Not all of us get the opportunity to lead a country. Or a company. Or even a team.
We tend to think that this is the domain of the gifted. We are led to believe that somehow some chosen ones are destined for leadership roles, whilst other mere mortals (like ourselves perhaps?) are here to be the followers.
I recently had a very pleasant experience that proved to me that leadership – true leadership – is within anyone’s reach. I was in the process of completing some training through Toastmasters International and registered for a module called High Performance Leadership (HPL).
Toastmasters Leadership Training
To most people, Toastmasters is the place you go when you want to improve your public speaking. What they don’t know is that here the focus is not only on competent communication through the spoken word, but also, and equally so, on leadership. For one to reach their highest qualification, that of Distinguished Toastmaster, one needs to be equally competent in communication and leadership abilities. The HPL module is the pinnacle of that leadership journey.
I was again amazed at the high quality of the Toastmasters material. Not only was all the information there in one handy source; it was directly applicable to my everyday situations. The theory was supported by a project plan to make it your own in a very practical way. This was the perfect marriage of theory and practiczal application!
I learned that to become a servant leader you have to see your task at hand through the lens of the six dimensions of service leadership (see Figure 1). By bringing a vision and values, direction, persuasion, support, development and appreciation to the team members, you can become the servant leader of a high performing team
Figure 1. The Six Dimensions of Service Leadership
The course material supplies guidance to lead you through what you, as the leader, needs to do to ensure success. No less than 23 actions are required (see Table 1). Although this sounds exhausting and complicated, in practice I found it to be fairly simple to follow, and you can rest assured that you will cover all the aspects of leadership.
Table 1 23 Acts of Servant Leadership
In the end, I chose a business process as my HPL project. A key decision maker was leaving the company. His successor had to be found and leadership transferred to the newcomer. The project’s vision was to see a smooth transition with minimal disruption to the management team whilst maintaining high staff morale through this time of change and potential uncertainty. The HPL process ensured that all objectives were reached. The result was indeed that smooth transition that was envisioned.
Through the process, I was happy to learn that other Toastmasters used more everyday projects for their HPLs. They have become servant leaders through such diverse projects as organising a family event (one lady did a wedding, another had to plan a funeral), leading a Parent Teachers Association, planning a trip or hosting a fundraising BBQ. These proved that leadership skills are needed at all levels of society.
A word of caution though: Although one can practice to be a servant leader through many a project, it is the more complex one with a sizable team of followers that allows you to practice and master all aspects of servant leadership. After all, the test of the true leader is the attraction and retention of followers!
This blueprint Toastmasters supplied was found to be an ideal tool to master servant leadership.
Today I use it in my business and with my clients. Not only does it allow them to be more successful leaders by serving better, it helps them create a better environment around what they do and where they go. The end product is a society of servant leaders.
Are you ready to become a servant leader?
Read more about Toastmasters on their website: www.toastmasters.org