Stepping Up to the Challenge

One of the most important things for a leader of an organization is being able to recognize a problem. All to often when confronted with a problem people tend to shy away and hope someone else will come along and deal with it. A good leader however should never shy away from a problem but rather step up to the challenge and take the necessary steps to remedy the situation. This is what leaders in the Arab world are doing as is made evident in The Wall Street Journal article Arab League Agrees to Create Joint Military Force.

For well over a decade now the Arab world has been plagued with religious extremism that has had a profound impact on the lives of millions of people. Since the tragic events of 9/11 the burden of combatting extremism has fallen almost entirely on the west, with America fighting the majority of the battle. Arab countries have lacked both the resources and the proper leadership to combat extremism in their region. That was until now, 22 Arab countries recently declared that they intend on creating a joint military force to combat extremism. This alliance will give the Middle East a much stronger chance of fighting the extremist epidemic that continues to ravage the region. By creating this joint military force these 22 countries will be able to combine their resources to fight extremism without aid from the west.

When looking at the situation in the Middle East it is important to give credit to the leaders of those 22 countries for finally stepping up and doing something to confront the problem of extremism in their region. Religious extremism is not new to this area and for years leaders in the Arab world have done little to combat it. These 22 leaders however are changing that and setting a new precedent that will rid the Middle East of extremism and western intervention, hopefully making the world a safer place.


Don’t Expect to be Everyone’s Friend

One of the most important things as a leader is the legacy you leave behind. You should want to be able to look back on your time as a leader and say with great confidence that the organization you were a part of improved greatly under your watch. Doing so however sometimes comes at a cost. The most immediate one to come to mind is the disapproval you might get from your subordinates for making decisions they do not agree with.

The most recent example that comes to mind for me once again deals with a situation from my fraternity. Due to a lot of allegations and charges we had over the year leading up to our suspension we had not been partying. As you can expect, this was not good news to a house full of 100 18-22 year old guys. We wanted to party and have a good time. Our leadership did a a great job for nearly a year and a half of making sure we did not party at all. However, due to pressure from the rest of the house they finally caved and allowed us to have our Fall formal in October of 2014. At the time of the formal we were on probation with the university, but were still allowed to have functions as long as they were registered. We knew from the year before though that registering the function meant the fire department would do an inspection to make sure all our decoration were up to code. This happened the semester before and kept us from doing a lot of the things we had planned on. So once again as a chapter we pressured our executive board to not register it so that we could set up the formal that we wanted. After a weeks worth of preparation we had it setup just the way we wanted and were ready to begin our formal. Not more than an hour into the formal however our smoke detectors went off and the fire department showed up. In the end the only thing we got charged with was an unregistered function which landed us on two years of social probation and three years probation given our prior offenses.

This was our second to last investigation before the house finally closed and played a huge part in the hearing that caused the university and our nationals to close the chapter. In the time since the chapter has closed I have had the privilege of speaking to a lot of alumni, some of which told me of a similar incident that occurred in the early 2000’s. At that time the chapter was in a similar situation and the leadership was being pressured to let them have the Fall formal. Their leadership unlike ours though did not give into popular opinion and as a result our chapter lived on. The alumni explained to me how at the time they were frustrated with the executive board and some even said they hated the president. Looking back on it though they all agree he made the right decision and have the utmost respect for him because of it. Unfortunately though our leadership last semester was not as strong and gave into what the majority wanted, which had catastrophic implications. As a result their legacy will always be that of the executive board that got us kicked off campus.


Keep Your Problems to Yourself

Being in a fraternity has taught me a tremendous amount about leadership. That is why, although it may seem redundant, a lot of my blog posts revolve around my experiences in the house and the different leadership styles I witnessed. This blog post like the previous one will once again focus on the Presidents position in the house. Unlike the last one though which focused on the entire organization this will contain my opinion on how to deal with individual members of your organization.

