My Experience with Toastmasters

Around 2 and a half years back was when I joined toastmasters,The reason: Just to be able to speak in front of people. I would have racy heart and butterflies in my stomach at just the thought of public speaking. But it was more than confidence in public speaking that I got. Some of the many things are:

  1. Confidence in myself
    There were so many things that I thought I could not do but did them eventually. Speaking in front of a diverse audience, running a meeting, running a contest, a club, etc. With the support of my club mates and toastmasters community I did all those things. Continuously pushing my limit made me believe that I can do anything I set my eyes to.
  2. Endless opportunities
    You will be surprised to realize how limited your thoughts are when you interact with people from around the world. I often get feeling that I belong to two different worlds.
  3. Endless opportunities
    I always wanted to do something of my own. But never thought I could do it. But by working as the president of “Buddies” I was able to explore myself like my strength, my weaknesses as a leader and it led me to realize about so many things I am capable of doing.

It’s a very cliched statement but I must say that joining Toastmasters was the best decision of my life.

Right Style at the Right Time

What is your Leadership Style?

Have you wondered what your leadership style is? How many of you have taken a test to determine your leadership style? How many of you have never done that?

On the internet, with the right keywords, you can find many different tests and quizzes to find out what your leadership style is. I did a couple of them, including the quiz provided to us in the Leadership modules of the Toastmasters International curriculum where I scored highest in Democratic and Affiliative leadership styles. This seems to ring true with me, as I often value what other minds might think and I want to collaborate with every member of my team. However, I have learnt that it may not be the right approach to always be democratic.

The Different Lists of Leadership Style

Before I explain why, let me first touch on the fact that there are many different lists and categorizations of leadership styles. What list will you see yourself categorized in? It depends on where you go and what quiz you take.

However, I found that an early study performed in 1939 and used as an authoritative text in the U.S. Army (circa. 1973) categorizes leaders into just three: the Autocratic leader, the Participative leader and the Free-rein or Laissez-faire leader. As you can see from the very simple diagram below, the Autocratic leader assumes all of the decision-making power, while the Free-rein leader delegates all of the decision-making power to the other team members, followers or employees.

You may think the free-rein leader is lazy, but an effective free-rein leader can delegate all power to the team as the team is able to perform well without the leader’s presence. Similarly, an autocratic leader could be viewed as a dictator like Hitler, but an effective autocratic leader can move a team forward quickly through emergencies and critical situations. We will see later how that is helpful.

What is interesting to note here is that the Participative leader, whom we may also see as Democratic, Affiliative, Coaching, etc., involves all their followers and employees in the decision making process, and value their followers’ input as much as they value their own.

Applying the Right Style at the Right Time

While you may find that you are dominant in a particular leadership style, you should be aware that the style that you must apply would not only depend on your preference or character, but also on the situation. Every situation is unique, and there are several factors or forces that may come into play in each situation.

For example, if there’s very little available time to democratically discuss options with your team members, you may need to switch to an autocratic style to quickly make decisions and get your team moving to tackle the urgent situation. Such style is often used by leaders of emergency response teams deployed in areas hit by natural disasters, or in military groups deployed in a war zone.

In another example, if your team members are already well-versed on how to accomplish certain tasks and how to make effective decisions to accomplish those tasks, you may give them free-rein over those areas. This frees you up to use your time and energy to make more critical decisions for your team.

The Leadership Continuum

The three categories have been further expanded to a Continuum of Leadership Behavior to better describe how a team and its leader may start out, and then further grow. A very new team with fresh or inexperienced following members may start out at the extreme left side, where all decisions are made by the leader, and the team simply follows the directives.

As the team grows and matures, they would start shifting towards the right side, where the other team members would take up an increasing share of the decision-making responsibility from the leader. At the far right, the team becomes fully autonomous, where all team members are fully trained and equipped to make all the decisions necessary to perform their tasks or complete their project. At this juncture, the leader may merely oversee the team, or even step out of the team to create more teams for other project ventures.

What is your Dominant Leadership Style?

So, do you want to find out what your dominant leadership style is? You can, with a short questionnaire. Simply scan this QR Code or visit the link below, then answer the 30 questions. You will be told what your dominant leadership style is, and given some additional information about it.

Now that you know what your dominant leadership style is, also remember to apply the Right Style at the Right Time. And remember:

Don’t aim high to be a catatonic leader. Aim well to be a dynamic leader.

References

Clark, Donald. “Leadership Styles.” Leadership Styles, Big Dog, Little Dog; Knowledge Jump, 17 Aug. 2015, http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadstl.html.

Written by Arun

Build your confidence with us

Dear friends,

My name is Bruce Yu, and I’m the current President of Buddies Online Toastmaster Club. Days ago, our Vice President of Public Relations invited me to write something about communication and leadership skills which we’ve been practicing in Buddies. I’ve been thinking of what my essay should cover and how to help you learn more about Buddies.

As you may know, Toastmaster International is a non-profit organization and it mainly provides a positive and supportive learning experience to all its members to improve their public speaking skills and transform them into leaders. It has thousands of online, offline and hybrid clubs, Buddies is one of them, an online club.

