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My fraternity just recently held elections. My Big Brother in the fraternity was the previous Vice-President and I figured he was a shoe-in for the role of president. However, I was nominated alongside him for President. I ended up winning the election over him.
Now, my first day as President and I was just told that he, my big Brother, wishes to quit the fraternity. I’m concerned that he might be quitting because he feels the fraternity does not care or believe in him. All because I was chosen over him. But I don’t know whether I should honor his decision to quit, or try to convince him to stay before it’s too late.
Congrats on winning one of the hardest but potentially also most rewarding jobs in a chapter.
As President you have to hold your chapter together and inspire confidence. You keep the group on track toward the shared vision. You are the face and voice internally and externally, but it’s very much a team effort and you need to make sure your brothers always know that. It’s a tough job and apparently you aren’t going to get a chance to adjust before you need to start doing it.
Not only is this your big brother, this is a guy that just a moment ago was a few votes short of being president. Absolutely no question this is someone you need in your chapter. Not want, not it’d be unfortunate to lose him. There are never more than a handful of guys at any given time who have the tools to be a serious contender for Fraternity President. Your chapter thinks this guy is one of them. You HAVE to keep him. It’ll be a lot more difficult for the chapter to succeed without a guy like that.
Sounds like your big brother got his pride hurt a little. I’m sympathetic, but you know what? That happens to all of us many times in life. It’s what you do after the fact that shows your character.
In a few years this guy is most likely going to have a serious job and a family to support. If he gets passed over for a promotion, is he going to quit? Is he going to pout in a corner while his job performance falls apart till he either gets fired or is never in the running for a promotion again? Or, is he going to pick himself up and make the team successful till his boss realizes he needs to put this guy back on the fast track?
I know it sounds silly, but the things we do now show our character. He’s been dedicated to the chapter in the past and given years of exceptional service. He wouldn’t be nominated for fraternity president if he hadn’t. If he walks away now because it didn’t turn out the way he planned and he got his feelings hurt, it’s going to be that much easier for him to make the same kind of decision in the real world years from now when the stakes are a lot higher. Even if he wasn’t your big, even if he has nothing more to give, you have a duty to your brother to help him not make that kind of mistake.
If I were you, I’d tell him you need his help to take the chapter to the next level. In that election, there were things about him and things about you that the chapter thought would be a good fit at President. It so happens they saw a few more in your favor, but that doesn’t mean you have all the tools you need to be successful. Imagine if you could combine the best things about him and the best things about you. That’s what teamwork means. Draw him into that relationship. It doesn’t matter if he has a title. The people that really run the chapter aren’t necessarily the ones with the titles, just like the real world. Show him a way that he can work with you behind the curtain to help lead the chapter into the future.
If he needs a position, that should be easy to work out. I don’t know what appointed positions you may have. We always had a Sgt-at-Arms position we reserved for a prior exec member. It was a position without many duties, but with a lot of influence. As a guy who’d very recently been there, he’d sit on exec and help guide the current board. Something like that might be a good fit for this guy. If not, then I don’t know what other big things you have going. Maybe you need to rewrite some major bylaws. Maybe you as a chapter need to come up with a strong vision for where you’re going that links all aspect of your operations together.
How long has it been since you won a major national award? I’m betting that’s not because you don’t deserve it or you aren’t capable of doing enough things better that you would. Why not put a guy like this in charge of pulling those things together and building the awesome winning report to your headquarters. I’m sure there are a lot of places you could use the help of an all-star experienced leader. Find the place he fits, that the chapter can benefit most from his contributions, and that he’ll feel like he’s making a difference. He doesn’t feel respected or needed. You have to change that.
Do all you can to keep this guy. But, at the end of the day, we don’t always get our way. If he insists on leaving, you can’t make him stay. Try to do it on good terms. He’s still done a lot for your chapter and he’s still your big. You still want to be friends with this guy many years from now. You don’t want your memory of him to be about how he quit. And try to leave the door open for him to change his mind. You’d be surprised how much people miss it when the semester gets going again and they’re on the outside. He may show back up after rush wanting to come to parties and hang out with his friends again. That’s another opportunity to pull him back in.
Whatever happens, good luck on your presidency. Stay in touch. You’re going to run into a lot of problems that aren’t easy to solve. We’re here to help.
– 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)!
To learn more, check out our most in-depth article on being a fraternity president: How To Be a Great Fraternity President