The Laughing Toastmaster: Where Leaders are Made!

But What if You’re Afraid?

In my last annual review, it was pointed out I lack ‘leadership skills’. I couldn’t agree more. I’m a hardcore FOLLOWER and like it that way. If things go wrong, I’m one of those people that say, ‘Just following orders …’ and point a finger to the ‘order giver’, i.e., my boss.

I know this goes against our Toastmaster values. Our organization is where Leaders are Made! Not Where Leaders are Afraid! I talk to my mentor and he suggests I look into applying for a Leadership Role. Not mentioning that ‘Never Volunteer’ is also part of my work ethic, I reluctantly agree to do some research.

First things first – if you’re going to be a leader, you’d better define its origins. Leader comes from the Old English ‘leden’, meaning ‘to direct or show the way’, so make sure you’re not mistaken for an EXIT sign.

‘Leader’ is also the name of a newspaper in Wales, an IT company, a ballet school and lord have mercy, an online funeral service. When people are looking for a leader, it’s not someone guiding them towards life’s last station. Unless you want to arrange your own funeral, which wouldn’t make you a leader, but a ‘hero’ in the eyes of your surviving family members.

Contrary to popular belief, a leader is NOT ‘Someone who has the potential to blow up the world in a mushroom cloud’. Those are just a bunch of megalomaniacs, narcissists who as teenagers couldn’t get a date for The Prom. The fact they could be crazy enough to press the red button is very alarming, but would solve all my debt and financial problems.

A leader by definition is simply ‘A person who leads or commands a group, organization or country’.

Humm… I can’t help but think of Ikea’s founder, globally convincing us that building our own furniture is acceptable … even fun! Never mind the left-over parts. Or Mark Zuckerman luring me into giving all my personal details just to be ‘liked’. Finally (and most frightening), ‘Los del Rio’ leading millions of people around the world into dancing LA MACARENA.

Research continues with something called the Natural leader, not to be confused with naturist leader … usually an old crumbly that shrivels up in the cold.  A Natural leader is someone born into the role. It’s that attention seeking newborn lying among 40 sleeping babies who suddenly starts crying thus making all others follow. If your baby is the first to howl – rest assured you have given birth to a leader. There is a slight chance he could also be a psychopath who will not rest until he owns the world (think Putin) and/or avoid taxation (think Amazon’s Jeff Bezos).

Don’t worry if you’re one of the wailing followers (like me) because it’s possible to ‘Learn to Lead’. Yup. All you have to do is buy a book. From ‘THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER (deceitful as it takes more than one minute to read) to bestsellers, ‘What they DON’T teach you at Harvard Business School’ and ‘What they DO teach you at Harvard Business School’, making it possible to get your degree for a mere £4.53 + £8.85 respectively.

Among the many types of leaders, there is the Introverted leader. This is bound to be a huge success as they are usually too self-conscious to give out any orders.

Another crowd favorite is the leader that does MBWA (Management by Walking Around). Particularly if said individual walks out of the office murmuring ‘I can’t take it I can’t take it …’ as finance directors tend to do on a regular basis.

On a serious note, there are great leaders out there, some who I have been lucky enough to meet and work with. What makes them true leaders is they put their people first, before organizations, shareholders and self-interest.

These individuals provide life messages that stay with you forever. Below some examples close to my heart.

  • Rupa Datta: ‘Leadership is about having the courage to make decisions’.
  • Diane Richardson: ‘Leadership is about reaching objectives and making sure people enjoy the ride’.
  • My Grandmother: ‘Love many, trust few and follow those you do’.

So much for being afraid, I am now determined to follow our District Leaders and learn how to lead. What about you?

——— Sonia Aste is an engineer, writer and comedienne who is determined to learn how to lead. She is a member of the Riverside Communicators Club.
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