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