The High Performance Leadership (HPL) project is typically the last educational component to be completed on the way to achieving one's Distinguished Toastmaster award. For many members the HPL remains the last task to finish for many years. This is unfortunate because in my own experience the HPL project is a tremendous learning experience, one which I wish I had started sooner. Although the HPL can be a daunting project with vague expectations I want to share my own experience of undertaking my HPL while being club president in the hope that it inspires others to consider taking on HPLs of their own.
I've had the opportunity to be President twice; once while actively working on an HPL and once without. In my first term as President, the one without an HPL, I was winging it—I didn't set clear goals for the rest of my officer team and rarely reflected on my leadership, in either success or failure. It wasn't until after I had completed my term that I really reflected on my experience and realized that just doing it wasn't the most effective way to grow as a leader.
In the year between my terms as President I had the opportunity to serve on two HPL committees and see the benefits first hand. I also realized the project was not as intimidating as it sounds. After those two experiences I was once again elected President and decided to make my upcoming term the focus of my own HPL. The difference has been noticeable and I wouldn't serve as President of a club again without doing an HPL concurrently.
Club presidency provides you with a ready-made environment for an HPL. You have a team of officers that you must lead to accomplish goals, clear indicators of success and many challenges on the horizon. Recruiting a guidance committee of experienced leaders both within Toastmasters and outside of it to guide you along your learning journey will help you become a more effective club leader. This committee will be able to give you an honest, third-party perspective on your actions that your club officers won't be able to provide.
As you work through the HPL you will be asked to articulate a mission, a vision and a set of goals for your project. And while you could do this on your own as club president I didn't the first time around and it showed. In my second term as club president I was able to present my officers with a clear mission statement and vision of our club's future that we could all work towards. This enabled us to work together more effectively and established a framework for thinking about all our actions as officers.
My second term as President has been more successful because of the structure and introspection the HPL required of me. My officers have a clear vision of what I want our club to become and a set of goals that tell us how we're doing. I've spent the year acutely aware of all the learning opportunities available to me and been a more mindful leader.
Many people don't realize that there is no requirement to have your ALB, or even your CL, before getting started on a High Performance Leadership project. By the time you become President of your club you are ready to engage with and benefit from the HPL. Although the name can be intimidating the process of working through your very own High Performance Leadership project will be one of the most valuable learning experiences in Toastmasters.