Which Way Did They Go? I’m Their Leader!


At the District 30 (Chicagoland) Toastmasters Spring Conference, the keynote speaker was Jana Barnhill, a past International President of Toastmasters.    In the past, we have had speakers who were champions of the World Championship of Public Speaking.    At this conference, we had somebody who was a champion of leadership at Toastmasters International.

In her talk “Which Way Did They Go?  I’m Their Leader”, Jana Barnhill gave some apropos advice which I definitely took to heart since I had earlier in the day been elected to the position of Division Governor which starts on July 1st.

  • Lead by Example–if you get in the trenches and work hard with your team, they will be willing to work hard for you
  • Everyone must know what is expected of them–you need to give them the locations of the gates they must go through, but you can allow them to figure out how to get to those gates
  • Know as much about the organization’s policies and procedures as possible–when you can answer a question from your team without having to say, “let me get back to you on that”, you will gain authority in their eyes
  • Seek advice wherever available–on the other hand, if you DON’T have the answer to a question, admit you don’t know and find out!
  • Achievers must be recognized–don’t take the achievements of your team for granted
  • Show respect to everyone–you were there once yourself, and so you need to extend your courtesy to those who may be asking something that to you is obvious
  • Be positive–“yes, you can” should be your motto
  • Have a sounding board–if you ARE negative, however, don’t be negative in front of your team, have a PRIVATE sounding board, preferably somebody outside the organization who doesn’t know the other personalities involved:   this will make them more objective when you listen to their complaints
  • Stay focused–there are so many demands on you and your team, keep reminding them what the focus is so it doesn’t get lost in all the noise
  • The person in charge takes full responsibility for any failures , but …
  • Full credit for success goes to the team!

What I liked about Jena Barnhill was, when I went to ask her a question after a talk, I didn’t get the feeling I was talking to a Past International President of Toastmasters.   She didn’t come across as a celebrity or royalty, but as just a more experienced leader in Toastmasters that anyone could go to for help or advice.    I am more confident of my ability to enter the Division Director position because I intend to follow her advice she gave at our Spring Conference!

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