Calling for Strong Leaders

Calling for Strong Leaders

Seeking strategic thinkers to shape
the future of Toastmasters.

By Ted Corcoran, DTM, PIP

Serving on the Toastmasters International Board of Directors is an honor – and a responsibility – for those who are elected. I was fortunate to serve as an international director from 1996 to 1998 and as an international officer from 2000 to 2005, including a term as International President in 2003–2004.

As our organization continues to expand rapidly in cultures worldwide, the need for Board members who are strong strategic thinkers becomes even more critical. Consider this: When my term as International President concluded in August 2004, Toastmasters had just over 200,000 members. By 2010, membership had grown to 262,000, a growth rate of 31 percent in just six years. Such growth must be carefully managed to ensure that members continue to receive high value and exceptional support.

Before the appointment of Toastmasters’ region advisors, part of a Board member’s responsibility was to provide operational support to district leaders. This is no longer the case. Operational support is now provided to district leaders through both the region advisors as well as the expanding District Services team at World Headquarters. This shift in support gives Board members the time required to focus on the organization’s vital strategic direction. 

Role of the Board
Each year, Toastmasters International elects members to serve the organization on its Board. Collectively, the Board guides Toastmasters International and shapes its vision and policies. The directors’ strategic role is to ensure the overall strength and growth of the organization. Specific areas for which the Board is responsible include: 

  • Upholding the mission, vision and values of Toastmasters International. 
  • Developing organizational strategy. 
  • Creating and revising organizational policies.
  • Approving and overseeing budget and financial matters. 
  • Serving as ambassadors of Toastmasters International. 
  • Incorporating member needs into organizational decisions.

Board Composition
The Board consists of 14 international directors, each elected to two-year terms from the 14 global regions. In even-numbered years, directors from even-numbered regions are elected. In odd-numbered years, directors from odd-numbered regions are elected. In addition, five international officers also serve on the Board; they hold the offices of Second Vice President, First Vice President, International President-Elect, International President and Immediate Past International President. The Second Vice President, First Vice President and Inter-national President-Elect are chosen every August at the Annual Business Meeting, held during the Toastmasters International Convention. 

Have you ever considered becoming a candidate for the Board of Directors? The first step is to become familiar with the qualifications. First, you must have served as a district governor and have the skills and experience to fill the role. Each August, soon after the Convention, individuals declare their candidacy for the following year and submit a document describing their relevant experience and skills that qualify them for the role. Both officer and director candidates send campaign mailings to district governors, lieutenant governors and other Toastmasters leaders, stating their qualifications for service on the Board. 

The International Leadership Committee (ILC) is responsible for nominating international officer and director candidates from the pool of applicants. This committee may also seek out qualified applicants and encourage them to be candidates. The ILC is tasked with nominating two or three candidates for Second Vice President and one, two or three candidates for international director for each region from which a director will be elected that year.

Each year, 17 people serve our organization on this very important committee. The Past International President of two years ago chairs the ILC, while the Past International President, whose term as Immediate Past International president just ended, serves as vice chair. One additional Past International President serves on the committee as well.

One representative from each of the 14 regions is also appointed by the International President. These appointees consist of past international presidents, past international directors and past district governors. Some of these appointees may have served with the candidates, either at the district or international level, and may have first-hand knowledge of their abilities, experience and leadership qualities.

How does the ILC arrive at its decisions regarding nominations? The approach is multifaceted:

The ILC members conduct interviews with each candidate to discuss his or her experience and qualifications for the office being sought. Nominees are asked questions about their experience on boards of other organizations, policy creation, strategic planning and financial oversight. The ILC looks for indications of strong strategic thinking, a vital ingredient for the future success of Toastmasters and a key to being a successful Board member.

Each November, a survey is sent to Toastmasters leaders worldwide, asking their preference of the declared officer candidates. Each December, a similar survey is sent to Toastmasters leaders regarding declared director candidates in regions where elections will occur. The results of these surveys are tabulated and provided to the ILC.

If you receive such a survey, please respond to it thoughtfully; it’s your opportunity to do your part in shaping the future of the organization. As you make your choice, I encourage you to be mindful of the strategic nature of the Board’s responsibilities. Things to consider are: Does the candidate demonstrate the ability to think and act strategically? Is it apparent that the candidate’s focus is on the future of the organization rather than the day-to-day operations? You must have confidence that the candidate has the experience and ability to oversee a global organization. Your feedback is important, so please be sure that your opinion is expressed to the ILC.

Once the interviews and surveys are complete, the ILC reviews and discusses the information submitted by the candidates, the interview and survey results, and any ILC member’s personal knowledge of or experience with the candidates. The ILC also reviews the results of a 360-degree leadership assessment for officer candidates. The ILC chair announces the candidates in February and the director announcement is made in April. Those who are not nominated, but have met eligibility requirements, may still be nominated by a member at the Annual Business Meeting and run from the floor if they choose to do so. 

After the nominations occur, candidates may send another mailing to district governors, lieutenant governors and other Toastmasters leaders, stating their qualifications for service on the Board and asking for support. During the International Convention, candidates have an opportunity to meet delegates and Toastmasters leaders at the Candidates Corner to talk about the future of Toastmasters, as well as discuss strategic issues that will bring even greater growth and success to the organization in the years to come. At the Candidates Showcases, members have the opportunity to hear candidates respond to questions about strategic topics that affect Toastmasters.

Toastmasters International needs strong leaders who can confidently and strategically guide the organization to greater heights. It’s a weighty challenge, but from personal experience I can tell you that it is one of the most rewarding responsibilities you will ever accept. To learn more or to begin your journey as a candidate, visit

Ted Corcoran, DTM, is a 25-year member of Toastmasters and served as International President in 2003–2004. He belongs to several clubs, including the Fingal Toastmasters and the Sword Club, both in Dublin, Ireland, and is the author of the book, The Leadership Bus: How to be a Truly Effective and Successful Leader.

At the Annual Business Meeting held in August, each Toast-masters club represented is eligible to cast two ballots in each election. Past and current Board members and district governors also carry a single vote.

Whether you carry your club’s vote, your individual vote or the votes of many clubs as a district governor, I encourage you to research and understand the role of the Board and what the Board expects of its directors and officers. Then review each candidate’s background, experience and ability to effectively contribute as a Board member and cast your vote for the future of Toastmasters International.