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Decision Making 101: Chapter Presidents in the Age of Democracy

    

You rule the world! Finally! Everyone must bow before your immense power. You’ve undoubtedly unlocked said power by deciphering the ancient desert-worn runes, and reciting the incantation with the moon in the seventh house of . . . wait, no. None of that is true. You don’t rule the world. People may be mildly impressed by your new Tesla Model S’s power (but not particularly by yours). You’ve never even seen a desert, let alone anything vaguely mystical or magical. There’s no spell you can cast to make this easier. Practically speaking, you don’t even qualify for island dictatorship status. Sorry, Prez. You were elected by your fellow chapter members, and now you have to live up to your promises.

Remember when you weren’t chapter president all of five minutes ago, and you were always giving the former president crap about this and that unfair decision? Yeah. Get ready to reap what you sowed.

Because the thing is, it’s a tough job. Okay, so it’s not like president-president; you won’t be playing intramurals on the gridiron with America’s nuclear football. But in the perspective of a college student with lofty future goals, someone who’s on the up and up in her or his field of study (we know you are), tacking on this full-time leadership role is both fulfilling and downright frustrating. What we mean is, situations arise suddenly and unexpectedly all. the. time. You’re managing both the chapter itself and the members, in terms of their duties, their morale, and their overall success as members of your organization. You’re the face that goes with your letters on campus, whether things go well or not so well, like it or not. And you have to be the kind of leader who can role with it.

So how do you do that? How do you make the kinds of decisions that are, well, decisive, while avoiding becoming a megalomaniac or a tyrant? We know you had your heart set on tyrant, but that’s not going to fly these days. Thus, OmegaFi would like to offer you some sage advice--in English, not whatever language was on those arcane runes--on Decision Making 101: Chapter Presidents in the Age of Democracy.

Where to Start . . . .

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You’re the chief executive officer for your chapter, and there are likely more than a few duties that come with that role. Depending on a particular chapter’s bylaws, you’re potentially in charge of setting meetings, overseeing other officers of the chapter, enforcing the bylaws, appointing committees and officers, you’ve got the final word on new membership and finances, you’re serving as a delegate between you and the national organization, and you’re the person everyone is going to come to with their problems. Yes, there’s probably another officer better suited to help with whatever this plucky member is approaching you about. It doesn’t matter. They’ll come to you--every time. Hey, you asked for it. You were elected on good faith, so get it together. So really there’s nothing to do but start. Where do we start? How about . . .

At the Beginning

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Sounds simple, right? Duty one, check. Duty two, check. Duty three. Et cetera. But that’s not really what we mean by “the beginning.” No, we mean go way back, to the reason Greek organizations formed in the first place all those years ago. Go back to the founders, and beyond, to the general primordial origins of the Greek system. This is about like-minded people coming together to achieve something great, to participate together and as individuals, right? Right. In other words, you’re living in the age of democracy, and Greek organizations are directly at the center of that concept.

When it comes to democracy in a chapter, obviously the weight is still on you to guide your fellow members in the right direction, but you’re not doing it without them. There is a balance necessary to running and making decisions for a chapter, and it’s somewhere between authority and compromise. How you achieve that balance is of course ultimately up to you, and you have to find the formula that works best for you and the people around you. You can gauge each member in an officer role, for instance, and consider which need more nudging and guidance to perform their duties, and which are pretty much running on autopilot and need very little input from you, except small course corrections from time to time. The benefit of this kind of critical thinking approach is twofold: It can ensure that your influence over the other members is appropriate and thus not overbearing, and also that you don’t overburden yourself unnecessarily when you have so many duties to perform as president. Also, most importantly . . .

You Need to Know the Bylaws Inside and Out

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You heard us. Don’t treat this like an Economics exam, cramming last minute. Take your time and know all the parameters of your chapter’s rules and regulations, what duties each officer is to perform, including yourself, and hold yourself to the same standard as everyone else. Be transparent and available, and consider compromise with your fellow members when possible. But don’t compromise on the bylaws. If for instance the chapter treasurer is supposed to get you a finalized budget by such and such a date, that’s when it needs to be ready. Be ruthless on any instances of hazing or other unsafe activities that violate the rules, and don’t let members take advantage or get away with perpetually not paying their dues while also getting to go to all the cool events. In other words, your compromises as president must exist within the boundaries of the chapter bylaws and must ensure the safety of your fellow members, as well as the reputation of your chapter. If you’re really stumped, discuss what might work with the former president, or if it’s a serious situation that you think is above your abilities, get in touch with nationals or alumni, as needed. The rest is up to you. Good luck, O Captain! My Captain!

What situations have you run into where your chapter president has had to make a tough decision and yet be democratic at the same time? What advice would you give new presidents about this balance? Let them know in our comments section below.

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