fraternity president election

This question was submitted by one of our readers. If you have a question you want me to answer go here to submit it: Fraternity Advice.

Question:

Our elections are coming up soon and we have a brother that is planning on running for president. When we ask him why he is running, his response is that he has a good rapport with the other houses. When we push for more, that is his only reason why he is running.

He’s a new member, joined last spring. The older brothers don’t support his choice to run, mostly because he is so new, and his ideas and opinions of where the fraternity doesn’t match up with the vision we all have.
The younger guys however do support him, because he is a fun guy to be around, and has a personality that makes everyone notice him, so they know him better than they know most of the other brothers. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but we got a new member class that doubled our size, so if he gets most of the new member votes he would win.

How can we approach him about running for something else. We would like him to run for recruitment, because he is who headed up this year’s rush week, and he had great success.


Answer:

This problem arises more often than fraternity men realize. I struggle to call this a true “problem”, because we always need our members to step up and willingly take on a leadership role. You need to be careful first off not to dismiss him entirely for that very reason. Here is someone you admittedly feel is suited for a major role in the fraternity and the last thing you want to do is spurn him into become a chapter cancer.

There is no easy way for you to either confront him or find a “polite” way to ask him not to run. I wonder if there is anyone among your older membership that feels strong enough about this issue to run for Chapter President as well. You first need to provide some type of viable alternative if your concerns are to carry any weight. It’s hard to ask a guy not to run if there isn’t a better option. If your older members with experience in leadership roles have a clear, meaningful vision for the chapter that aligns with your values, ask them to run. Sometimes reluctant leaders are the best ones.

As for the more direct issue, you cannot simply pull him aside and say you don’t want him to run for President of the fraternity. Explain to him that it has nothing to do with his ability, but more the timing of this election.  He should have the experience of being a brother for more than a semester to become president.  He cannot feel that he is being backed into a corner. A very calm and clear conversation about his interest and how he sees his role in the fraternity playing out can lead to a conversation about alternatives to him running for President. Remember, that leading up to elections, everyone is interested in everything. Once the fraternity starts “campaigning” and talking about what each position entails, the number of brothers on the ballot shrinks significantly. Maybe once he realizes that being a Chapter President is incredibly difficult, he will bow out.

Another option is play up his importance as a Recruitment Chair. Every fraternity lives and dies with recruitment. Obviously, this guy has got what it takes to recruit a good class. See how he responds to the idea of being set loose on recruitment and show that you truly appreciate his talents in that area. This sense of value in purpose in the chapter hierarchy could be just what he is searching for. Besides, your fraternity, whether traditionally strong or newly powerful, need a person like that to grow and develop. You may have to admit that he is invaluable there and you need him in that role to thrive as a Fraternity.

Your last option involves the previously discussed “other candidate”. If there is a better person suited for the Chapter President, get him to run. The next step here is to campaign like crazy for your candidate. Why is he better for that role? Why is he the clear choice? Why would other Greek chapters love him and why would your own members respect him? These are questions you need to definitively answer going into an election. When debates start at your elections, this person needs to be armed with the correct answers to any question from your membership. He needs to sound like a Chapter President and convince others that he can act like one. By giving your membership a side by side comparison, you should be able to find a way to make it work out.

Again, I cannot stress it enough that you cannot belittle the guy from your question. He is clearly someone your fraternity needs and someone that can take over once the next set of elections take place. Support him in recruitment and give him the creative license to keep your chapter growing. Then, when his time is right, get him at the head of the table.

Note from Pat: When it is time for him to run for president, refer him to my book The Fraternity Leader.  In it  have an entire chapter dedicated to how a brother can win his chapter election.

This question was submitted by one of our readers. If you have a question you want me to answer go here to submit it: Fraternity Advice.

This answer was written by Joe Russo, an alumni brother from Phi Delta Theta and contributor for the thefraternityadvisor.com. If you are interested in writing for thefraternityadvisor.com – let us know (CLICK HERE)!






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2 thoughts on “Fraternity President Election – Young Guys vs Old Guys

  1. This happens all too often, and it is a good humbling experience for those young highly motivated but unseasoned leaders.

    You’re in a tough spot having just doubled up with young guys. This is one of many ripple effects that will have. You have to mitigate as much as you can so you can continue your hard push up to the next level – in this case meaning stability at a larger size with consistent leadership development and continuity in line with your vision. The worse you do at that, the more the chapter will have to rebuild later.

    This guy sounds like the perfect person to put in IFC. Young so has a lot of time to grow in leadership roles there, and good relations with other fraternities. Having the IFC President or whatever other key positions in your corner can be a huge advantage. It also is a platform from which he can accomplish wider scale stuff with long term impact.

    I know our small group of leaders always sat down well in advance of elections and basically crafted a slate, then recruited those guys to run for the position we thought they’d be best at, and helped prepare them for the election. Mostly the people we backed won, but it was always up to the full chapter to decide their direction and who they wanted taking them there.

    I would say reach out to an alternate and make sure he’s prepared to dominate the election. I would also say, you need to educate this new guy on the vision of the chapter. Either he doesn’t understand what it is or he hasn’t bought into it. Either way you need to correct that. One of two things will happen after that. Either he’ll adapt to the mission and be a very viable candidate, or he’ll come to understand that he isn’t the guy for the job this year. Don’t be scared of a young guy stepping up to something that is traditionally an older guy position, but do make sure he can really get it done.

  2. The only thing I would add is don’t underestimate the intelligence of your younger brothers.

    I could have been the guy you described a number of years ago. When I was new to the fraternity, I was full of fire and energy and thought that I should be president as a young brother.

    So I ran, and thought I would win on the strength of the young guy vote.

    However, I was mistaken. The younger brothers realized that someone who had only been a brother for a year should not be the president of the fraternity.

    I think you are probably getting worked up over a problem that will work itself out. Chances are, the brothers will elect they guy you suggest if he is the best man for the fraternity.

    Trust in the process, and make sure that this doesn’t turn into a fraternity civil war in the meantime.

    On another note, don’t forget that I lay out a detailed strategy on how to get elected as fraternity president. Check it out here:

    http://thefraternityadvisor.com/how-to-win-a-fraternity-election/

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