When I was at university and planning my future I saw myself as a geeky software developer who sits all day long at his desk and writes great software. I’m rather introverted individual by nature so that sort of job really appealed to me. You don’t need to interact too much with the rest of the world, but at the same time you can create, build, contribute and see the fruition of your work helping other people doing their jobs. I started as I freelance developer, joined couple of start-ups and in couple of years joined a big multinational company. It was in 2004 when the mobile development revolution started and I joined a small group that was asked to develop mobile applications for smartphones.
I was one of the couple of developers in the team. I was good, I wasn’t the best, but somehow I found myself being the one who communicated with the rest of the business, who volunteered to do also non-development work. It was very uncomfortable for me. I felt that there are others better equipped, better communicators, more extroverted. But I didn’t give up. I pushed forward, continued to volunteer for tasks that even scared me and in couple of months I led a team, I lead a project and my transformation into a leader started.
What is leadership?
Gates, Branson, Jobs, Obama. What have these names in common? These people are leaders. They have the ability to look ahead, plan and execute by inspiring others. What are the skills you need to have to be like them? How do you learn the basics? You actively participate in Toastmasters meetings by taking various leadership roles.
To quote Ralph C. Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters International, “But just what do we mean be ‘leadership?’ It would appear to be the capacity to look ahead, think ahead, plan ahead, and then influence other people to go ahead on the plan.”
Competent Leadership Manual
How can Toastmasters help to improve your leadership skills? It is by following not only the communication manuals but also the leadership track. The projects in Competent Leadership manual provide you with opportunities to learn leadership skills by participating in various roles during the club meetings. You will learn the skills by regular and frequent practice in a safe, friendly environment.
What do you practice?
- Critical Thinking
- Giving Feedback
- Time Management
- Planning and Implementation
- Organization and Delegation
- Team Building
What does it take?
As many things in life, it is all about preparation and perseverance. Do you remember when you were a kid and tried to ride a bike for the first time? You really wanted it, it looked cool, but you were also scared a bit. And you tried. You fell down, it hurt, but you got up and tried again and again. You were persistent and finally… “Look daddy I’m riding!” The same goes to leadership.
When you are asked to step up and take a role or additional responsibilities just sum up the courage and say “Yes, I will do it”. Just take it seriously, start preparing, ask for help and don’t be afraid to try it. And what is the most important – be persistent.
So if you are like many other people and you are uncomfortable stepping up and taking tasks that you have never done before, remember, that anything worth of doing is worth doing badly at the beginning. Don’t worry how others will see your efforts, don’t be scared of feedback, just take the courage, take the first step and take on a new leadership responsibility. It is fine to feel uncomfortable, it is fine to make mistakes, it is fine to stumble. With each repetition you will get better and better and before you know it you will get comfortable with the role, and you will become a leader.
Twitter type summary: “As many things in life, becoming a good leader is about willingness to try, humility, preparation and perseverance.”
For more information visit the official Toastmasters page at http://www.toastmasters.org/
What are your leadership stories? Do you remember the first time you had to step up and lead? Do you remember the first time you tried something new?