Leading through Service
Definitions and terms can be strange things. They can evoke very specific ideas and perceptions, and usually these perceptions are most likely off the mark. One such term is the idea of a ‘leader’. Usually when we think of a leader, we think of a great person who has left an indelible mark upon the world, a great orator, someone with magnetic charisma or someone with a silver tongue that can hold sway over a crowd.
However, being in Toastmasters has taught me otherwise. It has taught me that leadership is a very humbling role; a role that brings about insight, self-awareness and gratitude through helping others.
When I was asked to be on my club committee, I was very hesitant. I dislike taking on work if I suspect I won’t deliver a good job. However, I was convinced otherwise through the tactful insistence of an amazing fellow Toastmaster, and I agreed to take on a committee role.
Being on the committee doesn’t necessarily mean that you only perform your elected role. It means you will aid, whenever and wherever necessary. Y ou go the extra mile to ensure a successful meeting whether it means arriving earlier than usual, cleaning up afterwards, doing multiple roles, and attending every session, and more, whether you are having a bad day or a fantastic day.
After a few months of great successes and educational failures on the committee, it dawned on me that I had grown. Things that had once scared me didn’t seem as scary; things that once rattled me, I could handle in my stride; and when things don’t go according to plan, I just made another plan. I realised that taking on a leadership role highlights the limits of your capabilities and how to push past them, and should you fail, then it’s no big deal; you’ve learnt another useful lesson. But most importantly, you learn that you have grown because you have served. You have been of service to your team, to your club, to your fellow Toastmasters and to your fellow earthlings.
Redefining your Definitions
The simple act of getting to a Toastmaster meeting early to help set up makes you grow, staying behind to clean up makes you grow, spending time patiently listening to someone’s struggles makes you grow, and finding ways to help your members makes you grow.
By this definition, everyone is a leader, because everyone can do these simple things. Taking the time and effort to consistently improve the situation makes you a leader. It’s a role that seeks no reward, or acknowledgement, it is a role that anticipates no glory or favour; but it is a role that brings about self-awareness and understanding. Leadership is about participation, and a willingness to take a step in the right direction every day. And as Toastmasters, we are all leaders in this regard.
I’m a believer in leading through action. Toastmasters expanded that view by making me realise that leadership is about service to others. Leadership is about getting involved and being present; and as much as Toastmasters is about the words we speak, I now know it’s more about the things that we do.