By Ginette François, DTM
The role of President differs greatly from the role of Vice President Education, which I have done before.
This year, during my mandate, I had to face several challenges that I did not have when I was VP Education. At the very beginning, I presented my vision to my leadership team to inform them. One of my priorities was to achieve the goals for the Distinguished Club Program (DCP). I often told them that my natural way of leading is by example.
I am a person who likes to be challenged and the role of Club President was very appealing to me after I completed my role as VP Education. It was a logical next step for me. At first, I started this role similar to the VP Education role, but what I noticed along the way, or rather quickly, is that these two roles are quite different. I discovered that my colleagues had their own way of doing things that was more individualistic or controlling. On my side, my vision was one of teamwork and cooperation.
So there were some conflicts or tensions that complicated our relationships and that, I am sure, made many of us think. The atmosphere of goodwill and cooperation that I had initiated in the beginning deteriorated so that after it could improve. We continued to meet the goals for the DCP by giving speeches regularly, posting announcements on Meetup and referring friends and colleagues from other Toastmasters clubs to join us as members.
We’ve had great success since at the beginning of the year we had about 10 members and now we only have 2 members left to reach our goal of 20 members in the club. Our speeches and Table Topics® are very entertaining so our guests probably felt that they were welcomed and that they could grow and learn the educational basics of Toastmasters with us. This experience was also a great learning experience for the club executives and the next generation will surely be better prepared for the next year.
The skills I learned include patience and listening. With time, everything settled down and we had the calm after the storm. Being President is like a race against the clock with all the goals and work to be done. You have to work hard to get there on time or you miss the boat. My proactivity in motivating my team by example has been effective. I am proud of our collective contributions to this success.
Communication skills and leadership go hand in hand. Both are important. You also have to use a lot of tact and empathy to better understand your team. You set the tone at the beginning, you lead by example and then the team members follow almost naturally. We all learn together and never forget our mission and values as Toastmasters. I strongly encourage our members to take a leadership role. It is a winning and rewarding experience.