Effective Leadership at #Toastmasters International–a talk by Past International President Alfred Herzing

Today at Chapman University the Leadership and Communication Education or LACE training was given for the Founder’s District of Toastmasters International. Most of the sessions were devoted specifically to training club officers for their respective offices in their clubs. However, one of the added values you get by attending LACE training is the opportunity to go to additional presentations given by prominent members of the Toastmasters International community. At today’s LACE training, Alfred Herzing, a Past International President of Toastmasters International, gave a presentation on Effective Leadership and this blog post gives an outline of his talk.

Alfred Herzing explained that ever since he has been in Toastmasters International, he has been promoting its value in developing the leadership potential of its members. In today’s talk, he wanted to go over some of the aspects of being an effective leader, to use Toastmasters International as an example of how you can develop those skills, and to give some indications of how those skills can be used in the business world.

The six aspects of being an effective leader are:

1. Create Vision

The vision you first need to create should contain the high-level objectives you want to obtain. It cannot be some vague idea of yours like “I will leave this organization in better shape than it was when I got here.” What in the world does that mean? In Toastmasters, there is something called a Distinguished Club Program which outlines 10 goals for each club to perform in the categories of a) education, b) membership, and c) organization over the course of one year.

2. Develop Plan

Like any project, there are the major constraints of a) scope, b) time, and c) budget. The Distinguished Club Program has the major constraint of a) scope in the form of the 10 goals that need to be performed, and b) time in the form of the 1 year that they have to be performed in; the budget is not a major consideration, however, being that Toastmasters is a non-profit organization.

The Distinguished Club Program puts forth the following goals for each club:



1. Education Earn 2 Competent Communicator Awards
2. Earn 2 more Competent Communicator Awards
3. Earn 2 Advanced Communicator Awards
4. Earn 2 more Advanced Communicator Awards
5. Earn 2 Leadership Awards
6. Earn 2 more Leadership Awards
7. Membership Gain 4 new members
8. Gain 4 more new members
9. Organization Have 4 out of 7 club officers trained
10. Send in club officer list, club dues in a timely manner

There are awards for the clubs that meet half or more of these goals:

Number of goals obtained

Level of Award


President’s Distinguished Club


Select Distinguished Club


Distinguished Club

Each club needs to create its own Club Success Plan which outlines how the club will fulfill each of the 10 goals mentioned above, in particular, who in the club will earn the Educational Awards needed for goals 1 through 6.

This is an example of a club officer going from Creating a Vision (having an excellent club) to Developing a Plan that is specific.

3. Share Goals

The club officers need to communicate the plan to achieve the club vision with the club members themselves.

4. Obtain Buy-In

The plan should be communicated in such a way as to obtain the buy-in of the club members. They need to believe that they will benefit from it and that their efforts as will not only benefit themselves individually but will help the club as a whole.

5. Delegate Smartly

Delegating does not mean dumping responsibility. It requires you to

  • Assess strengths of specific members,
  • Make assignments specific, measurable
  • Cast assignments in language of opportunity, not as a burden (“I picked you because I thought you would do well with this”)
  • If response to assignment is “no”, then listen to objections and try to overcome them (perhaps giving the person reassurance, additional resources, etc.)
  • Follow up, and track progress, but don’t micromanage

6. Resolve Conflicts

Conflicts will naturally arise in a group, and they can be healthy for an organization if handled well. They can arise because of:

  • Ego or control issues
  • Unclear goals or differing goals
  • Different perspectives or paradigms

Here are some of the ways to resolve these issues:

  • Discuss conflict with team and act as a mediator between conflicting members
  • Reinforce higher vision of overall goal
  • If one member is transgressing ground rules of behavior, then address that person in private
  • Don’t be afraid to remove toxic member from group

In the end, you should realize that to be a leader is like the description of the President of the United States being a public servant. You are there to serve the members of the group and to lead them by facilitating their achievements of club goals.


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