Leadership in Adversity in Toastmasters

Toastmasters Leadership in Adversity Toastmasters 101

What does leadership in adversity look like?  What do leaders in adverse situations do?

This week was the most important religious holiday of my year. What’s normally a day of celebration and feasting with my extended church family was instead kept at home, in front of a screen.

No candles, no shouts, no procession.

But the following morning, we opted to create a physical event that met all of the existing regulations. We met outside. We socially distanced ourselves. Many of us wore masks and gloves.

For an hour, we were together.

Was it enough?

When we talk about 2020 and Toastmasters in the future, what are we going to say? Was it enough?


Learning leadership skills takes us out of our comfort zones. Do you want to learn leadership skills in a safe environment without the risks of harming your career? Then Toastmasters is for you. Toastmasters is where leaders are made – we’ll introduce you to the foundations and give you the opportunities to grow your skills. This is Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci.

Leadership in Adversity

I believe I’ve mentioned my first High Performance Leadership project on the podcast in the past. I agreed to manage a series of 8 dinners for a teaching who was leading a discussion group of people in my church.

• The number of attendees was never very specific but we guessed it would average about 10-12 – it was 15 and often 20.
• The sequence started in July and was expected to end in August. Instead, the teacher took the month of August off.

• The number of sessions was extended from 8 to 16, overlapping my new job which had me out of the area for the last 4.

The teacher didn’t have a problem – I had a problem. I had a team that I had recruited for a set period of time – and suddenly, I had a crisis.

It’s the nature of an emergency that we don’t have time to think or plan. Disruptions are not courteous and send advance warnings.

Leaders don’t have a lot of time to think in these circumstances. That’s probably the source of many problems – we don’t have the time or all the knowledge we need for the perfect solution. But most leaders, I hope, do what’s best with the time and knowledge they have.

Sometimes it’s not enough.

Sometimes, as a result, we overestimate what our response should be. Then leaders get slammed for the consequences. Or we underestimate what should be done – and then leaders get slammed. It’s a no win situation, isn’t it? Only perfection is acceptable.

No wonder people are afraid of leadership.

When you think of leadership in adversity, what do you think of? We’ve all seen political leaders in crisis. Or religious leaders. Or the leaders in our respective careers. No one is immune from a crisis.

It’s how you manage yourself that matters.

Ohio’s Leadership in Adversity:  Governor Mike DeWine

I’ll point to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine as an example of what I see is smart leadership in crisis. Every day at 2 pm, Governor DeWine holds a press conference along with key personnel to talk about today’s COVID 19 situation. It’s so popular that we here in Ohio have named it the “Wine with Mike DeWine” hour. (Ok, so we don’t have much else to do in Ohio right now.) He’s doing a few things very well.

  • Giving Daily reports. Sometimes they contradict previous information. Sometimes they update the data. We see Gov. DeWine try to bring some humor and good-natured recommendations. What is it with his ties? He’s always talking about his ties!
  • Recognizing Partnerships. When outside advice is needed, those people are recognized.
  • Change Adjustments. Acknowledging that there will be changes as more information comes along and adjusting accordingly, but also accepting that new data will make more changes in the future.
Leadership in Adversity

In the face of almost daily ups and downs in our state, our governor has been doing an outstanding job of communicating with the citizens. He’s managing himself well – I don’t mean that in a political way. I think he’s trying to transcend the political world and speak to all of us in the state with his best intentions and policies.

He’s demonstrating good leadership in adversity.

What do we take away from his example? of leadership in adversity?

First – You make decisions.

Don’t try to wait for the fallout and then decide. The role of the leader is to cut through all of the extraneous information and get to the heart of the problem and deal with it. How to deal with it depends – how do you prioritize it? In the end, whatever you decide, some people will like your decisions and like you – and some won’t.  That can’t stop you from making the decisions that do have impact on those who follow you.   Leaders face the struggles ahead of everyone else and are charged with the task of informing the rest of us.

Second – Communicate with your team and your members.

Is there such a thing as too much communication?

We in the marketing world talk about this. How much is too much? How many emails before a potential customer gets frustrated and unsubscribes versus how many messages are needed for a potential customer to click on the learn more link?

There are as many opinions are there are options on that topic. I’m looking at you, online shoe store that sent me 3 different emails in one day – away with you!

I think that we in District 10 tend to be more conservative in how many emails we send out to our Toastmasters members. Should we have sent more in the past month? Hard to say. Is our membership tired of seeing our name in their email list and opting out? Or are we members hungry for more details than we’re getting? Asking your membership for some feedback can guide you.

Third- be upfront with the changes as they happen.

District 10 and the entire state of Ohio has ridden this bucking bronco for several weeks and we hope the end is in sight – but we also know that this process isn’t clear.  We have a very proactive governor here.  Looking ahead and making decisions based on the current information doesn’t mean a decision is unchangeable.  It means new data has been added and adjustments need to be made.

Toastmasters: Where Leaders are Made

We need a lot of leadership in our Toastmasters clubs right now. Being a club officer means struggling with a lot of different issues and it’s not always clear what the best way to go is.

As leaders, you need to

Keep meeting. You’ve probably got options from your district to move online. I know it may be frustrating to deal with members who don’t have internet access, but try it anyway. Get your officer team to be at the meetings as much as possible to show the members that everyone is committed to our successes – not just as Toastmasters, but our personal goals.

Share your meetings with potential members. While this is probably a rotten time to ask people to spend money on a club membership, this is the time to reach out to people who will need the skills we teach because they have the time right now. How many can claim they’re too busy when they’re stuck at home?

Experiment and have fun. We’re going to find out that the ways we handle a meeting role or activity has to change in an online setting.

  • Everyone saying a pledge or the Toastmasters club mission statement all together on Zoom is horrifyingly bad. Having one person say it live – and ask everyone else to say it with that speaker – but stay muted when they do – makes it so much better.
  • Timer roles are still challenging – but I’ve seen some great solutions, including green dinosaurs, yellow daisies, and red nail polish used to signal the times. Have fun with it! If something doesn’t work this week, then you can change it next week.

Leadership in adversity calls for creativity, motivation skills, and a fluidity of mind that lets you pivot when necessary. Maybe you need to invite another club to meet with you to get a full complement of attendees to make the meeting work. Especially if that other club isn’t yet meeting online – you’re showing leadership in adversity to them as well.

Critical needs

When prepping for this podcast, I wrote at least 3 times more than I need because I needed to get some aggravation out of my system about this situation. Going to a socially-distanced church service and seeing my beloved friends in person helped a lot. Finding ways to connect with others is critically important right now – I truly appreciate those club officers who are making it possible to talk and spend time with each other as the isolation is starting to get to me.

Wrap it up, Kim

If your club is struggling, reach out to the district officers. Your area director and division director want your club to succeed and can give you ideas and support. You’re not alone in this. You still have goals and desires in your life that Toastmasters can help you accomplish – we’re just doing them a different way right now.

Our music is from incompetech.filmmusic.io.

Toastmasters 101 is podcast production of Toastmasters District 10.

I hope to see you at your club meeting this week!

Stay hopeful.  Stay healthy.  And for now, stay home!