Throughout your life, you've undoubtedly come across all sorts of leaders - in your profession, in church, in community groups and in Toastmasters. I'm sure you remember leaders who were good and bad, and some who were excellent. The question is, what made those excellent leaders excellent, and what did they know and do that the others didn't? Most important, how can we as Toastmasters benefit from their success?
We probably remember these leaders for different reasons. While they all had different talents, I bet they had one character trait in common: integrity. Because of their personal values and their work ethic, we trusted them, respected them and followed them.
Not everyone comes out of the womb an articulate and charismatic leader. It takes time to learn the intricacies of how to get great results through people. The wonderful thing about Toastmasters is that we all have the chance to learn and grow so that we can be all we were meant to be.
If you are destined for a life of leadership, then it's up to you to become a leader worth following. Any leader worth following practices ethical leadership principles. Let's see how these translate into action in a Toastmasters club. Let these "10 Commandments of Ethical Leadership" be your guide.
1. Develop a vision. The most pathetic per son in the world is someone who has sight but no vision." - Helen Keller
Toastmasters International has a vision. It is clearly stated in every magazine and in every manual. A vision gives people a place to focus their thoughts and their energies. Everyone likes to know and be a part of, the master plan. In your Toastmasters club, do you, or your executive committee, have a vision for what you'd like to accomplish this year? If not, how will you know if you've been successful in leaving your mark? As an individual member, do you have a vision for what you'd like to get out of your Toastmasters career? Do you know why you joined? A vision can be a beacon that guides us along any path we choose.
2. Characterize integrity. "The time is always right to do what is right." - Martin Luther King Jr.
When you lead with honesty, guided by good values and strong moral principles, you are secure in your decisions. With security comes peace. The values and principles are the characteristics of integrity. Since each of us values different things and holds different principles, as an ethical leader you must clearly define these characteristics for yourself.
As a member of the executive committee, are your decisions and plans made with the utmost integrity to the members, to the club and to Toastmasters International? Do you know the rules and regulations mandated by World Headquarters? Or is yours one of those clubs that has decided that certain things don't fit the atmosphere in your particular club? An ethical leader will consistently do what is right, because it is right.
3. Lead the way. "Well done is better than well said." - Ben Franklin
Every leader leads by example. The question is whether it's a good example. People respect you for who you are. They trust you for what you do.
As a leader in your club, are you presenting manual speeches? Are you doing your very best every time you stand up to give a Table Topic? Are your presentations prepared ahead of time and well-rehearsed? You don't need to be on the executive committee to be a leader at a Toastmasters club. We're all leaders, and we all set examples.
4. Esteem insight. "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Great leaders know and capitalize on their strengths. They also are equally aware of, and compensate for, their weaknesses. But to become great, we must first know what lies inside each of us as individuals. And we must prize that knowledge about ourselves and about our people.
Do you know your optimum learning style - and can you translate that into high-quality speeches written in half the usual time? Do you know how to optimize your decision-making power so that it is less stressful and gets you better results - while simultaneously grooming next year's executive team of up-and-comers? Do you know how you like to make decisions, and can you translate this ability into inclusion and empowerment for everyone in your club? Leading others begins with leading yourself. You cannot possibly lead someone you don't know.
5. Invest wisely. "The dictionary is the only place success comes before work." - Vince Lombardi
When it's time to recruit club officers, we hear about how great an opportunity it is to play a leadership role in the club. We understand that giving back to the club and the people who supported us is valiant and noble. We also realize that being part of a dynamic executive team is rewarding.
What may not be fully understood is the amount of time, energy and effort it takes to be a really good leader. Regardless of your position, being an excellent Toast-masters leader means doing the things that other members might not want to do. It means being an example all the time. It means walking the walk and talking the talk, and that isn't always easy. But as challenging as it sometimes is, the rewards are immeasurable. Your influence on the people whose lives you touch is sometimes so far-reaching you don't ever realize the impact you've made. This makes every bit of effort worth it. How you invest your time and energy will determine the rate of return you enjoy.
6. Guard your heart. "Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." - Abraham Lincoln
If you're a leader and running a popularity race, disappointment is guaranteed. Doing what is right will sometimes make people mad, and you will be the target. Are you ready?
As a leader in your Toastmasters club, there will always be someone who doesn't agree with what you're doing, or the way you're doing it. But that's OK. There will be equally as many, or more, who support your efforts and are behind you every step of the way. Make sure you're doing the right thing for the right reason, and if people get mad at that, it's not because of you as a person. So don't make the mistake of responding and reacting as though it is. And whatever you do, guard your heart and only own what's truly yours.
7. Love learning. "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young." - Henry Ford
The world is changing so rapidly that yesterday's knowledge is soon obsolete. As a leader, you must love to learn and commit to personal growth every day.
8. Exercise humility. "A great man is always willing to be little." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Leadership opportunities bring out the best in people - and the worst. I'm certain that many of us can remember leaders from our past who just seemed to think they were the cat's meow. Once they became the "head honcho," they talked down to everyone. All of a sudden they were too good to do certain jobs, and many things soon became beneath them.
A true leader will never ask someone to do something he or she doesn't want to do. They get their own coffee. They make their own photocopies. They file their own papers. They clean their own desks. They deliver their own mail. Make sure that when you're a leader in a Toastmasters club, you continue to do all the things that caused others to want to elect you in the first place.
9. Leverage loyalty. "A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so they can get on with their jobs." - Robert Townsend
The most interesting thing about the structure of Toastmasters International is that our organization chart is upside down. The individual member is on the top, and everyone and everything else exists to serve and support that person. When you're in a leadership position in a Toastmasters club, remember, the members don't work for you, you work for the members. When you do, their loyalty is your reward, and loyalty is a powerful force.
To be successful in serving others, you must know a little more about them than just their names. Find out from your members why they joined Toastmasters and what their educational goals are. Find out from your executive team what they'd like to gain from their leadership experience. Once you know a little about them, find out how you can help them. That's as easy as asking. How would they like you to help them stay motivated? What is their preferred communication style? What roles do they feel would really help them grow and develop on a personal and professional level? Once you know a little about people, and help them on their turf, you'll be surprised how responsive, and appreciative, they'll be to your efforts.
10. Believe. "It is a funny thing about life, if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it." - Somerset Maugham
Whatever you believe will happen, you will make happen. Faith is the foundation of ethical leadership. Without it, everything else crumbles under the slightest pressure. With it, you can soar to new heights.
• Believe in yourself. When you believe you can, you can. It's a natural and spiritual law. You survived your Ice Breaker, right?
• Believe in others. Everyone has potential, regardless of what the wrapping looks like today. Everyone joins Toastmasters to alter their wrapping in some way.
• Believe in the program. Toastmasters International offers a proven program that has worked for millions of people all over the world, for nearly a century. Don't try to reinvent the wheel - just run on the one that's there. It works, and it's an amazing program. Believe in it, and it will not let you down.
As you consider these "10 commandments," maybe you'll find that you're already anchored in many of them. If by chance there is one you could do a little bit better in, choose to work on that one. By doing one thing better today, you can significantly impact tomorrow. Consider it to be like a pebble in a pond. One small stone can create a huge wave.