastmaster - 4
- Grammarian - 4
- Organize a speech contest, club event, membership campaign, marketing campaign, or manage the website - 3
- Speaker - 2
- Table Topics Master - 2
- Ah/Um Counter - 1
- Table Topics Speaker - 1
- Timer - 1
- Mentor another member - 1
With these tips, I expect we'll be seeing new certified CLs popping up left and right. To get started, don't forget to sign up for a role in an upcoming meeting! And hey, if you get your CL in record time, there's an Advanced Leader Program waiting for you afterward. After all, the learning never stops!
Photo credit: Toastmasters.org