When we join Toastmasters, we begin a journey that plays on our emotions. When we see and hear senior Toastmasters speak fluently, confidently, and powerfully, we realize how much we lack those skills. We desire to be similar but shy away from preparing to be a similar speaker.
When we see other beginners struggle with the same issue, we are passively happy and a feeling of “I am not alone” overtakes us. We continue with this sense of false companionship as we see others falter like us. We mutually share encouraging words and a typical one with no real intent is – As many a times as we fall to the ground, that many times, we should not fail to RISE. The twist of words sounds encouraging but behind that veil of encouragement, there is a desire, I should do better, and others should say, “I am better”.
When we are not voted the best speaker, we think, “I am not worth it”. The struggle continues week after week and at times our emotions reach the depth of desperation when we think, “I never will be”
Notice the play of emotions – “I aspire to be” versus “I am better” versus “I am not worth it” versus “I never will be”. In this mix of emotions a strange brew is brewing and, when it reaches boiling point, a different set of emotions emerge – “I can be” to “I will be” and to “ I must be”
The transformation is clearly noticeable. What better role model can the once hesitant beginner-turned-seasoned speaker be for succeeding generations of beginners? His confidence grows, his stature grows and his recognition grows. At this point, leadership comes knocking at his door.
Leadership takes you to a different level, a different platform, and a different league. Fame, power, and influence is at stake and a taste of these can be very addictive. To continuously enjoy the limelight more fame, more power and more influence is the fodder. It then becomes a double-edged sword without a sheath.
If we take a step back into the real world, we see that in human history, a desire to be a Leader is at the bottom of war, struggle, and conflict. There is a saying, Power corrupts, and Absolute Power corrupts absolutely. There is also a saying, the ride to fame is a roller coaster ride. It is a wave that does not last. Influence is the backbone of manipulation. It is based on a barter system – I scratch your back, You scratch my back. The desire to be a leader exposes us to these temptations that dilute Value, merit, and objectivity.
If desire to be a leader has such dire consequences, what are we trying to achieve at Toastmasters?
At Toastmasters, we have the tag line “Where leaders are made”. Are we risking the production of leaders wielding double-edged swords? Or are we producing leaders with swords in the sheath? As we all know Toastmasters is our experimental platform, where we learn. What better place than to practice Leadership that does not harm, yet it is as powerful as a double-edged sword?
How is it practiced in our experimental world of Toastmasters?
- Power attached to any post is for a short period. Power like a river should flow, not stagnate.
- Fame is a gradual and matured process – not a meteoric rise. A steep rise may result in a steep fall.
- Influence is tempered by value based objective actions devoid of personal interest.
What better place to hone these elements of Leadership skills than at the Toastmasters? There are plenty of opportunities at the Club, Area, Division, District, Regional and International levels. Do we need to crave for leadership positions for the sake of power, fame and influence or do we take leadership position to prepare ourselves to be leaders, when needed in the real world?
Toastmasters provide an ideal ground for preparation and practice. We should not miss the point here – leadership positions within Toastmasters is not the end. It is a transitory stage where leaders are prepared for the real world outside of Toastmasters. Every form of human activity needs a good leader. The scope is endless.
There is a saying, when the student is ready, the Master appears. Likewise, when the Leader is ready, the World calls. The bottom line – do not aspire to be a Leader for the sake of fame, power, and influence. Prepare, Prepare and Prepare to be a Leader. The real world is waiting for a prepared leader.