Push Beyond the Status Quo
There are times when being the leader of a fraternity or sorority can feel like you are sprinting a marathon. It can be exhausting to have a far away end goal and feel yourself rushing through busyness, emails, meetings, and conflicts to that end goal. As leaders it is crucial to take a break from the marathon to reflect and ensure that you are running the right race for you and your organization.
Fraternity/sorority leaders for chapters, councils, or communities can have huge impacts on those they are leading. It important to question the status quo and constantly strive for a better way. You were elected to your position for a reason, and it is your responsibility to lead up to that expectation. Leaders are only in their position for a limited time, so it is crucial to make the most of every decision.
It is critical for reflection to be an internal and external process. Take a moment to answer these guiding questions, and then visit and ask the same questions about your chapter to a university student, faculty or staff member, or fellow fraternity/sorority member:
- Which box?: Are you checking boxes of activities and programs or are you checking your values?
- Red Alert!: Do you need a crisis to tell you something is wrong?
- Whining Doesn’t Work: Are you complaining, but not bringing any usable solutions to the table?
- Shiny and New: Are there higher standards for new members than current members?
- Road Map: How far is your horizon for your community? Chapter? Councils? Communities? Chapter advisor? Fraternity/sorority life advisor? Great campus community?
Hopefully you took this opportunity to identify some areas of improvement and celebrate some victories for your chapter, council, or community. Below you will find 5 easy actions steps and guiding principles to assist you in switching from the status quo to achieving new heights in your chapter, council, or community. A consistent routine of checking in with yourself and your organization will help to make sure you are running the marathon you want to run as leader.
- #1 – Revisit and redefine your values: it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the semester from philanthropy events, interest meetings, and chapter meets, but take some time to reflect on the values of your organization. The values and guiding principles of your organization should be the roadmap that guides your members. If your chapter is leading with values all the other things will fall into place.
- #2 – Take a look in the mirror: it is easy to fall into the space of not my chapter, not my council, or not my university when comparing ourselves to others. Taking a real look in the mirror is hard, but it is great way to fight the status quo. Recently, I have heard when referring to hazing incidents on campus “well no one died, what is the big deal.” Is not killing anyone the baseline for our fraternity/sorority community? Identify two or three easy risk management changes that you can make will improve your community five years from now.
- #3 – Your silence speaks volumes: accountability is a huge buzzword in the fraternity/sorority life community, but it is crucial for the longevity of your chapter, council, or community. If you do not address a concerning behavior or bad habitat, you are normalizing it. If a sister does not pay her dues, but is able to run for executive board, she will never pay her dues. If a brother excessively pregames before a function, and he is not addressed formally, you are normalizing pregaming.
- #4 – Expand the horizon of your community: the only person who cares about your chapter is you. This isn’t to take away from the great things your chapter does, but to the outsiders of your community you are only as impactful as your struggling chapter. It is easy to say “I only have to focus on my chapter,” but to push the status quo you will need to get the help of other chapter, other councils, and nonaffiliated members. When is the last time you had a conversation with a member from a different council (and that doesn’t mean between IFC and Panhel)? Do you ever ask other chapter presidents how they manage concerns in their chapter? How do you engage with international/national headquarter staff and fraternity/sorority life campus professionals?
- #5 – Celebrate your accomplishments: accomplishments don’t always look like trophies for the mantel place. You must give yourself permission and gratitude to celebrate victories both small and large. A small victory can be as simple as having a productive chapter meeting or securing a donation for a philanthropy event. Take time to celebrate the little things. As a leader, praise and recognition is a two way street. You should make sure to recognize individual accomplishments with a hand written note or a chapter meeting shout out. Members who feel valued will continue to contribute to those small and large victories. Letting a chapter advisors or a campus administrator know they had an impact on your chapter can create an ally for life.
These five easy actions steps can create positive changes for your chapter, your council, or you community. Where do you see your fraternity/sorority life community at the end of your term, when you graduate, or in five years? Don’t be afraid to push beyond the status quo.
Lexie Elliott serves as the Coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the primary advisor for the Collegiate Panhellenic Association, Interfraternity Council, Pitt’s Greek Week, and the Pitt Dance Marathon. Elliott earned a B.A. in sociology from Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA and a M.A. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA. She has served in various fraternity/sorority life professional positions at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, University of South Carolina, and Alderson Broaddus University. Elliott is a volunteer for Northeast Greek Leadership Association and served as a facilitator for the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute. She is a firm believer in the fraternities and sororities and the transformative experiences it can provide people in college and beyond. Lexie is a proud member of Zeta Tau Alpha.