How to RISE to the Occasion of Being a Leader

Yesterday at the Winter 2015 installment of the Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) here in Chicagoland District 30 of Toastmasters International, Mark Brown, the 1995 World Champion of Public Speaking, was the keynote speaker.

In yesterday’s post, “ATE Ways Leaders Get Things Done”, Mark Brown outlined 8 traits that leaders should possess who want to empower their team, as opposed to aggrandizing power to themselves and thereby undermining their team, as poor leaders do.    This was based on Mark Brown’s second presentation at the Winter TLI that was done mid-morning.

After lunch, Mark Brown gave his final keynote presentation of the day.   Ethel Goatee, our District Director, coined a phrase RISE, which stands for Respect-Integrity-Service-Excellence, at the beginning of our current Toastmaster year which runs from July 2015 until next June.   These were the 4 characteristics she felt that leaders should possess, whether in Toastmasters, at the workplace, or in another non-profit or community organization.    Mark Brown took this acronym, and spoke for about 45 minutes about what each of these 4 characteristics meant to him.   That was the basis of his presentation, which I summarize below.


You need to respect your team members, of course, but you can’t respect others until you respect yourself.    Restoring work-life balance is simply a matter of restoring respect for the integrity of your body, mind, and spirit.    Stephen Covey, in his work “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” talks about P-PC balance, meaning “production” and “production capacity.”   Production is the capital that you expend to get things done.   Production capacity is what you do to build up that capital.    Near-sighted managers will ask their team members to always be in the “P” or “production” cycle, but leaders will have the wisdom to encourage their team members to take time out for building up “production capacity”–by resting, or studying and thereby sharpening one’s skills.   A leader HAS to start with him or herself, however, in this endeavor.


There are three key questions people will ask about you to determine whether you have integrity.

  • Can I trust you?   Whatever happened to the concept of the “gentleman’s agreement”, where a handshake and a verbal commitment were considered enough?
  • Can I depend on you?    If I give you a task, do I have to spend time and energy following up or can I relax knowing that you will either accomplish it or tell me quickly if you cannot?
  • Can I defend you?   If your integrity is challenged, can I give evidence of your character based on examples of your past conduct?


Service is not, as is sometimes supposed, what you do for others, but it is who you choose to be at each moment of your life.   My mother had a saying, “work is love made visible.”  If you truly love the people that surround you, work or sacrifice is not sacrifice of yourself as much as it is an expression of gratitude towards others.   You do not do it for the promise of a reward.

There’s a saying I have that there are three stages of being a Toastmaster.  The first is when you are afraid to get on stage.   That’s the reason why people join Toastmasters in the first place, to get rid of their stage fright.  And then, the benefits of mastering public speaking start to accrue–people applaud when you do a speech!   How gratifying is that?

Well, that takes you to the second stage–when you are afraid to get off stage.   You are enjoying the limelight, and like the proverbial Jack Horner of the Mother Goose rhyme, you say to yourself “What a good boy [or girl] am I!”

There are some people who are stuck at this stage, blissfully unaware that there is a third stage of being a Toastmaster, when you know the right time to get on stage and the right time to get off stage.   In other words, you know that the message that you are giving is ultimately more important than the messenger.  This is when your passion for service takes over and your speaking is in service of the audience and not in service of your own ego.   That is the stage that all Toastmasters should strive for.


Your worst enemy can be the word “good”, if it is said in the context of meaning “good enough”.   You’ve heard of the phrase “good enough for government work”?    It implies that you are setting the standard too low.   Unfortunately, that’s what many of us do.   Because we want perfection that we feel cannot be achieved, we use that as an excuse to attempting to go farther, to do better–in short, to achieve excellence.

If you do achieve something, then celebrate!   But turn that period of celebration into a comma, not a period.   In other words, don’t rest on your, uh, laurels, but rather ask yourself:   is there more than I can do?   Is there more of my experience that I can share with my team?   Can I make a difference for my team by making a decision–or by letting them make a decision?

It is a privilege of a lifetime to be who you are.   But with that privilege comes a responsibility to help others be all that they can be.   If you exemplify this culture of excellence in your own life, people will be attracted to it because they will want to experience in their own lives.

Thus, the acronym of RISE–Respect, Integrity, Service, and Excellence–can truly be the touchstone of your future potential as a leader!!



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