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Your Obligation to Excellence Cannot Tolerate Abuses of Power


Written by Michael Barry (Georgia)

Organizations are led by individuals who have gained relevant experience. The best organizations - those that attract others, achieve excellence, and are highly regarded by generations of members and non-members alike - develop experience in candidates and new members to put them into a position to succeed, individually and as a collective body. This is true for a two-person dental office or a 100,000 person global firm. Fraternities and sororities are no different. Our Chapters excel (or fail) on the ability of current members to mentor, lead, and develop candidates and younger members. Candidates (and how they are developed) are the future of the organization - its success or failure.

What Power Does a Member Have? What Obligation Does a Member Have?

In this pursuit, members have inherent positions of power and influence over candidates. Members hold something (membership acceptance) desired by the candidates. Members decide who receives a bid. Members decide who gets initiated. How this power is applied will always dictate whether the chapter will succeed or fail. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Members (whether they like it or not - whether they recognize it or not) carry a specific obligation to their chapter -- the obligation to provide the experience, education, and opportunity to quickly and effectively develop the class of leaders that the Chapter must have in order to achieve and maintain sustained (generational) excellence. My friend and brother, Robert Durham (Georgia, M 1650, BTH 2804) has expressed it well: “without this obligation to excellence, your chapter is nothing more than a mediocre club.”

Power that is purposely exercised in furtherance of each member’s responsibility and obligation leads to generational excellence. A member yielding such power puts in work side by side to teach a candidate, to lead a candidate to a new opportunity, to generate a measurable win for the candidate and for the chapter. This obligation to excellence demands work and commitment by the member - and we (our chapters) agree that is the member’s obligation (otherwise you are just a club). Anything less is an abuse of (fleeting) power that results in an irrelevant organization with no purpose, no lasting benefit, no respect, and ultimately a failure. The abuse of power also results in zero benefit to the candidate - and generates zero meaningful commitment to the chapter. Abuses of power are small-minded and cannot be tolerated by a chapter, an organization, community, or individual. Hazing is an abuse of power.

How Do We Recognize an Abuse of Power - And More Importantly, How Do We Recognize Acceptance Of an Obligation to Excellence by our Chapter?

Put simply, an abuse of power (hazing) is an exercise that does not provide the experience, education, or opportunity to a candidate to better himself AND the chapter as a whole. Abuses of power are often characterized by one person, or a group of people, acting or serving at the behest of another, while the other party (with the fleeting power) does little/nothing. Abuses of power are easily identified by laziness, a lack of individual responsibility, and/or a lack of intellectual horsepower. Those who abuse power are easily and correctly defined as “bullies” (an entirely separate essay). Abuses of power are also characterized by action that does not yield a product, lesson, or experience that puts the organization one step ahead, or one step closer to community-wide recognized leadership and relevance.

Some people will approach this construct with, “Yeah, but [insert excuse here] results in [insert strained cause/effect here.]” We can do this all day long… A club accepts the “yeah but”. A chapter committed to excellence always rejects and defeats the “yeah, but.” There is no middle ground.

In case there is any confusion, this chart may help:

Abuses of Power that Yield No Return for the Chapter Power Exercised that Yields Lasting Generational Excellence for the Chapter
Driving a member to get food; doing a member's laundry; washing a members car; buying a member's lunch Actively mentoring a candidate to identify campus, career, or organizational opportunities that the candidate can pursue, gain useful experience; taking a candidate to lunch to talk about campus opportunities; following up with the candidate to check in on his progress toward a goal
Cleaning up a chapter room because it builds unity or because they need to learn to respect the house Working together with a candidate on a project that benefits the chapter; leading by example to maintain a respected facility and not tolerating behavior by members or others that demonstrate disrespect

Generational excellence is developed and exists only within chapters that recognize, encourage, and support power in its best form: a responsibility that requires the best of those who yield it and does not tolerate lazy, weak, and useless abuses of power. If you are committed to our principles of Love, Honor and Truth - then by definition you are committed to excellence and you must reject any abuse of power within your chapter. There is no middle ground. Choose wisely.

© 2015-2022 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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