An Emirati has been elected International President of the Toastmasters International (TMI), a global organisation with more than 313,000 member in 126 countries.
Muhammad Murad, 49, is the first Arab to head the non-profit group after he was named International President during the group's conference in Malaysia on August 23.
Arriving back in Dubai from Kula Lumpur, the former police officer told Gulf News: “It’s a privilege for me to represent my flag (the UAE) on the international stage. It’s a great honour, but a the same time it’s a great responsibility.”
He is joined by Jim Kokocki, a business consultant based in New Brunswick, Canada, who was named International President-elect, the group’s second-highest position. Mike Storkey, an Australian, is TMI's first vice president, while Balraj Arunasalam, from Sri Lanka, is the second vice-president.
As International President, Murad is a “working ambassador” for the organisation, tasked to develop, support and modify policies and procedures that guide the organisation in fulfilling its mission.
“You can never be not ready (for this position),” said the former police Lt Colononel who once headed Dubai's emergency services. He first joined the Toastmasters Dubai Chapter club in 1996.
“The process is such that you need to have the experience in order to quality for you to get elected. You need to prove to members your worth and that you’re the best candidate among a whole lot of people.”
In 2007, he was the first Emirati to be elected as International Director of Toastmasters in Arizona, getting 9,152 votes -- a landslide victory out of about 10,000 eligible votes representing Toastmasters clubs around the world.
On his agenda during his 2014-2015 term as International President, Murad said: “We don’t have a personal agenda… there’s a strategic plan and we need to fulfil it and make our organisation reach as many people as possible in order for them to develop their skills.”
Toastmasters International has grown from about 230,000 in 2007 to 313,000 members today, including numerous clubs in the UAE.
He credits the organisation for his being a big part of his own transformation.
“A large extent of my personal and professional success," he said, "came from being honed by Toastmasters. It’s truly a platform to developing self-confidence, better communication and leadership skills.
Murad runs three companies as Managing Director.
His leadership or the ability to hold an international gathering in rapt attention didn’t come in a flash.
Murad is considered a pillar of TMI District 79 (GCC and Jordan), which was once voted the top “district” in the world, before he was elected to Toastmaster's top post.
He has been a senior official of the organisation for the last four years.
In his speeches, he stresses on the constant need for self improvement.
“Some are people who want to simply stay within their own circle of comfort… we don’t want to go outside or be introduced to others. My personal journey has taught me that if you do not go outside your circle of comfort, you’re not living to the fullest. It is a life to explore, not only a life to live… This is how we discover what we can do to be of service to others.”
The California-headquartered organisation today counts 14,650 clubs in 126 countries that makes up the global non-profit.
What is Toastmasters International?
It is a mutual-support group of individuals in a certain locality who share the common goal of improving their communication and leadership skills. TMI train members to “think on their feet”, preside meetings and hone leadership skills. It has a world-renowned educational and mentoring programmes for both beginners and long-standing members.