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February 2024
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The Reluctant Leader

Accepting my skills brought me a new perspective on leadership.

By Bill Brown, DTM


Illustration of a toolbox
Illustration by Bart Browne

I must confess, I am a reluctant leader. Perhaps you are, too.

I was a club officer for years. I liked it at first, but after years of serving on Club Executive Committees and even as an Area Director, I became tired of the roles. I told my club at the time that I was no longer a candidate for an officer position. Been there, done that.

I prefer to be a lone ranger, rather than a team leader. A thought leader, rather than a people leader.

Or so I thought.

Then I moved.

If you have been following this column for a while, you know that I now live in a small town in northern Wyoming. It is just barely big enough to have one Toastmasters club. The nearest neighboring club is two hours away. And 90% of the clubs in my District are five hours away or more.

Plugging into the District activities is not something that happens out here in the boonies. Our club is healthy but has a culture all its own.

When I first joined the club, I had no interest in being on the Executive Committee. But I did attend the officer meetings, in part just to get to know the members better. I found that, based on my experience with a number of clubs in larger cities, I was able to contribute with some suggestions on how to do things better.

On top of that, the Vice President Education (VPE) had been in that role for years but was getting ready to move out of the area. She needed to hand over the reins and, after a few months, approached me about taking over. My first reaction was to decline, but I owed it to her to consider the position. It took me a while, but I finally agreed to take it on. I said to myself, Okay, I suppose I can be “a leader”—in a limited sense.

Although she had handed off the position, she was still the heart and soul of the club and was “encouraged” to take on the President role. She was spending half of her time, or more, in her new town, so I ended up as second in command taking on much of her role. During that year, I came to admit that, yes, I was becoming “the leader” of the club—at least with the day-to-day activities.

I had moved from being leadership adverse to seeing myself as a key leader. How did that happen?

I am now completing my second term as VPE and have been told that I am not allowed to run for any other position. They need me to continue as VPE. But, as a member of the Executive Committee, I have found myself thinking in a more general way. How do we build membership? How do we do a better job of publicizing the club? How can we get better?

In the process, I have found that my leadership reluctance is starting to fade. And I started thinking that maybe I could be Club President—someday, when they let me. And, realistically, as a member of the Executive Committee, I can still present my vision for the club.

I am now realizing that our club views me as a key leader. And I am starting to view myself in that vein as well. I am realizing that I am the one to guide the club to the next level.

I had moved from being leadership adverse to seeing myself as a key leader. How did that happen? In part, I saw the need. But also, I have come to see that I am, by nature, a leader. That is who I am. And that is changing my focus.

Rather than wait for someone else to take on responsibility, I am now actively seeking it.

And that’s not just at the Toastmasters level. I have also taken on a leadership position within our community by running for a political office. And am actively participating in other organizations, as well.

The key is that, whether or not I want to admit it, I am a leader. That is how I am wired. And, if you are a leader, you will end up leading. It is in your nature.

Are you a reluctant leader? If you are, you are still a leader. Be willing to lead. Do not hold yourself back by being reluctant. Embrace who you are.



“Speech

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