Many changes have transpired since I first entered Toastmasters leadership over thirty years ago. Cell phones, Apple watches and the countless other electronic devices that we now use on a daily basis did not exist. We communicated with other Toastmasters primarily by phone, written correspondence, or in face-to-face meetings. Despite significant changes in communication channels, one thing that hasn’t changed is the value of leadership in your personal growth. Two particular areas come to mind: mentorship and team-building.

Mentorship has been vital throughout my Toastmasters experience. The first evaluator of my Ice Breaker speech, Dan Winterburn, a Division Governor (now Division Director) and later a District Governor (now District Director) became one of my primary mentors throughout my Toastmasters experience. He was a trusted friend, encourager, and advisor for each the various District offices that I assumed. Another mentor was Marty Hernandez, a leader from another club in our area, who told me: “Cheryl, you’re going to be a Toastmasters leader.” At the time as a new Toastmaster, that seemed completely unrealistic. In looking back, Dan and Marty planted the seeds that would grow into my future leadership experiences at the club and District levels. Often new leaders may feel unprepared for the office they are assuming. Mentors provide the wisdom gained from their own experiences and past mistakes that allow their mentees to step out of their comfort zone and take on the leadership challenges! Upon receipt of the benefits of mentorship, remember to encourage and develop those around whom you see as future leaders.

A second area of leadership is team-building. Most leadership roles require the collective efforts of a team to ensure a successful outcome. For example, an Area Director cannot organize a successful Area Speech Contest without the help of individuals within each club to serve as Contest Chair, Toastmaster, Registration Chair, Facilities Chair, just to name a few. In building a team, a leader needs others who have the right skills, enthusiasm, and desire to be part of that team. A leader acknowledges and recognizes each member of the team for their contributions during and upon completion of their respective roles. Whether it is for a successful speech contest or a club officers training, a strong team is essential.

Whether you are a new or seasoned Toastmaster, get involved as a club or district leader to reap the benefits of mentorship and team-building. The rewards are your own personal growth and satisfaction in helping to build a stronger Toastmasters organization.

— Cheryl Watkins, District 4 Governor 1987-1988