Thursday, January 11, 2018

Are Leaders Born or Made?—Carolyn R. Wilker

I read a message in our writer’s group forum this week in which a member posed the question, “Are leaders born that way or are they made?” I had to respond. God-fearing or not, I think leaders are made. It’s true that some individuals who are outgoing may seem to be natural leader material, and they might, indeed, be asked first. But it doesn’t mean they’ll do the job any better.
Allow me, for a moment to share an experience of my own. When I was a new writer, someone in leadership of The Word Guild said we ought to get ready to speak—to offer a workshop, talk about being a writer (“on account of curious people”) and promote a book. At the time a book was the furthest thing from my mind since I’d only written short pieces such as book reviews and articles. How many would it take to make a book? Nevertheless, as nervous as I was just thinking about speaking in public, I spoke about my fear to a fellow writer. She told me about Toastmasters. I said I’d think about it. I had many commitments with daughters still at home and put it off. At least three months. 
Then, in September, I got a call that put more urgency to the matter. After writing a column for our city newspaper, I was called on for an interview by the editor of my hometown Gazette. This is getting serious. I got some coaching from said leader of our writers’ organization and right away made plans to check out Toastmasters. Long story short, after thirteen years of practice in speaking and taking on executive positions in the club, speaking in the community and book promotion, I look in the mirror at the leader I’ve become. In that time, I’d promoted not one book, but three or four, and taught seniors at the community centre for most of those years. At the beginning, I wasn’t running out there saying, “Pick me.” I started because someone else believed in me. Oh, my! Looking back, I see where it's taken me. Looking ahead, I wonder, What else?
Participating in the Toastmasters area speech contest a year ago

In June, I said ‘yes’ to a district leadership position in District 86 Toastmasters for the coming year. That never would have happened otherwise. In fact a lot of things I’ve done could be attributed to that experience, including storytelling.

 Promoting my latest book

Giving a workshop for Write Kitchener in 2013

Thus my answer to the question: Are leaders born or are they made? I answered positively, “They’re made.” Citing biblical leaders who were afraid of the challenge put before them, they didn’t beg for the position, but they were promised help along the way, that they’d be given the words and tools. Just think how much more prepared Moses would have been had he received leadership training in advance, or that Jonah ran the other way and still ended up going where God told him. And a man in our time who saw possibilities that seemed impossible—Nelson Mandela, a man we see as a true leader.
I take on my role, sometimes still anxious, but less afraid than before because of other leaders who could point the way and answer questions. When people say they will pray for me for a particular challenge, I accept it and believe it will help. The Toastmasters training has helped me be more professional in my presentations, such as not clinging to the lectern, avoiding 'ums' and 'ahs' and all manner of distracting mannerisms, but instead knowing how to prepare my notes, or not use them, and calm those butterflies in my stomach. The strength from God is a great asset. And so I affirm that leaders are made. That’s my truth and I’m sticking with it!

Carolyn Wilker is an author, editor and storyteller from Ontario, Canada.


Ruth Smith Meyer said...

Good for you Carolyn. When we are afraid of something or to do something, it helps to turn and look it square in the face then take one step at a time toward the goal. As we get nearer, the fear often disipates. You should feel really good at how far you've come.

Peter Black said...

Well, I ought not be surprised, Carolyn, considering I've known you for a large chunk of the time since you've been with Toastmasters, and yet you still seem to bring something fresh and new to stir an element of surprise. An enjoyable and inspiring post, Caroline.~~+~~

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

Thank you, Ruth, it does feel good. There are still times I need to make those butterflies fly in formation, but it comes a little easier as long as I keep practising.

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

Thank you, Peter. Such kind comments always. I must check with the powers that be if I can have this blog count about sharing the news of Toastmasters to another audience.

Susan Penny Harris said...

I believe that leaders are made. Yes, there is the gift of leadership but we are shaped by our environment, education etc, and leadership can be learned. Also, if we subscribe to the view that leaders are born, many will use it as a default for poor work whereas in mandating that it can be learned, one remains accountable. Congrats on your leadership growth, Carolyn.

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