I believe if you are here reading this, you would probably be interested in what Buddies can support its members to grow and how it can transfigure its members into excellent speakers and powerful leaders. So finally I’ve decided to share my personal observation to tell you how amazing it feels to be a buddy.

There are 4 advantages Buddies has to help its members grow rapidly and professionally.

1. A professional educational system

Toastmaster International provides a comprehensive and systematic educational system that helps its members to accelerate their professional and personal growth. Once becoming a member of Buddies, you will be able to access all materials on the Toastmaster International website to soar in your chosen path.

2. A team of encouraging and supporting officers

In order to maintain good meeting quality and steady members’ growth, Buddies officers aim to meet the members’ skill building needs. Buddies provides various programs to boost members’ morale and solve members’ problems, including but not limited to mentoring programs, diverse workshops, speech-a-thons, speech contests and many more.

3. A stress-free environment

Members are provided with a positive and supportive learning environment so that they can practice and learn from their mistakes. Learning from mistakes is a faster way to master new skills. During meetings, speakers are given valuable feedback from evaluators and the audience, so they can grow accumulatively and steadily.

4. Other supportive services

We have created a series of services to assist all the members along with their journey in Buddies.

a) A speech scheduling system, in which members can sign up as a speaker, evaluator or a meeting facilitator;

b) An effective communication platform, where members can communicate without abrasion, share ideas, and practice impromptu speaking skills.

 c) Meeting invitations and meeting minutes: members would receive an invitation before each meeting to prepare relative information to the meeting theme and a meeting minutes after every meeting to recap, most importantly, meeting recordings would be shared among members to review and refine their skills.

Are you expecting to have such an amazing experience with us?

Are you eager to grow yourself in a vibrant circumstance?

Are you ready to explore the fun and learning something new with us?

You are welcome to join our meetings and enjoy the time with us!

Written by Bruce Yu

Visualize your path across all domains, including oratory

Powerful visualization. I fancy those words. Just the mere syntactical representation impresses the underlying meaning. Linguists refer to such words as autological. “Powerful” sounds powerful. “Visualization”, likewise, immediately acquires some multi-dimensional aspect.

Visualize something you desire. Really strain to construct a strong visual. It’s a strain on only your imagination. It will cause you no harm. Be content. But do that, and you will, in all likelihood, attain it.

The key lies in the visual. The strength must be such that it becomes very realistic. And whatever reality preceded quickly becomes legacy.

Now. The merits of a powerful visualization apply as much to your communication abilities as to anything else.

In Toastmasters meetings, I observe much speech critique. The evaluation role, in fact, is among my favorites. Gesture less, gesture more, gesture meaningfully, modulate or calm that voice, slow down, increase the pace, pronounce that differently. I’ve heard such words, and many others of purpose. I’ve said them myself.

But I believe such critique secondary in impact. Secondary to what the speaker really desires, or rather, to the visualization the speaker domesticates.

Not every speaker carries a visual. I can understand that. Many don’t know what they really want besides to better speak. That notion of ‘better’ commonly associates with characteristics of generally accepted public speech. But what does that mean to you?

You might identify certain role models as exemplary public speakers. Perhaps you’ve become accustomed to watching seminars of your preferred success coach, whose communication traits you identify with effective communication. Or maybe you defer to motion pictures as a model for impactful deliveries.

As for myself, I experiment with varying presentation styles, some of which have notably deviated from my genuine preference for ‘less is more.’ I prefer less overall motion for greater energy concentrated in the face and vocals. Note, I emphasize energy, not volume.

With that in mind, I’m seeking to scale back down to the minimal of gestures. And then reiterate, transitioning from one extreme to the other as the two trajectories gradually converge.

On the flip side, not only do I find myself lacking certain affinity for meaningful gesturing, but don’t particularly appreciate gestures in general. I don’t have the desire to adapt that presentation method as a permanent characteristic, be it considered indisputable in effective communication. Nor do I seek to capture grand audiences with sensational oratory. My ambition I focus on a more intimate scale.

Each type of stage caters to a subset of presentational qualities, not all universal. And each effective speaker best conveys a style not necessarily held as a standard. It’s about what works for you. And the more parameters you conceive around what you want, the easier you’ll arrive at a concrete visual.

My strongest visuals of effective speech I identify with reserved yet impacting figures. Have you watched the early film noir of Hitchock, Wilder, or Goulding? You would often observe a personage to hardly move a muscle or blink, yet transmit raw, explosive energy; energy seemingly concentrated above the neck, but originating from deep within. This approach is by no means exclusive to traditional cinema, but I more associate it with that period. The technique represents what I arrived to identify as the strongest visual of a powerful speaker. And consequently I find it most natural to assimilate.

The visual may originate from even a literary source. If created with sufficiently descriptive finesse, a character can evoke an image of colossal impact. You can realistically imagine this person, with all the corporal and vocal particularities.

Once you have the visual firmly welded, you may still find your physical self misaligned. I certainly experience this to varying extent. But fear not. It will arrive with time. You will converge with your visual if it’s one you believe in. Be persistent, and return to the visual daily. Make it a ritual. Whatever your pursuit, have a visual.

Written by Vitaly Parnas