How does understanding who you are impact your ability to be a leader? What are the ways that your values, beliefs and attitudes motivate you to take action? By using the Social Change Model of Leadership, you can learn how the chapter should address helping new and returning members learn more about themselves, and how you can help build stronger members that will meet the needs of your chapter and your campus.
Think about a time when you had to work with others to finish a group project. There was probably a timeline for the group to finish the project but maybe little else to give direction on how to divide the work or create consensus. You probably gave little thought to how the group was going to make decisions and maybe just followed past group project experiences to help create internal deadlines and ways to share information with the group. And it’s very likely that others in your group behaved the same way.
Now imagine adding a new person to the group who was new to the class, the school, or perhaps even the country. Or maybe it’s you who was the newest person in the group. What assumptions and beliefs do you think you will have in common with the new group and how would you communicate them to others?
Sometimes we need to be explicit in explaining what is going on – sharing how decisions are made, what the common goals are, and what we expect from one another.
This is what happens when new college students join student organizations on every college campus across the United States, as well as every fraternity and sorority chapter. How is ‘who you are’ impacting the leadership potential and decisions you will make? And how do you share them with others in your group or chapter?
The Social Change Model
The Social Change Model describes Consciousness of Self as “being aware of the beliefs, values, attitudes and emotions that motivate one to take action and being able to develop consciousness of others.” Understanding consciousness of self is about understanding, and sharing, what beliefs and values impact the group and others who are part of it. It begins with self-reflection and always checking in with the group to see if the shared values reflect your personal values. To understand how the group will succeed begins with knowing what personal needs are required and if the group will continue to provide it.
Who we are, during the college years, is impacted by our life experiences before enrolling. Cultural expectations, gender roles, family size, country of origin, work experience – all play a role in shaping our values and beliefs about leadership and our personal role in leadership. Some cultures value the group over personal achievement, others value individual effort over the final product.
Many college students know and understand themselves quite clearly when they enter college. Some need a little more time to fully understand how their lives and values will impact their leadership potential.
Some believe that gender plays a strong role in leadership potential, while others believe this belief is out of date and old-fashioned. Military service, religious teachings, community expectations – all can drive our inner voice and share what and how we should be leaders among others.
And yet, all of these beliefs, attitudes and values can be changed. None are truly immutable – the times working with others in college will continue to help shape who are you and what you can do as a leader. So how can you maximize your involvement and leadership in college to learn more about yourself and how you can be values-congruent as a leader among others?
Who We Are Versus Who We Say We Are
In order to make sure that “the collective effort” is understood, your chapter leadership should ask itself these important questions. It is important to be critical and honest about your answers in order to asking yourself and your members these 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, and when asked ‘what does commitment look and sound like in your chapter? When is this message shared to members?’ the members cannot answer these questions. 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.
Understanding Someone’s Values First
A great exercise to use when speaking with potential new members is to use your values as interview questions, but asking for concrete examples. For example, if one of your values is scholarship ask a new member:
“You are going to have a lot of competing things going on during this year that will keep you from doing everything. How do you usually make choices when you’re faced with 3 or 4 things you want do?”
You can then follow up with what scholarship looks and sounds like in your chapter and how your members hold each other accountable. In this way, you get to know the person as an individual and share what is expected so there are no surprises.
When we give people the chance to speak to the shared values, we have better group buy-in. They can show up authentically and be themselves.
There are many ways we can get to know someone and their values before we introduce them to the chapters values. We should we recruiting people who reflect our values rather than are expected to change who they are in order to fit in. Get to know the person as much as you before holding them accountable to the chapter values and you’ll see a change in how people will hold each other to their commitments.