One of the most frustrating things I experienced during my time in the house is when leaders would complain to me about someone disagreeing with them, or not feeling as if they are getting the credit they deserve. This was a very prominent issue with one of our more recent presidents. The reason this is such a big deal to me, is that I am a firm believer that a leader should be strong and set the example for other people in the house to follow. This particular leader was a somewhat good friend of mine and I found myself spending a lot of time with him during his presidency. At first we would talk about issues in the house and how he is resolving them, which I was perfectly fine with. It also helped me gain some respect for him as I could tell he truly cared and was getting things done. Where I began to lose respect for him was when his presidency started to get really difficult. Unfortunately for him he had to deal with a whole array of allegations from both our nationals and the university that was far more than most presidents have to deal with. This forced him to make some tough decisions. Decisions that not everyone in the house always agreed with. As you would expect in this situation people started to say things about him, and he eventually figured it out. This is where I began to lose respect for him. He would come into my room and complain about the people who were talking bad about him. He would not just justify why he was right and they were wrong but even go as far as to say ” God, I hate Jon Doe, he has no clue what he is talking about”. To me this was a huge sign that our president was weak, that he could not deal with pressure or disapproval, traits that a good leader has to posses.

This then went one step farther when he started going around telling people how much he has done, and how much he deserves recognition. Once again, something that shows weakness in my eyes, and even worse it shows he was self centered and was doing this for himself, not because he cared about the house. This downturn was really sad to see, when he started people had a lot of respect for him, and very high hopes that he could do a lot for the house. By the time he finished though, he had talked so much smack about other brothers, and made so many enemies that he was looked down upon by a large percentage of the chapter. I will always appreciate the hours of hard work he put in dealing with our alumni, the university, and nationals, but cannot say I consider him a leader.


Is Full Disclosure Always Best?

As a member of the former Sigma Nu Beta Zeta chapter of Purdue University I have been exposed to a multitude of different leadership styles between the different leadership positions we had within our house. The one position in which leadership styles differentiate the most from one term to the next is that of our president. Before our chapter was closed I had the privilege of seeing four different presidents come through our house, each with their own distinctive leadership style.

Our house had always been known for getting in trouble and we were never on the good side of Purdue University or our national organization. With that being said, it was the presidents responsibility to handle all external matters concerning those two organizations. Such matters usually dealt with alcohol or hazing related incidents, as well as other things. The greatest difference I noticed between the four presidents we had during my time in the house, was how much they disclosed to the rest of the chapter. The president my sophomore year would never tell us when we were in trouble, unless it was something very serious that required us to stop all activities in order to save face. If it was something more minimal however such as minor sanctions from the university he would not inform us of it at all, and let us continue to live our lives uninterrupted. The president my junior year took a slightly different approach, he would tell us if we were in trouble and inform of us how we needed to conduct ourselves no matter how minimal the charges or sanctions were. One thing he did though that frustrated a lot of the chapter members was his vagueness. He was never very blunt, he would always attempt to tell us as little as possible. Why this was the case? I don’t know, I can only assume it was that he feared us blaming him for the issues and wanted to stay out of the line of fire. Our third president during my time took a very different approach than the previous two, knowing that we were frustrated with not always knowing what was going on he told us everything and gave us full disclosure.

The implications of these three policies were all very different. The first president I mentioned was undoubtedly the best and most liked president to come through the house in years. He did not bother brothers with petty problems unless absolutely necessary, and was generally liked by all. The second president was liked very much as a brother but not so much as president. People began to grow very frustrated of his vagueness towards the end of his term, and you could tell he was worn out. When his term finally ended it seemed to be the best thing for both him and the house. The third president had the most honest approach but it also seemed to cause some problems. People were happy that he would tell us everything but in an organization of over 100 members this can cause a lot of disagreement on how to handle certain situations. This led to major inefficiencies as we would waste time trying to find solutions to problems that could easily be solved by one person.

Being able to observe all these different styles was very interesting and helped me learn a lot about leadership. What I concluded was that the best leadership approach was that of our first president. He only filled us in on important matters when absolutely need be, and handled all the smaller more trivial issues on his own time. This allowed the chapter to work together on important issues to find the best possible solution, while not wasting time arguing over trivial unimportant things.