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What to Look for in Fraternity Leadership

Some say life’s a parade.

You’re either in it, or you’re watching it.

Sure, parades are fun. In one short month the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will fill the streets of New York City and the television screens of sleepy-eyed children across the nation.

Everyone dresses in costumes and smiles and waves as their float decorations pass by throngs of heavy-coated onlookers. Massive cartoon character balloons fill the sky.

It’s a spectacle.

But is that really life?

Probably not, but some think so--including some brothers when it comes to qualifications for fraternity officer elections.

Like real political elections (unfortunately), fraternity elections hold a certain level of pageantry. Brothers face a constant danger of voting for fraternity leadership as if the election were a popularity contest.

What do you do when your best bro, a guy you’ve been tight with since your freshman pledge class, runs for president? Or when your big brother--who’s terrible with money and pays his membership dues late every semester--runs for chapter treasurer?

He assumes he’ll get your vote without even trying. But should he?

The answer is a resounding no.

It’s hard to avoid nepotism in a fraternity chapter--you are, after all, brothers. Yet officers need to hold a certain level of competence and natural ability, a willingness to learn and a certain temperament. If you elect the wrong guys, the chapter can end up in a heap of trouble.

You need every brother thinking critically during an election and picking the best man for each position.

OmegaFi can help. Let’s talk about What to Look for in Fraternity Leadership.

Friends Aren’t Always Qualified to Lead Your Fraternity

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Ideally, you love all your brothers equally. Realistically, you form closer bonds with some than others, when you share common interests and core values.

It’s inevitable that during a fraternity election, you’ll face the dilemma of a buddy running for an officer position. He’s told you he’s running. He’s even asked for pointers on his candidate speech.

Now it’s time for brothers to vote and you have to choose. Do you pick the guy who was there when Stacy broke up with you, who knows your deepest, darkest secrets, or do you pick the person who’s more qualified?

Sometimes the stars align, and your friend’s the most qualified. Don’t count on it.

Start by never telling your friend you’ll vote for him prior to election night. This way you can sidestep a huge conflict if he ends up losing and confronts you about it.

Also realize that it’s not the job of executive officers to favor friends. Their job is to enforce bylaws and manage the chapter as best they can.

Sometimes that means taking disciplinary measures. It’s bad news when some brothers get booted from fall formal for unpaid dues, and an officer’s buddies don’t face the same repercussions. This only sows seeds of dissent and division among brothers, and the chapter grows weaker for it.

To avoid your internal biases, write down each candidate’s ideas on index cards when you hear their speeches, with their names on the backs. When you vote, pick a candidate based on the best ideas.

Qualified fraternity officers are leaders first, friends second.

Fraternity Leaders Unify, Never Divide

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There are no exceptions.

While fraternity officers often make tough decisions for their chapter, they must never put brothers down or insult them, and never show favoritism or apathy toward their fellow members’ struggles.

Morale plays a major part in a fraternity chapter’s success, and a qualified officer will understand this and build it into his role as a leader.

He works with other officers and committees even if they disagree on an issue. He mediates brothers’ disagreements. He tries constructive, positive approaches to brothers’ bad behavior first (unless it poses an immediate safety risk). He gives you the benefit of the doubt.

He guides you through your failures to help build your successes, and he does this by being a role model and holding himself to a higher standard.

When the chapter fails, no one shoulders the blame more readily than a fraternity leader. No one dedicates himself more rigorously to righting a wrong or fixing a mistake.

He never stops believing in his chapter’s greatness.

When electing officers, look for not only qualified brothers but those who’ll listen, compromise and hold themselves to a higher standard.

If a candidate uses his fraternity officer election speech to bash others running for a position, he’s giving you a good indication of how he’ll behave as leader. Voting for him would be like injecting the chapter with a flesh-eating virus.

If you’re not a comic book villain, it’s best to avoid such practices.

I’m No Hero . . .

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. . . is something a good fraternity leader would say.

It’s a cliché that crops up when big-time heroes who save babies from burning buildings get interviewed by the local news:

“How does it feel to be a hero?”

“Oh,” the person will say, “I’m no hero.”

By now you know which of your brothers put their fellow members first and always seek self-improvement, and which ones are raging egomaniacs. You love them, even if they’re full of themselves, but that doesn’t mean they’d make good leaders.

Not every fraternity officer will know how to perfectly manage every situation that comes up on day one of holding his position. That’s what new officer transitions and the training process are for.

What qualifies a brother isn’t that he’s got every fact about his position memorized, but that he doesn’t focus on his own heroics. Instead, he builds on ideas applicable to the chapter’s evolving needs. He’s willing to admit he’s wrong. He considers every brother as equally important to the chapter, and never puts himself above them.

If you ask him, he isn’t a hero. He’s just doing what he must to help the chapter thrive.

While a fraternity officer election shouldn’t be a straight personality contest, personality does count for leaders. They must be humble, fair, unifying and willing to lead by example.

What do you look for in fraternity leadership? What qualifies a brother to hold an executive officer position? Give us your election checklist in the comments below.

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