The president must define the goals for the fraternity. They must also lead the brothers into a mindset that it doesn’t matter who gets a job done, as long as it gets done. It would be amazing what could get accomplished if this fraternity utopia could be created.
The fact is, one of the best parts about fraternity is the challenge to accomplish great things. The satisfaction brothers would get from a job well done is what it is all about. If they don’t have that satisfaction, if they don’t have that ownership, from the fraternity’s success then they really aren’t much different than the drunken guests who attend your parties and leave.
I was a horrible visionary as a fraternity president. As president, I wanted my fraternity to win the award for having the best chapter in my fraternity in the country. That was my vision. We were going to do whatever it took to get there. We did charity events, donated money and I volunteered us for everything under the sun. It was a grueling year, and everyone was pretty burnt out in the process. We had a lot of fun, but the fraternity almost became a chore along the way.
During that summer’s convention, I found out we didn’t win the award. We did win an award recognizing us as being one of the top five chapters though. When I received the award on behalf of my fraternity, it hit me that I was the only one who cared. Just to make sure the point hit home, I found out that no one really cared when I brought the trophy back and put it in the fraternity house. I failed because I made our goal to chase this stupid award. I missed the point. The point was to have fun. If awards came, than that was great. If they didn’t, then that was great too – as long as we had fun.
Despite some successes, my fraternity went through terrible growing pains that year. We had a good number of brothers who quit because they didn’t want to pay their dues. We had a few brothers quit because they were into drugs. On top of all that, we were put on social probation because our grades were bad.
As a result, we didn’t do anything fun. We went well over a semester without having a social event. Our rush effort was mediocre, and we pledged two guys who never really became active brothers. It was a dreadful year. I didn’t set the vision to get us out of the doldrums. I hunkered down to weather the storm, and the fraternity followed my lead.
I wish I could do it all over again. I would start my first fraternity meeting by handing everyone a piece of paper stating what I thought the goals should be for the year. I would then open the discussion to see who agreed with those goals, and if so, who wanted to volunteer to lead one of the teams to accomplish them. By the end of the meeting, I would expect that everyone in the fraternity would be on the same page with what we wanted to do, and I would expect that there would be several excited brothers to lead great events.
My job wouldn’t be done though. It would be on me to help those brothers into making those events come to life. To paraphrase George Patton though, a leader tells his followers what to do, but not how to do it. I would be there to aid the brother in whatever he needed to pull his event off. If he needed someone to do some of the grunt work, I was his man. If he needed to get approval from the university, I’d happily get it for him. Whatever my guy needed to get the job done, I would assist him. If he needed someone to brainstorm with – then I’d do that too.
I know this would work because I did do this with some of the brothers that I trusted. Unfortunately, I did not do it enough.
Imagine what would happen if the brother would take ownership in his project, and his excitement would become infectious to the rest of the brothers. The brother would feel a stronger connection to the fraternity because he would be able to point at a successful event and say, “that was mine.” That is a powerful thing for a brother’s ego. If you had a entire fraternity of brothers who could point to something in the fraternity with pride and say, “that was mine” then you would have a thriving fraternity and probably the best fraternity on campus.
To learn more, check out our most in-depth article on being a fraternity president: How To Be a Great Fraternity President