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How does Toastmasters develop leaders? Toastmasters provides fantastic opportunities for people to develop leadership – that was the verdict of the 2008 District 71 Leadership Survey. There were 322 survey responses from across UK and Ireland, with 1486 different comments from people about different aspects of the leadership experience. 84% of these responses were positive about how Toastmasters develops leaders.

So what did people say?

How can Toastmasters Develop Leaders?

Based on Kolb's Learning Cycle

The people who responded to the survey often described a learning cycle that they went through as they improved their leadership skills. They would do something, like organise a competition, then consider the results either from feedback from others or seeing the results for them selves.

They then absorbed new knowledge (like it makes sense to organise the participation forms in advance!) which they fed into the plan for next time they would carry out that kind of activity. And the cycle spirals on as people carry out and learn from more activities.

Jean Gamester, Thame Speakers Club, District 71

The feedback was that the more you go around the cycle, the more you learn and the key was getting feedback, getting results and learning from it. They said that becoming a better leader in Toastmasters was achieved through learning from others and learning by doing – it’s a continuous cycle that needs to be self driven to achieve success.

What Leadership Skills do Toastmasters Develop? Many people described how their improved communications skills gave them greater influence, greater ability to provide direction and share vision, as well as an improved capacity for inspiring others and empathising with them.

A large number of people talked about having greater confidence, in fact 40% of women mentioned it proactively – Toastmasters provided them the chance to try things out in a safe and supportive environment. Some talked about feeling more respected and relied upon by others.

Entrepreneurial skills arose from a range of activities – from setting up and promoting new clubs, public relations for their existing clubs as well as the creativity needed to set up an interesting and varied programme for meetings.

The ability to lead and motivate teams, especially teams of volunteers, as well as the organisational skills to make things happen was also a common theme.

How do you get the most out of Toastmasters to become a Better Leader? There is a wide range of Toastmasters activities that can help people become better leaders – here is what people found to be most useful. Communications Track The Competent Communication manual has two key speeches that are relevant for leaders – “Persuade with Power” and “Inspire your Audience”.

The Advanced Communication manuals have plenty of opportunities for leaders too – “Speaking to Inform”, “Speeches by Management” and “Persuasive Speaking”.

Leadership Track The Competent Leader harnesses one of the key ways in which Toastmasters develop leadership – taking part in ordinary Club Meeting Activities like evaluation and providing feedback. It also allows

Jean Gamester, Thame Speakers Club, District 71

people to learn from Organising Conferences, Contests, Websites and the chance to benefit from being a Mentor - if done well the mentor will learn as much as the mentee because they need to think through what they do and how they do it in order to show others.

The Advanced Leadership awards provide further opportunities to develop. Acting as a club or district officer provides the perfect opportunity to learn by doing. So does the highly popular High Performance Leadership Programme where the leader delivers a project and builds a guidance committee to provide advice and feedback. When people make Successful Club Series and Leadership Excellence Series projects their own and really personalise the materials then everyone gains. One of the top ways people described as being stretching and helping them to be confident leaders was getting involved in organisational growth – being a club sponsor, mentor or coach.

In summary, according to what people told us, the key to getting the most out of Toastmasters to become a successful leader is to engage with the communications and leadership programmes, learn from feedback and results, apply what you have learned and make the materials your own. Good Luck!!

Jean Gamester, Thame Speakers Club, District 71

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