Leadership can come in all shapes and sizes and I contend that everyone has some leadership ability in them. It’s time to stop judging the size of it. It could be raising your hand for a question, sticking up for yourself, being a parent or a good sibling, asking for a raise or any number of things. Leadership doesn’t only come in global phenomenon size. Let’s stop judging and start celebrating the little ways we act as leaders.
One of the ways I’ve chosen to practice my leadership skills is public speaking. I joined the international organization Toastmasters because it was the only place I found that I could practice those skills on a regular basis. Before you say, no that’s not for me, no way, that makes me uncomfortable, understand that this is exactly what the organization is for. Prior to joining, most of my speaking engagements were eulogies, but I had other things I wanted to share that would indeed contribute to the leader I wanted to be. Someone suggested Toastmasters and although I was filled with trepidation, I investigated it.
The group was welcoming and there were a variety of levels, some with more expertise and others like myself, completely new. The variety of backgrounds in the group was intriguing, we had engineers, entrepreneurs, and even an organic farmer. People joined for reasons including not feeling comfortable speaking up at work, a new political career, a need for a community, as well as a desire to learn new skills. Whatever the reason, there was a speech or a table topic to discuss.
Feeling Safe May Require a Community
I assumed I might join this Toastmasters group and then leave after I’d learned enough. Two years later, I still use it as a practice forum when I’m starting to develop a new speech. I’ve gotten more comfortable getting up in front of a crowd and have been able to control, if not eliminate my speech ticks, now that I’m aware of them. Importantly, I love seeing how the people in our group have improved and gotten more comfortable getting up and speaking in front of our group. One woman watched for a year, declining every invitation to speak until she mustered up the courage to give her first speech called “The Ice Breaker,” an introduction to who she is. We were all thrilled! If speaking is a challenge or uncomfortable, what better than a supportive and non-judgmental environment to practice and learn.
One of my biggest accomplishments came from my experience in Toastmasters. I got accepted to give a TEDx talk called, “Why You Should Spill Your Secrets.” What started as a six-minute inspirational speech in Toastmasters developed into a bigger talk after I was accepted. It was a dream come true and I might not have done it except for the practice time I’d had in front of our group. Beyond my nervousness, I thought about that one person who I might positively impact by sharing my story. I wanted to be a leader for that one imaginary person, to let them know if I could do something, they could too. I knew if I told the story from that perspective, then it would be successful no matter what. Leadership can be quiet and still carry great impact. If not for my experience in Toastmasters, I don’t know if I would have obtained this dream.
The Stepping Stones of Inner Strength
Whatever it is you want to achieve, appreciate the inner strength you’re putting forth and be the leader you want to be for yourself. The little things you do contribute to your own leadership capabilities. Be inspired by other and celebrate the small things too. These are the stepping stones to leadership. Toastmasters is one way I’ve found to increase both my speaking skills and my leadership capabilities and I’ve had a lot of fun in the process. It’s been an opportunity for both personal and professional growth and made me into a better leader.
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