Love and Fraternity Nationals

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Question:

I have done a lot for my fraternity since my freshman year. I have held several positions, including executive currently. I am respected for my work amongst our nationals, but the chapter sees me as an outsider, or a goody-two shoes, who is there just for a resume boost. I love my fraternity, but I don’t know how to express that to them without listing my achievements and sounding arrogant? What should I do?


Answer:

I understand where you’re coming from, but yet I don’t. I had some similar experiences standing up to my fraternity, but at the same time no one ever would have questioned my love of the fraternity or my brothers. Hopefully you can find some wisdom in what I have to say.

First, let’s talk about love.

Let’s say you were married. You love your wife with all your heart. You work 18 hour days six days a week to provide what is best for her. Do you think, from her perspective, she’s going to feel your love for her when she’s checking the account balance, or is she busy using your card to pay for lunch with the guy she’s cheating with?

I appreciate your passion. I understand your hard work is motivated by love, but it is not actually an expression of that emotion. It is a product of it. It is theoretically possible to have other motivations that lead to hard work.

You may have put in a lot of hard work achieving great things, and done every bit of it out of love for the fraternity, but, just like the wife in my example, not everyone can see that.

I don’t normally (as in never) throw around bible verses, but there is one I think speaks directly to this. Give it a quick listen and think about what it means to you: http://www.biblegateway.com/audio/voice/niv/1cor.13

So, if you put aside the work you’ve done, how would you say that you’ve expressed your love for your brothers and your fraternity? They apparently don’t see that. They at least in part question your motives – they think you have selfish motives. They don’t fully trust you because of it. If you want to have a good marriage, friendships, professional relationships, and well adjusted life beyond college then you need to find your personal leadership style on this question.

Second, let’s talk about your relationship with your nationals, the “goody-two-shoes” perception you think your brothers have of you, and your chapter’s relationship with nationals.

I was just reading a business article today about four things you should never tell your Human Resources Department (http://moneywatch.bnet.com/career-advice/blog/on-job/4-things-you-should-never-share-with-hr/1170/?tag=content;col1). Some of it is applicable here.

The article says is HR is a critically important piece of the company team. They can help you succeed, avoid lawsuits, and provide important advice. BUT, they are not your best friend. There is no doctor-patient privilege. They exist only to help the company get ahead and protect its larger interests. If you find yourself counter to those interests, then try to lay flat as the bus rolls over the top of you. I hear it doesn’t hurt as much that way.

Your nationals is in a difficult legal position. The success of your chapter and members is their success too. But, they spend all day every day putting out fires of the most recent bad news. When they hear about a problem, they are legally obligated to forcefully intervene. If they don’t and something happens even years later, then you they are going to be destroyed in court. I’ve 15 year old prior allegations pulled out – stuff that that was unproven when current chapter members were 3-7 years old – and that still matters.

So your nationals likes you. Okay, that’s nice. What do they think about your chapter?

Let me be absolutely clear here. I am NOT telling you to lie to or mislead your nationals!

To quote the CBS article, “The key is to be mindful: “You need to be sure you are communicating what you want your management to know,” says Clinical Professor of Management John Millikin, Ph.D. of the W.P. Carey School of Business.”

That quote is even a little more deceitful than I would want to say it. I would say, every time you talk to nationals it is part of a PR campaign. You want them thinking your chapter, not you, is a necessary part of the team. When bad things happen, you want their automatic reaction to be fighting to save the chapter, not thinking about putting a problem group on the shelf. There is a way in the course of that positive focus to share bad news and work through problems together. Married couples do it all the time. But, you have to keep the relationship optimistic.

I’m worried that you’re out there making your nationals love you personally at the cost of your chapter’s reputation. That’s selfish, and that is not love.

There are rare occasions when it is necessary to stand with your nationals against your own chapter. You have to know when that happens that you are going to lose friends for life and the fraternity is going to lose members. The issue needs to be that important. If you have to go down that road, then have the fortitude to stick it out and don’t complain about the sacrifice you’ve chosen to make.

If it doesn’t rise to that level, then incremental change from within is the best course. Help your chapter decide for itself what and how they will improve, and be a part of that team.

We talk a lot about servant leadership in the military, and in fraternities too. Think about that concept for a while are you part of your chapter’s team, or are you forcing things on them from the outside and then wondering why they don’t love you for it? I don’t know that answer. I don’t know if you or your chapter does either, but I hope you’ll think about it.

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 Dennis Nall, an alumni brother from Alpha Tau Omega 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 “Love and Fraternity Nationals

  1. Dennis hit the nail on the head. In your eyes you might be doing great things for the fraternity. But if your brothers don’t think those initiatives are important, then it doesn’t really matter.

    Also, don’t forget that a lot more will get done if no one cares who gets the credit. If you live with this mindset, your fraternity will be better off. And the ironic thing about it is your brothers will think more highly of you because they will see what you are doing and realize that you aren’t a glory hog.

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