How to Improve Your Leadership Skills
Toastmasters Offers Plenty of Opportunities
Toastmasters International is one of the best and cheapest ways to improve your public speaking skills. No public speaking workshops can compare to the kind of hands on experience you get by participating in a mutually supportive environment such as a TM club. Toastmasters consists of thousands of individually run member clubs world wide - members follow the TM program, including manuals and other materials, though each club has its own individual differences and character.
Besides a learning experience that’s better than most public speaking courses, Toastmasters also gives you a chance to improve your leadership skills. There are two educational tracks in TM - the Communication Track and the Leadership Track. Both tracks consist of several manuals, where members perform public speaking and leadership projects, and get evaluated by fellow Toastmasters members.
Learning leadership skills in your club takes on several forms. The most obvious would be to take a Club Officer Role. Officers in Toastmasters clubs are elected twice a year, for six month terms. Through these roles, you can learn a variety of different leadership and organizational skills. For example, the Vice President of Education is in charge of organizing club meetings and member progress, whereas the Vice President of Public Relations is in charge of club communications such as the newsletter. Other, minor officer roles include Treasurer (handle club finances) and Sergeant at Arms (organize club meeting room and materials).
However, Toastmasters credit for officer’s roles is usually given to you in your Advanced Leadership Manual, which you receive after your Competent Leadership manual. (If you serve as an officer before receiving your ALM, just have a club member make a copy of their manual and save it for future reference. Photocopies still count towards Toastmasters credit).
Until then, there are still plenty of other smaller ways to practice your leadership skills. The Competent Leadership manual has plenty of minor projects - and public speaking projects can also get you CL credit. Besides taking on minor meeting roles - such as the Ah Counter, Grammarian, and Table Topics Master - you can also organize club events, help out with the newsletter, and even mentor a new Toastmasters member.
Mentors help new members through the beginning stages of their public speaking journey - from their first speech to around their third or fourth. Officially, mentoring is a finite relationship, however many mentors and mentees assist each other well after the mentee has finished their Competent Communication manual.
More advanced leadership roles - beyond the Club Officer level - include becoming an Area Governor (an Area is a group of Toastmasters clubs that are close to each other - Area Governors supervise and check each club’s progress), to becoming a District Leader (District being the highest level in Toastmasters International). You can also take on high level public speaking projects for your club, or use a work or personal project in order to get credit for your High Performance Leadership project.
The beauty of the Toastmasters program is its depth and flexibility. Whether you want to improve your public speaking or leadership skills, there’s something for anyone looking to learn soft skills relevant to their personal and professional lives. You can go as far as you want - some go all the way to Distinguished Toastmaster (the highest award a Toastmaster can achieve) - while others stop after their CC or CL Manuals. Regardless of your motivations, Toastmasters International provides the best way to become a better communicator and leader.