Vice President Education–being a Servant-Leader

1.  Introduction

An area governor once wore a shirt that read “Servant Leader” when he came to visit our Toastmasters Club.   I asked him about it, and I asked, “okay, I’m confused–which role are you advocating for, that of being a servant or being a leader?”    He said “both” in an enthusiastic voice.    During the meeting, I was thinking about what he said, and I had a chance to discuss it with him afterwards.    “To lead is to influence others”, he said, “and one of the best ways to influence others is to show them that you are there to help them achieve their goals.”   I think I understand, “and so in serving them in their goals, you make it easier to lead them to YOUR goal, right?”    He smiled and said, “that’s it!”

All the 7 club officer posts in Toastmasters (Sergeant at Arms, Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President Public Relations,  Vice President Membership, Vice President Education, President) have an opportunity to serve others in the club, but this opportunity is especially prominent in the role of Vice President Education.   I am soon to take over this role in my new Toastmasters Club, and so I have been reflecting on my previous experience, and the concept of a Servant-Leader has therefore been very much on my mind.    This post is to describe this idea a little bit more in terms of the Vice President Education role.

2.  Goals of the Members–Educational

The Vice President Education helps create the environment in general and the programs in particular which allow club members to fulfill their educational goals within Toastmasters.    The educational goals of club members usually are, at first, to complete their Competent Communicator awards by doing the 10 speech projects from the Competent Communicator manual.    But the unsung virtue of Toastmasters is the leadership program, where a person can obtain the Competent Leader award by doing 10 leadership projects from the Competent Leader manual.

3.  Goals of the Members–Leadership

Many people in joining Toastmasters don’t see the virtue of that program, so it is up to the Vice President Education to tell them about its benefits.    Then, if the members choose not to pursue it, well, that’s okay.   Don’t be afraid to tout the benefits of the program–you’d be surprised how many members find out about it only months after joining Toastmasters, and wish they had started pursuing the leadership program from the day of their very first meeting.    This is why orienting the members within 2 weeks of their receiving their Competent Communicator and Competent Leadership manuals is important.   You show them all the possibilities that exist for their development, but you also keep them from being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task before them by showing that they should just take it one speech or one supporting role at the meeting at a time.

4.  Goals of the Members–Mentoring

Many people are caught up in the initial excitement of being a Toastmasters member, but then they go to write their first speech, and it may be the first speech they have ever written in their life.   What do they do NOW?    To help with the process of writing and practicing one’s speech for performance at a meeting, it is extremely important for new members to have a mentor, at least for the first three speeches out of the 10 in the Competent Communicator Manual.   The importance of this cannot be overstated:   in my previous club, we had someone who had narrowed her choice of clubs down to two, including ours, but picked ours in the final analysis because we had a mentor program and the other club didn’t.   She felt she would be better guided through the process if she had someone “on tap” for advice whenever she needed it in order to complete the first speeches of her manual.

4.  Goals of the Members–Awards and Recognition

Let’s say the members keep plugging away at their speech projects or leadership projects, and they get to the point where they complete the Competent Communicator or Competent Leader Manuals.   Make sure to have the entire club celebrate the event.   It will motivate the person receiving the award, of course, but it also motivates the other members who see by witnessing this kind of event that the club values their efforts.

5.  Goals of the Members–Beyond the Comfort Zone

If you see a person that is blossoming at the club level and proceeding past their 6th speech in the Competent Communicator manual, you should introduce them to the world beyond  the club in the form of Speech Contests.   This really helps hone their speech-writing and speech performing skills by having them compete at successively higher levels of the Area, Division, and District (and beyond that, for the International Speech Contest held each spring).   My favorite description of the speech contest came from Lance Miller, a past World Champion of Public Speaking, who was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Leadership Conference for District 30 (Chicagoland area) a few weeks ago.

He said the purpose should not be to “win the contest”, i.e., to be better than the other speakers, but to better than you were in the past, by uncovering and filling in weaknesses in your speechcraft.   You should explain it that way to those in the club whom you would like to see try to enter the speech contest.    When I entered the contest for the first time, I won at the club, and then at the area level, but didn’t win at the division level.   I was disappointed, but somehow I figured out instinctively what Lance Miller explained explicitly at that conference:    that I was nonetheless satisfied that I had tried to enter the contest, because I was a better speaker for having done it.

6.   Goals of the Members = Goals of the Club

If you engage your members from the start by going through an initiation process (explaining how the program works), continuing their education through the mentor program, and celebrating their successes along the way, you will serve your members by helping them reach their goals.   What’s in it for the club?   There is the Distinguished Club Plan, a plan which calls for your club to achieve the following goals:

  1. Two CC awards
  2. Two more CC awards
  3. One ACB, ACS, or ACG award
  4. One more ACB, ACS, or ACG award
  5. One CL, ALB, ALS, or DTM award
  6. One more CL, ALB, ALS, or DTM award
  7. Four new members
  8. Four more new members
  9. A minimum of four club officers trained during each of the two training periods
  10. On time payment of membership-renewal dues accompanied by the names of renewing members for one period and on-time submission of one club officer list

If your club gets 5 out of the 10 goals, your club becomes a Distinguished Club; 7 out of 10 goals achieved and your club becomes a Select Distinguished Club; 9 out of 10 goals achieved and your club becomes a President’s Distinguished Club.  Notice that 6 out of the 10 goals relate to the Vice President Education’s role.   If your members can achieve their education and leadership goals, then and ONLY then will your club be able to reach its goals of becoming a Distinguished Club.

7.  Conclusion

The Distinguished Club program at Toastmasters is the program through which you can translate your ability to serve the members in their own individual goals to becoming a leader of your club towards success.




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