Increasing Commitment in Student Leaders

Increasing Commitment in Student Leaders

What does commitment look and sound like your chapter?  By using the Social Change Model of Leadership, you can learn how the chapter should address these issues, and how you can help build stronger organizations that will meet the needs of your members and your campus.

It’s not a big secret that some college student leaders can struggle with demonstrating their commitment to the leadership tasks they have started (but sometimes don’t finish).  College students juggle multiple and competing priorities on the daily – it’s no wonder that some tasks get left to the side. And it’s also not a secret that the peers of these students are challenged in holding their peers accountable for their commitment.

And here’s the crux of the issue.  In the previous statement I switched between commitment and accountability, and these two terms are not interchangeable.  And because these two terms are used to describe the same behavior, its often hard to change the actual behavior.

The Social Change Model

The Social Change Model describes Commitment as “motivational energy to serve and that drives the collective effort.” Commitment implies passion, intensity, and duration. This means that one can want to do something and can perform it without passion, without intensity and not for very long and still have demonstrated commitment.  But is this the kind of behavior that creates change in the organization?  Probably not.

Commitment can be tricky, because it’s very personal but has group impact.  The things that motivate me might not motivate others, like a title or a positive reward. And yet our students have very particular expectations of their newly initiated members and what their membership will look like among their peers.

It can be tough to bring up commitment with members.

And yet, student leaders try to hold their peers to their commitment as if it was unchanging and often without expectations, not realizing that commitment is about energy, not output.   

The Collective Effort

Ask yourself: What does it look like when people in your chapter are truly committed? When and how did you articulate the expectation of what commitment looks like? Can you describe a chapter member who follows through on their tasks but their passion, intensity and duration of activity just isn’t as high as is expected? Or a chapter member who demonstrates the expected level of commitment?

In order to make sure that “the collective effort” is understood, your chapter leadership should ask itself these important questions.

  • What does commitment look and sound like in my chapter? When are these expectations shared among members?
  • What are the barriers to commitment in myself (work, family, relationships, school)?  In others?
  • What support can I give to help others overcome these barriers?  What support do they need?

I have visited chapter leaders who will complain about the lack of commitment among its members. I’ll ask, ‘What does commitment look and sound like in your chapter?  When is this message shared to members?’ Often the members cannot answer these questions. 

When chapters want to talk about commitment, I usually have plenty of questions to ask of the members.

They believe it should be just be understood without any education or reinforcement. Which just perpetuates the lack of congruence in working toward the collective effort.  With just these questions asked during a chapter meeting or new member education session, chapter leaders can be more clear about expectations for membership that is both flexible and responsive, and that allows members to show their passion, intensity and duration without comparison to others.

Want More Social Change Model Training?

Want to learn more about the Social Change Model?  Invite me to your campus for a presentation on this topic and other related leadership topics!  Email me a

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