The Four Work–Life Habits You Need to Learn as You Begin Chapter Leadership
Congratulations. You are now an officer in your chapter. It’s an exciting time as you begin to plot the next year. I can remember my first officer role as Guide (aka Chief Ritualist) in my fraternity. Up until the election, I was not overly involved in chapter operations, but having the opportunity to hold office changed that for me. Serving as Guide was the entry point into my fraternal leadership journey that even included a stint as President.
As much as I learned from my leadership roles, there was an aspect I did not excel at: balancing it all. I accomplished many things, but burnt myself (and my brothers) out in the process. Here are four habits I want you to consider developing as life-skills to help you in your role. The earlier you can incorporate and master these as a student leader, the better.
Take Time for Yourself
It sounds simple enough, right? But in the grind of strengthening your chapter and excelling in academics, it is too easy to forget there are other dimensions to who you are. Building in time for yourself needs to be a scheduled, weekly habit. If you are only scheduling “you” time during school breaks, then you need to rethink your strategy. Find, schedule, and maintain sacred times each week to engage in healthy behaviors that are not chapter or school related. Healthy behaviors can be anything from cancelling out distractions for a good night’s sleep to dedicating 30 minutes each day to take a walk. Making time for yourself will decrease stress and allow you to gain a refreshed perspective on your endeavors.
Answer this question: What do you want your signature dish to be?
Every restaurant has something they are famous (or infamous for). Burger King has the Whopper, Outback Steakhouse has the Bloomin’ Onion (and steak, I suppose), and Dave’s Pizzeria, in my hometown of Swartz Creek, Michigan, has pizza baked in a wood burning oven. You get my point. Your legacy should be no different. What is the one initiative or program you want to be known for in your position? In addition to the core duties, what one thing will you channel your energy into? This focus will help you to ensure you are creating a sustainable and quality initiative for your chapter. Think about what you can do well and focus your effort, energy, and attention on this thing.
Note: this same principle can be applied to the chapter as a whole and is a great activity for a planning retreat.
Understand Your Decisions Impact Others
When I was Guide, I made a Ritual Education program my signature dish. I was proud of it, and the chapter graciously allowed me to thrive. The program was intense, and I kept adding to it until one of my brothers called me out in a meeting. He respected my passion, but he reminded me we all had other chapter, personal, and academic commitments. It was there I realized my decisions as a leader impacted others, and I could not put the product in front of the person.
If your officer role feels like a job and little else, then you need to reconsider your choices. Being in a leadership position should be fun, and the work should excite you. If it excites you, others should see your enthusiasm and want to chip in. When this happens, the work won’t look or feel like work.
Chapter leadership is one of the first complete personal and professional opportunities you will ever have. You want to make the most of it, which will require you learn to have harmony between yourself, your obligations, and the people around you. By incorporating these four habits into your practices, you are beginning a solid foundation for balance and success well beyond your collegiate experiences. Chapter leadership truly is only the beginning of an enriching and powerful leadership experience.