District Director’s Message – Dr. William Lau, DTM (December)

To Be an Effective Leader in District 102

To be successful leaders in our District, we need to have a special mental orientation, a heightened self-inspiration and a focused aspiration to be “Primus Inter Pares”. To stand out as prime-among-equals leaders, we perforce need to be different.

It is challenging to be effective and efficient District Leaders. But, they must constantly be wary of the fact that they are elected:

  • to help attain the District Mission; and,
  • to provide Clubs under them the necessary supportive and positive learning experience so that members may be empowered to develop their communication and leadership skills; and, in so doing, achieve greater self-confidence and personal growth.
  • My Observations.

    In the past twenty years, I realize that one of the common cardinal causes of clubs becoming weak is the general lack of trained mentors and coaches. It is not uncommon to see most, if not, all the clubs in our District merely assign their senior Toastmasters to mentor new members so that they may settle in earlier and be guided to perform their speech assignments and leadership roles. Mentors are normally drawn from within the clubs while coaches from external clubs. And, they are not trained as mentors or coaches. This blind-leading-the-blind situation or practice has persisted from as early as the 1990’s.

    An ordinary leader merely takes care of just the normal routine and mundane duties; such as, becoming a speech contest chair, general evaluator, chief judge or ordinary judge at speech contests, club officers’ investiture etc. What they have omitted, which is less publicized yet the most important, is to undertake the role of a mentor, advisor or teacher.

    The Origins of Mentoring.

    The term “Mentor” had its origin from the Greek Mythology. According to which, a soldier named Odysseus left to fight the Trojan Wars. During which, he entrusted the care and rearing of his son, Telemachus, to a wise old friend and teacher named Mentor.

    Hence, Mentor in the etymologically parlance sense, connotes a wise and trusted guide, advisor or teacher. To mentor means: to serve as a trusted guide, advisor or teacher.

    The Role of a Mentor.

    To be mentors for new or newer members in a Toastmasters club is one of the organization’s most-challenging, least-defined and often-neglected duties. When done right and effectively, it can be one of the most rewarding, fulfilling and beneficial experiences in developing our communication and leadership skills.

    Mentors derive their self-actualization when they know that they can help their mentees better their lives or succeed in attaining their goals for which they joined Toastmasters. To attain self-fulfillment as District Leaders, mentors shall need to be sincere, honest, caring for and sensitive to the mentees’ needs as well as becoming a friend, teacher and advisor to them.

    The mentors observe and listen to their mentees. They give concise and constructive feedback and to inspire them to continue to improve and achieve. In this regard, it is more important for the mentors to find and reinforce what the mentees are doing right than to find what is being done wrongly. The mentors’ actions should inspire the mentees to keep going forward.

    An important duty of mentors in my view is to help the mentees identify and achieve their own goals. Besides, they encourage the mentees to create realistic objectives and empower them to think and act.

    Challenges in Mentoring.

    Mentoring poses a great challenge to District Leaders. They must firstly appreciate that Toastmasters is a self-paced learning process for everyone. Every encounter may be regarded a learning experience, no matter how difficult it may seem. Mentoring, taken in the positive light and in earnestness, helps prepare both the mentor and the mentee eventually to better handle their live even outside the Toastmasters arena.

    Education is best assimilated in a fun and friendly environment. Encourage and perpetuate there this learning philosophy among your mentees. Be mindful of their body language and any arising issue and help them to resolve or overcome it.

    Maintain your integrity as mentor. You are not expected to be omniscient or someone who knows all. It is acceptable that you let your mentee know that you will check the matter up and come back to him. In this way, the mentee may have a higher regard for you as a teacher and advisor.


    The ultimate benefit of Toastmasters membership is becoming someone who can help someone else become a competent leader and communicator. Are you prepared to be an effective mentor to enhance your leadership in District 102? If you have such an aspiration, please do drop me an email at lau_bk2000@yahoo.co.uk or message to express your interest.

    (Words purporting male gender include those of the female gender and those purporting singularity includes plurality)

    Dr. William Lau, DTM
    District 102 Director