The Essence of Excellent Club Leadership

By Bill Holsey, DTM

Over the past 3-1/2 years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed serving as Toastmasters Club President in two clubs.  Along my journey, I’ve asked myself what makes an exceptional club officer?  What can a Club President do to better serve their club and its members?  Why should others step up and serve as a Club President?

There are many qualities that make a great leader, but a few of those qualities are absolutely essential to success.  Level 5 Leaders (a concept developed by the author Jim Collins) are adroitly able to build their team, inspire club members towards a common vision and deliver consistent results.  Great leaders know how to establish a healthy and fun culture within their clubs.  They altruistically bring up their club members and are excellent communicators.  Most importantly, they are always transparent, readily accessible and undeniably trustworthy.

Effective leaders possess five essential qualities:

  1. Exemplifying trust
  2. Communicating effectively
  3. Serving others
  4. Inspiring greatness
  5. Delegating appropriately

Let’s look at them in detail.

Exemplifying Trust

Trust is the foundation of all club leadership. Members need to be able to count on their President to respond to requests or deliver on action items.  They need to be a person of their word.  Members want to feel that their leader is a person of honesty and integrity.  A great Club President must be an example to everyone else in the club.  People naturally watch what they do and how they do it.  Leading by example sets the tone and culture for the entire club.  It’s also important for the Club President to leverage key tools for running the club effectively such as “The Moments of Truth”, the “Club Quality Checklist” and maintaining a healthy Distinguished Club Program (DCP) Dashboard.
Questions to ask yourself: Do people say that you are trustworthy?  Do you lead by example?  Do people trust you in being able to deliver a positive and rewarding club experience through operational excellence?  Do you do what you say and say what you do?

Communicating Effectively

Communicating a clear and consistent message is very important. The Club President is not only the steward of the brand of Toastmasters, but also their specific club. They must be able to clearly articulate the vision and unique qualities of their club.  This goes beyond the Club Success Plan (although that’s very important too).  The overall vision of the club is really set by the Club President and should be fully supported by the club leadership team.  That vision should be consistently articulated to the entire club and everyone must believe in it.  Additionally, club leaders should warmly greet guests as they enter a meeting and follow-up with them afterwards.  At the conclusion of the meeting, it’s very important to ask guests for their feedback.
Questions to ask yourself:  What is the brand of your club?  Can you articulate the uniqueness of your club in a 30 second “Elevator Speech”?  What is the vision for your club?

Serving Others

Servant leadership is not about being subservient. Instead, it’s about helping others towards meeting their goals and bringing out the best in everyone. It’s about effectively mentoring club members and officers, talent management planning and succession planning. The Club President should be great at recognizing achievement for their club members.  They should celebrate major achievements of their club members such as the completion of Level 5 in Pathways or DTM.  The optics of the Club President presenting a special award along with a standing ovation at a club meeting for major achievements is really powerful.  Celebrating success is important to motivating the team. 
Questions to ask yourself: Do you help others and genuinely care about your members? Do you have a solid succession plan?   Do you celebrate success?  Do you help club members with achieving their goals?

Inspiring Greatness

Inspiring club members is crucial and a difficult skill to become proficient in. Inspiration really comes from the actions and words of the Club President which motivate the club.  Motivation comes from someone who the club really believes in and who has a clear understanding of how to achieve the desired outcome.  Club goals may include becoming a President’s Distinguished Club or uplifting members to become DTMs or OATM recipients.  Whatever the goal, a great Club President is a great Club Inspirator.  Maya Angelou wrote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Inspiration is also about a positive feeling and belief in their leader.
Questions to ask yourself: How do you uplift and inspire your club members? How can you best bring out success, greatness and happiness in them? 

Delegating Appropriately

Delegating is probably one of the toughest skills to master. Great leaders trust the people on their team to complete tasks successfully.  An effective Club President doesn’t “micromanage” club members or their fellow officers.  Micromanaging or doing tasks yourself is counterproductive and the opposite of trust.  Often times its knowing that you’ve delegated tasks to a member with a proven track record of success.  But, what if you have a novice member on your team?  It helps to coach them or assign them a mentor as they learn a new role or task.  However, major club events such as serving as Club Contest Chair should really be led by someone with experience.  The novice can shadow the more experienced member and then take on the task once they are comfortable with it.
Questions to ask yourself:  Do you delegate effectively or tend to keep tasks for your own ‘To-Do List’?  Do you trust your team?  How can you reassure yourself that tasks will get done once they are delegated to others?

Take some time to reflect on the previous questions.  If you embrace and exemplify these qualities, you will put yourself on the road towards becoming an exceptional Club President that helps guests, members and officers experience excellence.  For further reading, here are some great books on leadership that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend:

  • Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (NYT Bestseller)
  • The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger (NYT Bestseller)
  • The Servant by James Hunter (NYT Bestseller)
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins (NYT Bestseller)
  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek (over 2 million copies sold)
  • The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner (over 3 million copies sold)


Bill Holsey, President of Speakers Forum Club and President Emeritus of Pleasanton Community Club, has been a passionate Toastmaster for 3 1/2 years. He was the Division H Director in 2018-2019 when it finished as Select Distinguished.  Bill enjoys deep sea fishing, reading, working out, travelling, professional sporting events and community service.