1. How important is ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Newness’ in an organization like Toastmasters that is structurally well defined?

The moment you asked me this question, I remembered the TV Show – “Master Chef” It has a competition called “The Mystery Box Challenge” Every participant is given a ‘mystery box’ which contains the same ingredients. Each person has to create a special dish using the contents in the box and one of the ingredients has to be the ‘hero’ of that dish. The time given is one hour. It is very interesting to watch contestants come up with remarkably different dishes using the same ingredients and equipment. Their creativity, passion and dexterity are simply amazing.

Toastmasters’ is no different. Even though the structure is well defined, you are free to bring in your own flavour and creativity to your style of communication and leadership. Structure in any system is required for streamlining the function and to make it predictable. It holds the system in place. But when you add creativity, newness and inspiration to the system, it becomes very exciting, interesting and captivating.

Toastmasters’ is a place where each one of us can inspire others at the same time experience newness. We need to be childlike in our enthusiasm to learn, explore, experience and share, to bring in the inspiration and newness so that it becomes an enjoyable experience.

2. How does the Toastmasters program change with the changing times, though our core remains strong in making leaders of tomorrow, how does the program adapt to the changing world of interactions as the world becomes more digitally attuned?

Toastmasters’ is an organisation for self-learning and the members who form this movement are united by one focus “Learning”. Learning happens best in a non-threatening, self-paced and encouraging environment. Toastmasters’ fundamentally facilitates this environment as enshrined in the “Club mission”. The process of learning remains the same though the medium or the ecosystem providing this learning may change. The Board of Directors is continuously evaluating the changes and working towards refining the program so that it continues to stay relevant to the next generation. Pathways is one such step towards adapting to the new world.

3. How important do you feel is the ‘connect’ of leaders & what suggestions would you probably give for a club to increase the exposure of all its’ members to district and division leaders on a more frequent basis?

Leaders are not those who have followers. Leaders are those who are following the principles of an institution consistently and also uphold the values of that institution. Any member experiencing such leaders will have his/her belief in that movement strengthened. To meet the leaders or get connected to leaders, the club can motivate its members to participate in Area, Division, District events as well as International Conventions. There are many people in Toastmasters who are not holding any leadership positions or titles but are ‘leaders’ in true sense. District events are great occasions to come in contact with such ‘Servant Leaders”

4. What is your message for the leaders of tomorrow?

Know your past leaders, learn from your current leaders and get ready to become a meritorious leader of tomorrow. Most of the leadership work happens away from the public gaze. A leader never gets the fame or public adulation received by a speech contest winner. The rewards of leadership are more internal, deeper and more self-satisfactory. Know that you can neither manage ‘time’ nor ‘people’; you can only manage yourself to get more out of your ‘time’ and your ‘team’. Lead Toastmasters with an attitude of service, and you will emerge as a winner in the game of life.

5. What do you believe is the mantra for the new members of Toastmasters, to shine as effective leaders in the future?

I believe the best way to become a leader is to be a ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull” In that book, Richard Bach weaves a beautiful story of a bird which encourages you to stretch your boundaries, experience new frontiers, explore your discomfort zones, respect your fellow human beings, never to bring down the dignity of self and others, and never to waver from your core values. You become an effective leader when you realise “The gull sees farthest who flies highest”.


Essence of Leadership

Essence of Leadership

Leadership for me, is defined in 6 simple words – “To grow and help others grow”

Why do you need to grow? It is because you cannot give what you do not have. There are many people who possess good hearts and the desire to give, yet they have very little to offer. Why? Because they have not first added value to themselves. I urge you to invest more in yourself. Spend more time in making yourself valuable. Spend more time in acquiring knowledge, new skills or gaining experience. You not only improve yourself but you also increase your ability to help others.

One of the benefits of volunteering for leadership roles in Toastmasters is that it forces you to learn new skills. The roles I played required me to read books, attend conferences, listen to audio books, and learn from better leaders. The maximum learning came from my interaction with young people who had so much to share about new ideas, modern technology and their own unique way of connecting with their peers. The skills I picked up, have helped me succeed both in business and personal spheres.

As you become more valuable, you will start getting opportunities to add value to other people. You will also start teaching people to be ‘self-improvers’. They say – ‘the goal of all teachers should be to equip students to get along without them’. Similarly the goal of all leaders should be to enable their followers to succeed without them. As you work with others and help them to better themselves, give them what they need so that they learn to take care of themselves. Teach them to find resources. Encourage them to get out of their comfort zone on their own. Point them towards additional people who can help them learn and grow. If you can help them to become lifelong learners, you will have given them an incredible gift.

You may have heard it said – “No one becomes rich unless he enriches another” When you enrich others by helping them grow and become better, you bring joy to them and to yourself. There is a Sanskrit saying – ‘Puthraath icheth parajayam” It means the greatest joy for a warrior is to be defeated in battle by his son. When your mentee surpasses you in his/her accomplishments, it gives you an indescribable happiness. I have been fortunate to experience this joy of being beaten in the game by my own mentees, both in communication and leadership. That makes the journey really worthwhile!

Lao Tzu sums it up beautifully when he says “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”
Let us all grow together and help others grow in service leadership.

Nagaraja Rao, DTM

About Decisions

About Decisions

“If you are reborn, what would you like to change in your life?”

Everyone who answers this question will think of few things that they would like to change.

Why so?

Because in life we all make decisions. Sometimes we feel happy for making a good decision and many times we regret for making a bad decision.

Can decisions be good or bad? Decisions are only decisions. There is nothing as good or bad decision. However all of us are we used to categorizing everything we do in life. Good – bad, beautiful – ugly, intelligent –dumb, artistic – rude, urban – rural, decent – indecent, faithful-unfaithful…the duality goes on. All these extreme classifications of duality only results in extreme emotions viz., feeling good or miserable.

But is there a way out? Yes I got a clue from a recent TED talk I heard from Mr. Khurshid Baltiwala. He shared in his talk that all his decisions were either RIGHT or CONVENIENT!

This was a very insightful stand on decisions. If we slightly change our habit from categorizing things from positions of extremes, then we can have a balanced approach to life and the resultant emotions.

Especially in case of DECISION MAKING if we categorize our decisions as RIGHT or CONVENIENT, then we remove the extreme tag of GOOD – BAD.

Every situation demands a decision from each one of us. A RIGHT decision is one which

may not be easy to execute
may be controversial
may or may not bring recognition
May make you stretch yourself beyond limits
may or may not bring people closer to you
may or may not bring the expected result

But RIGHT DECISIONS will give us one thing and that is the satisfaction at a deep level.

On the other hand a CONVENIENT decision is one which

Will be easy to execute
Will not be controversial
Will make you work in your comfort zone
May bring people closer to you
Will bring the result expected by you

But CONVENIENT DECISION will put our life few steps backwards or will make it remain in the same position, but never move forward in the real sense. Convenient decisions will give us temporary gratification/satisfaction and when we look back in life, it will give us a sense of regret.

We all make the RIGHT decision when we join Toastmasters. However slowly we move from the RIGHT zone to CONVENIENT zone. When we commit for a speaking assignment and stick to it, irrespective of the other commitments, we are in the RIGHT zone. On the other hand when we postpone our speaking commitments even for a slight discomfort, then we are in the CONVENIENT zone.

Life or Toastmasters if we practice to take the RIGHT decision, then the answer to the question “If you are reborn, what would you like to change in your life?” will always be “NOTHING”.