What Toastmasters Taught Me About Leadership




“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”

Alexander the Great


I have often shared what Toastmasters taught me about Public Speaking. There is however another side to Toastmasters. What you also learn in Toastmasters are leadership skills. I have learnt these skills by watching others lead and then by successfully implementing them myself.


You Need A Vision

To me a vision is a simple statement of what I aspire to achieve in the mid to long-term future. The reason a vision is so important is that it lets everyone in the team know what we are trying to achieve. It gives a leader something to inspire a team to action and get engagement in the steps needed to achieve this vision. The most important leadership skill is to get a team to “own the vision”.


The Importance Of Being Honest

Honesty is a fundamental leadership skill because you need a team to trust you and your decisions. Trust can never be demanded, it is always earned. You earn trust by being honest with your team, never lie to them and always admit when you got it wrong and what you are going to do to put it right. I have observed in Toastmasters people know you are not perfect they just expect you to offer leadership and put right your mistakes.


The Art Of Listening

Good listening skills are a fundamental requisite of good leaders. The better a leader is at listening the better they are at making informed decisions. When you listen to your team you see where they are struggling and where they are succeeding. The more you listen the more effective will be team-building skills.  In Toastmasters listening is a skill that is actively promoted and more importantly rewarded.


Value Your Team

Toastmasters is an organization that is organized using a vast team of volunteers worldwide and a relatively small team at world headquarters. This means most of the leadership teams worldwide are volunteers. Being involved in voluntary teams has taught me that it is really important to recognize and give positive feed back to team members when they achieve targets. Nothing motives a team better than publically celebrating the achievements that they make to your team goals.


The Need To Be A Good Mentor

I have always found a good mentor will help you exceed your personal targets. They will teach you, listen to you and most importantly help motivate you. When you lead you need to be available to provide mentorship to your team.


How Important Positivity Is

Life is complicated and sometimes it is easy to be negative when confronted with unexpected problems. Leaders need to remember that every problem is solvable even if that solution is to stop and start again. In Toastmasters I have found as a leader you need to remain positive as your team take their cue from you. Leaders need to help facilitate solutions rather than concentrate on the negatives associated with a looming problem.


The Need To Be Decisive

Leaders need to lead and this means taking decisions. Leaders need to listen to everyone’s input, however at the end of the day someone needs to make a decision. Sometimes you will get it wrong that is price of being a decision maker, you learn your lesson and move on. Remember doing nothing with a looming problem is a decision and is often the worst decision of all to take.


The best Lesson Toastmasters Thought Me About Leadership

“A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Napoleon Bonaparte


Team members look to you for guidance when things get rough and they expect you to show them a path out. The best way to develop a solution is by consensus if possible. When it is not possible to achieve consensus you need to make a decision to be decisive as discussed earlier. Then you need to go back to your team and explain what you did and why you did it. Hopefully over time they will accept your decision, in the short-term at least they understand it and can sell it to their teams. At the very least you have given hope to everybody that the problem will be resolved.